Monday, January 7, 2013

A Great New Resource for Marriages :: Beyond Ordinary by Justin and Trisha Davis

Hey everyone,

I'm so excited to introduce a Brand New Book called, "Beyond Ordinary" by Justin and Trisha Davis. Justin and Trisha are friends of Sarah and I and have a gripping and powerful story that will inspire and challenge you in your marriage.

I highly recommend this book to any married couple, newlyweds, or couple who's been together 50 years! You can get it here.

I hope you'll take advantage of this amazing resource!

Pastors, they are also in high demand to share their story in churches, marriage conferences, etc. I would contact them sooner, rather than later to book them in your church. They truly are a gift to the Body of Christ, in a time where we need Godly marriages as examples.



Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Finish Strong!

As this year comes to a close, I'm sure all of us are feeling those feelings of,   
     "Wow, another year gone!" 
     "Where did the time go?" and
     "Did I make the most of it?"

For the final article of the year here on, I want to challenge everyone of us to do 3 things during this last week of the year and make 1 recommendation to finish our year strong and begin 2013 well.

3 things Every Leader Needs to do at Year's End:

1. Take time to Celebrate.

     If there's one thing we don't do enough of in our fast paced leadership lives, it's celebrate. Take time this week to celebrate how far you've come, the ground you've taken and the impact you've made. Even if this year wasn't the greatest year in your history, celebrate that you ain't dead yet!!!

     Somebody bring in some cupcakes, buy some balloons, high five each other, you've worked hard. You deserve to pat each other on the back and celebrate for a few minutes.

2. Create Clarity.

     During times of change, people are more open new ideas than usual. Capitalize on this season of the new year to create clarity in your organization in 2 ways:
          First, in Departmental and Personal Goals. Your team will always appreciate clarity. When they know what's expected, they rise to those expectations. Help your team set goals for the new year.
          Second, in the culture of your team. If we want our teams to be healthy, we have to tell them and show them what we mean. In other words, we have to define what health looks like to us. Take some time in the new year to tell your team what health, communication, trust etc. look like on your team. Everyone will benefit from the few minutes it takes to gain clarity in your team culture.

3. Remember, what got you here, won't get you there.

     If last year was the best ever, don't rest on that. And if it was horrible, don't rest on that either. As the leader, you get the privilege of leading your team boldly into the new year. Go confidently. You are the right person to lead your company, team or department where it needs to go. Lead well in the new year. We will all be better for it.

Finally, I want to leave you with one final recommendation of a book written by a friend of mine, Rob Ketterling. (@RobKetterling) I believe it's a great book for every leader who desires to do more, be more and reach their full potential in the new year.

It's called, "Change Before You Have To." And it's available in bookstores and online everywhere.

I hope you'll read it this January. It won't disappoint.


Order it Here.

Here's my official endorsement for the book...

"In Change before You Have To, Rob takes a 'slap you in the face with truth, then hand you a cup of hot cocoa' approach that is both refreshing and challenging like crazy! This book will cause readers to do what's right and best for their lives now instead of later. This book will change families, career paths, and destinies! Rob is a friend, a mentor, and most of all, Rob lives what he teaches."

Matt Keller - Lead Pastor, Next Level Church, Fort Myers, FL

 Happy New Year everyone,


Monday, December 17, 2012

8 Great Questions to Ask This Christmas!

Over the years, I worked hard at "Learning the Art of Asking Great Questions," so...

for the week before Christmas I thought I might offer up some helpful (and fun) Conversation Starters for your Christmas Gatherings in the next couple of weeks:


#1: Where Have you Been that you'd love to visit again? Why?

#2: What book have you read in the last year that's impacted you in some way?

#3: Tell us the story of how you and your significant other met?

#4: What was your favorite TV Show in the 90's?

#5: What teacher impacted your life the most and why?

#6: What was the 1st movie you ever watched on a VCR? DVD? A Computer? Etc.

#7: What is your most special Christmas Memory?

#8: What Traditions did you have in your family at Christmas as a child?

Merry Christmas everyone,



Monday, December 10, 2012

How we Assimilate People at Next Level Church - Our Discover Events

The Next Level Church Discover Events

One of the most Frequently Asked Questions we get from pastors across the country is:

? How do we assimilate people into the life flow of Next Level Church?
At Next Level we have two-part Assimilation process called our Discover Events.

We do our Discover Events monthly on the 2nd and 3rd Sunday nights of the month. We have learned that most holiday weekends fall on the 1st Weekend of the month, which usually makes it more difficult for people to attend a special event outside of our normal weekend worship services.

Over the years, we have tried all sorts of variations of this process and finally we settled our strategy around 2 questions:
  • “What do people really need to know to make an educated decision about whether they want to make Next Level Church their home?”

  • “How do we make it as simple as possible for people to get involved in the life of the church?”

Here are our two events in a nutshell:

First Event: Discover NLC
·      2nd Sunday night of the month from 5pm-7pm.
·      Free dinner (Pizza on treys on round tables).
·      Free childcare.
·      2 teachers (1 main personality, rotate other staff for the 2nd).
·      Very Casual environment
·      For every 7-8 people signed up we have a staff member or a high caliber volunteer present.
·      We teach on:
                 1.) What is NLC?
                 2.) Who is the Leadership of NLC?
                 3.) Why is NLC Here?
                 4.) Frequently Asked Questions
                 5.) What is Next for NLC
§  BREAK for Dinner
                 6.) How we define Growth and Health at NLC.
                 7.) How We Grow as followers of Jesus.
                 8.) Now that you have Discovered NLC… What’s Next?

Our Goal for Discover NLC is that in two hours we have given people new to our church the past, present and future of our church. We have answered most of the questions they might have and showed them how to get involved and continue growing at our church and in their relationship with Jesus Christ.

Second Event: Discover Your Place 

·      3rd Sunday night of the month from 5pm-7pm
·      Free Dinner (Subs from Jimmy John’s).
·      Free Childcare
·      1 teacher
·      Very casual environment
·      Staff - All department heads or key leaders from departments
·      We teach on:
                What the Bible says about serving
                Show the 7 primary places to serve on a weekend.
                         Middle School / High School
                         Parking & Security
               Teach through our 3 things to know about yourself before choosing a place to serve:

§  BREAK for Dinner
·     All of our department heads or key volunteers come and share 2 minutes of the vision behind their department and the areas to serve.
·      Everyone chooses 1-2 department heads to have a conversation with about shadowing in the next two weeks.

Our Goal for Discover NLC is that in two hours we teach people to find their place to serve using all three areas of passions, personalities and strengths. We let people shadow the next week.

We have found that the quicker and easier we make it for people to find out about NLC and get involved serving on the weekend, the more people stick at NLC.

We love hearing stories of people who have been at our church for less than 6 weeks and are already serving on a team somewhere in our five services. After all, at the end of it all, it's about people Discovering who God has made them and how they fit into what God is up to at their church!

For more information about our teaching guide please email We'd be more than happy to show you how we do what we do.


Monday, December 3, 2012

The NLC Expansion

Hey everyone,

If you haven't heard by now, Next Level Church is going East baby! East of I-75 with our next campus!

Here's the short version:

We have found 7.3 acres of land on Gateway Blvd. that we are purchasing with cash. This land will serve as the home of our 2nd Campus. The vision is to build a 20,000 sq. ft. facility much like our existing location on Plantation Rd. The new facility will seat 500 people / service and have all the appropriate kids, foyer, restroom, cafe and parking necessary to serve that many people at one time.

Here are 2 videos to give you more information.

The NLC Expansion Final v2 from Next Level Church on Vimeo.

To watch the Vision Weekend Message w/ full detail go here:

Please be praying over our "NLC Expansion Offering" happening this weekend, December 8-9, 2012 in all 5 of our services.

If you're apart of the NLC family, come prayed up, prepared and ready to participate. The goal is $350,000 to purchase the land and get the project started in the new year!

We believe if we all listen to God, the need will be met...

Thanks for believing with us,

Pastor Matt


Wisdom for Leaders from MLB Players

As I'm sure you know by now, two of my great loves are Leadership and Baseball. This week's article pairs the two beautifully. It is written by Kyle Jackson, our Associate Pastor at Next Level Church. 

Wisdom for Leaders from MLB Players

    I have 2 friends that I played college baseball with that are making their way through Minor League baseball on the way to the Bigs. I had the opportunity to talk with both of them on the phone recently as they were finishing up Spring Training in AZ. and was blown away by some of the answers they gave me to some questions I was strategically asking about baseball but listening to their answers with a Ministry mindset.

     Lance Zawadski (Triple-A for the St. Louis Cardinals) played several games for the Padres a year or two ago before being traded to the Royals, Braves and now Cardinals. He is a switch hitting SS/2B that is a phenomenal defensive player and hits for power from both sides of the plate. (Lance's Bio)

     Brad Coon (Double-A for the Tampa Bay Rays) just finished his 7th year of Minor League ball. He was with the Angels, Nationals, Dodgers and Rays. He is a speedy left-handed center fielder that hits lead-off and steals 30-40 bases a year. (Brad's Bio)

Questions I asked Lance and Brad:

1. What is the biggest difference between Minor League Baseball and Major League Baseball?
Amazingly they gave the exact same answer: 

Lance Zawadski
“The biggest difference is in Minor League Baseball you can get away with certain weaknesses, but in the Majors, every weakness you have will be EXPLOITED and it will be exploited quick. In Minor League baseball only a few teams know your weakness, in the Majors EVERYONE knows your weaknesses!”

     As a leader in ministry, the larger your ministry gets the more your weaknesses are going to be EXPLOITED! You can get away with some things in the Minors that only a few people know about, but in the Majors your weakness WILL be known and they WILL be exploited quickly!

2. What is the difference in preparing for a Double-A game and a Major League Game?
Again, they gave the same answer:  

“You can show up at the park 3 hours before a minor league game and stretch, Take BP, throw and be successful. In the Majors you have to prepare daily! You have to do your research on everything and chances are you still want have a “great” game! You have to be so mentally tough or you will get run over!”

     As a leader in ministry, the more influence you have the more ready you have to be to answer questions, take the heat, be challenged by others and more. You can’t just show up at the park and half way prepare, you have to be prepared daily.

3. What has been the toughest challenge for you after moving up to the Big Leagues?
Lance: ”Learning the day-to-day routine of being a Major League player. It’s so different being in the spotlight. Everything you do or say people are ready to pounce on you! You have to be mentally tough.”

Brad: “Thinking I have to change who I am as a player after one bad at bat or one bad game. I think I have to change everything about my stance and swing after one bad day. I am a singles hitter, that steals bases and plays good defense. That’s what got me here. I don’t have to be something I’m not!”

     WOW…Let both of those answers sink in a little! In the ministry sometimes you feel like people are just waiting for you to do or say the “wrong” thing. Everyone has their opinion of what you should do or who you should be. Be who you are and do what got you to the place you are in. Don’t be afraid to change, but always revert back to who you are at a heart level. Know who you are and what you do well and stick with it!

4. What is the biggest misconception about Major League players?

Lance: ”People think that just because we are Big League players we slack off. The biggest surprise to me was watching from the dugout some of the best players in the game consistently running on and off the field hard and running out ground balls hard. People see what they want on TV and assume what they want from a distance. It is not always true.”

Brad Coon
Brad: ”That we are all the same! Cocky, Above the law, non-appreciative guys. So untrue. There are unhappy people everywhere in life no matter what you do! That does not mean everyone you work with or everyone in your profession is the same. People believe what they want and make their own opinions about you without even knowing you.”

     The more influence you gain, the more scrutiny you will take! People will  make their own opinions about you when they have never met you. They will watch from a distance and try to tear you down.

As Leaders, What Can We Do: 
  •  Get accountable about your weaknesses so they will not get Exploited. 
  •  Prepare Daily. 
  •  Know who you are at a heart level. 
  •  Don’t worry about the misconceptions about who you are.



Monday, November 26, 2012

The Story God is Telling

     A few weeks back, I woke up at 4 am and felt prompted in my spirit to read Psalm 78. Its a rather long Psalm that retells the story of the children of Israel in the Old Testament. It talks about how God delivered them from the hand of the Egyptians, how they rebelled and whined and complained and how God was patient and compassionate with them. Its an amazing story, but certainly one I've heard a thousand times in my life.


     Honestly, while I was reading the story again, I kept thinking in the back of my mind, 

"God, I've heard all this before.
What's the point?" 

     And it wasn't until I got all the way finished with the chapter that I looked back at the few verses I had underlined and heard the small whisper of God in my heart say, "That was their story and it was right for them to keep telling it over and over again... Just like you do."

Here's how I wrote it in my journal...
     "I love that this is the story of God for the people of God. That's what Psalm 78 is. It is them telling their story over and over again. It reminds me of our Coffee Shop and Movie Theater stories. It's the same thing.
     Like, I read this and I go, 'Yeah, right, its the same story, over and over again.' because it is. This is the story of their life and how God intervened and forgave and was merciful, and saved them from their enemies!
     They forever told the same story over and over because it was their story and it was right. And we must do the same!
     It is right for us to tell and retell the same stories of God's faithfulness through the years! 
     It is right for the next generation to hear them and learn them and tell them to their children too. 
     Each generation that comes through Next Level Church must have and tell their story! They must add their story to ours."
     In the same way, every life has a story! A story that must be told, over and over again. Every single one of us have a story of what God has done in us and through us that is the defining story of our life. In some ways we don't choose it and in some ways we do. We chose to move to Florida, but God chose to call us there. We chose to obey. He chose to open the doors He opened, we chose to walk through them and endure the pain.

      God chose for us to experience all we did in Indiana, we chose to not get bitter and give up. Parents of children with cancer don't choose for their child to get sick, all they can do is choose to not get bitter toward God, but instead let it be the defining story of their life. And they must choose to tell it.

     Telling our story is always a choice. The same choice Israel had to make with their story, and the same choice we had to make with our story. Each one of us must make the choice with the story God has allowed us to live.

  •      Will we embrace our story? 
  •      Or will we curse it? 
  •      Will we choose to acknowledge that our story is not like anyone else's? 
  •      How long will we keep running from the reality of our story?

     God will wait. Oh, how He will wait for us to come back to our story. He's not in any hurry. In fact, He's actually just writing more of our story.

? What about us? How well are you doing at embracing your story? How faithful are you being at telling it? 

After all, someone needs to hear it.


Friday, November 23, 2012

5 Things I learned from my Nephew, Joey Keller (2003-2012)

          On Sunday, November 18th, 2012, my nephew Joey Keller lost his fight with the cancer he had battled for 2 years. Even though he only lived 9 short years, Joey's life impacted tens of thousands of people and will continue to do so for a long, long time. I'm proud of my nephew. In fact, in the last few weeks I've been able to reflect on what he taught me.
These are the lessons I learned from...

Joseph Nickolas Keller

1. Joey taught me what it means to be a Fighter.
           Over the last 2 years, we all watched Joey fight the fight of ten lifetimes. No child should have to go through what Joey went through, but he fought hard and with focus. He never gave up and he made his parents proud! Real proud.

          The last time I got to see Joey in person was in late-August at his home outside of Indianapolis. Sarah and I were able to spend 2 hours with him laughing, playing legos and telling stories about his dad and my childhood.

       As I was leaving, I asked Joey if I could have one of his thousands of Lego Star Wars figurines. Before he committed he asked, "Which one?" To which I replied, "The one that most resembles you."
          At that moment, after having not left his chair for 2 hours, he stood up, got his walker and walked boldly across the room to a stack of lego cases. Without hesitation, he pulled off the top 3 cases and opened the 4th one. He reached in, took out the Luke Skywalker figurine dressed in his flight suit and helmet and put a spear in his hand.

          Walking back across the room, he handed it to me definitively and said, "Here. This is me."

          Yep. That was Joey. Joey, the Fighter. The fighter with a spear in his hand. Joey's life taught me to fight. To never give up. To always stay focused on the job at hand and on what's at stake. Joey was a fighter.

2. Joey taught me what it means to have Faith… Real Faith.
          Anyone who spent any time with Joey knows he lived a faith like I've never seen in another child. Joey believed the Word of God. He believed in Jesus. In the face of daunting odds, Joey never wavered in his belief that God loved him and had a good plan for him. Joey trusted God at his word, even when what he saw in the natural didn't look positive.

          Joey's faith inspires me to live a more faith-filled life. I'm often prone to let my circumstances effect my faith, but because of the faith Joey had, I will always be reminded to trust God at His Word, even when my circumstances scream something different.

3. Joey's life taught me that Miracles are Real.
          Thousands of people know the final story of Joey's life, but very few probably know the story of how his life began. From the beginning, Joey was a miracle. I watched my brother and Elizabeth struggle to get pregnant for 7 years. After trying all sorts of things and begging God for a child, they finally resolved that it wasn't meant to be.

          And then it was. And his name was Joey.

         When Joey was still a toddler, he was diagnosed with a severe peanut allergy that made many "normal" childhood activities much more dangerous to his health. Under the careful watch of Nick and Elizabeth, Joey lived everyday as a miracle.

          And of course, over the last 2 years to watch his life inspire tens of thousands of people across the world has been nothing short of miraculous. Though Joey Keller's years on this earth were small, there is nothing small about the impact his life has made.

4. Joey taught me what it means to live in the Now!
          Joey knew how to be fully present in any given moment. From playing Wii with a friend or with his cousins, to being quick witted with a sarcastic comeback to his dad, Joey knew how to live fully present in every moment. Wherever he was, he was always, all there.

           So often the hurry and worry of life can keep me from being fully present in the moments that make up my life. 

          Joey taught me this lesson well, and my wife, my kids, and my work will forever be better for it.

5. Joey taught me that Eternity is Forever and this is just the Beginning.
          Joey's life is a testament to the fact that life is short, and eternity is long. Though it seems hard to grasp right now, this life is but a vapor the Bible says. Joey lived a short, but powerful life. Joey's impact on so many will be the legacy that any father, or uncle, would be proud of. Joey makes me happy that this life is not all there is. I can't wait to see him again one day.

          "Thank you Joey for the life you lived, the fight you fought, the impact you made and the lessons you taught me. I will live my life different now because of you. You were a great nephew. I will miss your cute voice, your dry, sarcastic sense of humor and your incredible knack for building legos. You lived your journey well… and you honored our Keller name. May I live my journey in such a way as to honor your name as well."

I love you, Joey Keller,

May the force be with you,

Uncle Matt

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

What I'm Doing to Get In Shape - A Personal Update

    While I was writing my Manuscript for "The God of the Underdogs" it was really hard to exercise and workout. I hated it, but there just flat out wasn't enough time to run our church, lead, travel, speak multiple times each week, be dad, sleep & write a Best-Seller! (Hahaha)

     So when I turned in the manuscript on September 15th, I knew I wanted to reengage my health in a big way. I was as heavy as I had been since 2002 when we moved to Florida to start Next Level Church.

Let me throw out a couple of disclaimers:
  •      First, I'm no physical fitness expert. Just a guy who speaks 250-300 times a year and needs to be in pretty good shape to sustain that.
  •      Second, if you are a physical fitness guru, I'd appreciate it if you'd not make a TON of comments trying to advise me better or whatever. It's not that I'm not open to all that, but advise from everywhere can get a little overwhelming. I've got a couple of trusted "experts" who are monitoring me and coaching me so I'm deferring to them right now.
  •      Third, I know there are a million and one ways to lose weight and get in shape. 
  •      Finally, you should consult a physician before starting any fitness regimen. (Did I say that right, Mr. attorney? )

So on October 1st I began... And am still going. Here's what I'm doing. I hope it helps and inspires you.

1. I am exercising in our Clubhouse Fitness Room.

     It's not attractive, I can't see outside and I am utterly uninspired in there. But guess what: At the end of the day, none of that matters! "Shut up with the excuses Keller and just get in there! If you want pretty and inspiring look at a photo album. If you want to lose weight, get in there."

2. I am walking an hour / day.

     The treadmill has a 1 hour setting so I'm doing that. I'm also doing a bit of ab work and occasional arms stuff cause I'm tired of having skinny, pretzel stick arms.

3. I set a goal to work out 20 times in the Month of October.
     And I did it. 21 to be exact. And I set the same goal for November. That goal is based on my travel schedule, reality and family & time constraint realities. Better to be realistic than to set a goal that leaves me feeling like a failure.

4. I keep my Heart Rate between 65-75% of my maximum. 

     Which for me is not sweating hardly at all. I've learned this is the maximum fat burning zone. So for me a 37 year old male, that's between 110-128 bpm. I've also noticed that I don't feel nearly as drained throughout the day like I used to when I'd kill myself at the gym.

5. I try to do Abs & Arms 3 times a week. 

     See #2 above. 

6. I cut all extraneous sugar - Skittles, etc.
     Which if you know me is a big deal. I love sugar like its a third son, but honestly once I got over the hump, it's not been horrible. The harder reality has been not "snacking" at night on the couch.

7. I have been Extra-Conscious about what I'm eating.

     I cut a lot of the greasy stuff, fatty stuff etc. It certainly hasn't been a perfect thing, but WAY better than the previous few months.

The Result:
     I lost 7 lbs. in 31 days in October and as of this writing, November 13th, I've lost 8 pounds. I feel great. Shirts that were too tight to wear (at least in public) fit again. I have more energy and I've figured out how to write and Multi-task on the treadmill. (I actually wrote this whole article on my iPhone while working out.)

     So that's my journey, so far, of getting back into shape. I know that the next season I am heading into is going to require me to be in the best physical shape of my life. So I consider this to be as important as anything else I'm doing right now.



Monday, November 12, 2012

Southwest Airlines delivers more than just Air Travel, they deliver happiness... What we can all learn

Southwest Airlines delivers more than just Air Travel, they deliver happiness.

     Sitting in Row 16 on an evening flight from Baltimore back to my home in Ft. Myers, FL, I had the pleasure of flying on Southwest. Now, I must admit, I have been a big fan of Southwest's business model for a long time. But on this night I got to witness what not only makes them one of the most profitable airlines in an industry of historically unprofitable companies, but what sets them apart entirely.

     Between the time the flight attendant (Mandy) took our order for our drinks (no annoying drink carts in the aisles) and the time she brought us our Diet Dr. Pepper and Ginger Ale, I jotted down 5 Reasons why Southwest is providing service superior to anyone else in the industry. (And having just flown on what my assistant calls "Cheap-o-air" 2 days earlier) I was more than a little aware of the differences. Let's just say, they were glaring.

     If you're a leader or business owner of any kind, there is much we can learn from Southwest.

     First, they focus on Employee Engagement, Happiness and Fulfillment and it trickles down to the customer. 

     It has long been said in business that "Happy employees make happy customers." Southwest gets this big time! From the whimsical and at times, a bit cheesy, humor interjected into the "Public Safety Announcement" to the ear to ear smile on the face of our flight attendant when she took our drink order, Southwest knows how to set the customer at ease. 
     When she asked how we were doing, and I commented that I love this airline, she blurted back, "I do to! And tomorrow is my 1 year anniversary with this company! I am so excited!" Yeah, let's just say that "Cheap-o-air" ain't smiling or bragging about that. 
     Take care of your employees and they will take care of your customers. And it's not just in the big things, though those certainly have their place. It's the little things, done consistently over an extended period of time that creates a happier work environment.

     Second, they focus on the Right Things instead of Wrong, Superfluous Things. 

     So many airlines spend way too much time "policing" customers, instead of empowering them. Let's be honest, nobody wants to be unnecessarily policed. We know air travel is an enormous responsibility but it doesn't have to be stuffy or rude. Southwest's focus is on anything that helps the customer have a smoother experience and process. Don't assign me a seat, I'm a college educated, successful American adult. I betcha I can figure it out. Don't charge me for a bag, or nickel and dime me to change flights. Don't make me find the best deal on some randomocity.whatever site, just tell me where to go, make the procedure easy and let me do my thing.
     Where in your business have you made it "harder than it needs to be" for the customer?

     Third, they empower customers! (and who doesn't love Power of Choice.)

     We are living in the age of choice. The young generation today lives by the mantra, "Empower us or we will choose someone else who will." We will only tolerate 'no options' until we are given an option and then we will take the better option, and here's the kicker, business leaders, EVEN IF IT COSTS US MORE MONEY. 
     Southwest gets away with higher fares at times, because they empower you and people love choice. Seth Godin defines "Being rich" as "having the power to choose." Southwest airlines gets that. 

     Fourth, they understand flying and air travel is a stressful sport and they seek to ease that pain just a little bit. 

     When a company understands a real "pain" or "stressor" in their customer's life, and can alleviate it, they become immensely valuable to them. Southwest does that. Business leader, what "pain" or "stressor" is your customer experiencing that you could alleviate? And don't over think it. 
     Southwest pays for softer, comfier chairs in the waiting area. They pay for extra power outlets nearby, why? Because they know the pains of traveling and they want to alleviate them as much as they can. It's a little bit of extra effort and expense that pays BIG Dividends in customer loyalty.

     Finally, they systematize as much as possible to de-complexify (did I just make up a word?) as much as they can.
     Thus maximizing profit and minimizing waste. (Which is in abundance in the airline industry) 
     Build systems, empower people, trust the customer to know what's best for them, make it as easy as possible, then watch profits increase. Regardless of the industry you find yourself in, I'm willing to bet there's a way to systematize to decomplexify and make your customer's experience better. Southwest does this better than anyone else in the industry and their bottom line shows it.

     So, as the lights of the coastline of Ft. Myers come into view out the cabin window to my left, I can't help but compare my experience on "Cheap-o-air" to this one, and tonight I'm thankful for how Southwest airlines is getting it right. It's the little things that make all the difference. Thanks for the Cheese Nips, Peanuts and Diet Dr. Pepper. And thanks for getting us in safely and a few minutes early as well. Happy 1 Year Anniversary, Mandy, you work for a great company.


Seat 16C

Monday, November 5, 2012

Health Matters :: More than Leaders may Think

          After nearly 11 years of leading Next Level Church, I have become convinced of something.

                                         Health Matters.

          In fact, one of key leadership axioms we say often is: "We are never going to prioritize Growth over Health." Because we know that Healthy things grow. Health sustains growth. Without Health, our teams and our organizations break down.

          I am privileged to be speaking once again this year at the Velocity Conference in Atlanta, GA presented by Church on February 18-19, 2013. The subject I'll be talking about will be centered around How to Spot Unhealth on our Teams and in our Organizations. Whether we lead a church, church plant, start up or established business, health Matters.

Here's why Health Matters:

1. Health is Attractive whether we Realize it or not.
          People are attracted to healthy things, whether they realize it or not. And the opposite is also true. When there is unhealth on our teams, it will push out the best leaders, volunteers and givers. That's why its paramount we leaders have a mechanism to spot unhealth.

          Week in and week out, people approach us and say things like, "I don't know what it is about this place and about your team, but it just feels different than anything I've ever felt before." Of course, we know that's the presence of the Lord, but it's also the presence of Health in the organization as well. We work hard to create an environment of health on all the teams across our church.

2. Unhealth on our Teams has the Ability to Paralyze the Move of God in our Church.
          The only way for our churches (and businesses) to live out their full redemptive potential is when they are healthy. In our coaching of other churches, non-profits and businesses we regularly come in contact with organizations with Huge Upside Potential, but because of the presence of unhealth among their teams can't seem to breakthrough to the next level. Our organizations will only grow as tall as the foundation of health they are built upon.

3. The Healthier our Teams Become, the More Capacity our Teams have.
          Health is like the base of a skyscraper. The wider and deeper the base, the taller the building above. When we know the right questions to ask and the right ways to develop health among our teams, we effectively broaden the base and create the platform for our organizations to sore. Pursuing health in our organizations isn't sexy or glamorous, but the long-lasting results are well worth the effort.

4. Being able to spot Unhealth is the Make or Break for the long term Success of our Organization.
         We can never get where we want to go, if we don't first, know where we are. Having the simple tools to identify unhealth on our teams is priority #1 to taking them to the next level. I'm so excited to be able to share these 9 principles or tools in just a few months at Velocity 2013.
          If you're unable to attend, but are interested in learning more about the tools of spotting Unhealth in your business or organization, feel free to contact us at:

For more information on the conference go to:

May the Organizations we lead continue to pursue health in the future,



Monday, October 29, 2012

Don't Mistake "Big Personality" for Good Leadership

As the 2012 Major League Baseball season comes to a close, the usual letting go of some players and managers is taking place. Most noticeable to me is the firing of Boston Red Sox manager, Bobby Valentine and the firing of Ozzie Guillen, the manager of the Miami Marlins.

Both men are in their first year as managers for their respective clubs however, both men have served as managers for other teams in the past. What I find interesting is how both men have the reputation of being "Big Personalities" in the baseball world. In fact, I would go so far as to say that both men were hired as much for their big personality as for their ability to lead a major league ball club effectively.

Unfortunately for both men, their teams under-performed in a big way this year disappointing fans, team members and the front office. It has cost both of them their job and the city of Miami the hope of building momentum for their newly renamed and rebranded ball club. 

Which brings me to my Main Observation:

There is a big difference between a "Big Personality"
and good leadership. 

The baseball world is a microcosm of how the world of leadership has changed in the last decade. No longer can a "Big Personality" compensate for poor leadership, especially when you're called upon to lead the young generation. Every 30 and under high capacity leader I know has a radar for authenticity, vulnerability and approachability. No longer can poor leadership hide behind "Big Personality." The proof shows up in the results every time.

The challenging takeaway for us as leaders is to examine ourselves.

  • Where are we prone to leverage our "Big Personality" instead of doing the hard work of leading well? 
  • Where are we using our personality instead of facing ourselves and becoming a better leader? 
  • Where are we hoping our "Big Personality" will cover up poor performance on our part?

The world of leadership is changing both inside and outside the baseball landscape. Wise is the organization and the leader who takes note and acts accordingly.


Monday, October 22, 2012

"Because you say so..."

In Luke 5, Jesus climbs into Simon Peter's boat and challenges Peter's entire thinking on what he thought he knew. Peter, after all, was a professional fisherman. If anyone ought to know when, how and where to fish, it was him.

However, after hearing Jesus teach a seashore crowded with people, from the bow of his boat, he was willing to reconsider.

In verse 5, Peter makes a statement that changed the trajectory of his entire life from that day on.

"Because you say so..." (Luke 5:5)  

Peter was willing to obey Jesus, not because he understood all his theology. Not because he knew how the journey would end. Not because he had reasoned it all out in his mind.

Peter obeyed Jesus because it was His word.

Peter trusted Jesus at His word.

? Do we?

Who knows, it just might change the trajectory of your life.

Don't you owe it to yourself to obey him and see what happens...

(To hear how the story ends, watch here...)

Rush - Part 1

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Why We Use Video Teaching at Next Level Church

          At Next Level Church, we are passionate about using whatever means necessary to reach as many people as we possibly can with the message of Life-Change found in Jesus Christ. A little less than a year ago, we began using video teaching in some of our weekend services each week at Next Level Church. And the response has been incredible! We hear reports every week who "love it" "think its cool," and "forgot they were watching a video at all."  It truly has been an incredible season at NLC and Video Teaching is a big part of that.

Why Behind the What on Video Messages from Next Level Church on Vimeo.

            Here are the reasons behind why we use video teaching at Next Level Church...

1. Sustainability of the Speaking Pastors.

          At Next Level Church, we value Health over Growth in every way, including and especially with our staff and pastors. We place a high priority on "Taking a Day Off" and "Taking Care of your Health and Family" for all of our team and leaders. That being the case, we knew that once our church added a 4th weekend service last year, and now, this fall, having added a 5th service to our weekend schedule, it was paramount to the physical, emotional and spiritual well-being of myself and our speaking pastors that we not speak "in-person" in all of those services.

          Additionally, our weekend services are not all our pastors do. During a typical week, our pastors are teaching, leading meetings, coaching other pastors, having conversations, etc. It takes energy to lead and motivate the hundreds of volunteers that make NLC the place we know and love, keep a few dozen staff inspired and trained and influence other pastors and leaders across the country. Our leaders work hard not just on Saturdays and Sundays, but throughout the week as well.

        I have heard it said that preaching a 40 minute message exudes the same amount of energy as a working an 8 hour day. Speaking personally, preaching on the weekend is the physical equivalent of running hard on a treadmill for 40 straight minutes, taking a 30 minute break and then getting back on again for another 40 minutes of hard running. Having to do that 4 or 5 times in a 20 hour period of time over a weekend exacts a physical and emotional toll that takes more than just Sunday evening to recover from.

          We believe there is a better way to communicate messages at Next Level Church without our pastors paying such a high price. And we do that by leveraging technology and video teaching. By utilizing our 21' HD Screen in 1 or 2 of our weekend services, we are creating a near identical NLC Experience for attenders while honoring our value of health for our pastors.
2. Video is a Tool God has given to us to use for Him.

          We believe video teaching is a tool that can expand what we are capable of. In the last 50 years, video has changed the way Americans and the world receive information. With the invention of the television, people suddenly began receiving the majority of their information through a "virtual" person in their living room. I grew up watching my parents and grandparents huddle around the TV to watch a news anchor bring us the day's stories on the Evening News.

          Today, with the advent of the Internet, computers and smart phones, receiving information and content through video is an expected norm. In fact, we prefer it. Video gives us the ability to see angles on things we otherwise couldn't see (think watching a football game from the stands or from your couch...) and be closer to communicators then we otherwise could be. 

          I am always amazed when I'm speaking, at how many people watch the screens, even though I'm standing on the stage in front of them! (Including my wife, by the way!!! She says I'm clearer and she can see me better when she looks at the screen! She says I'm more handsome too?!?)

         Of course the logic makes sense as it relates to our TV's or Videos on our computers, but what about "God's Spirit?" "Can God work through a video in the same way He does when the speaker up front is in-person?" A great question, and for the answer let me say this: Last week in both of our "Video Message" services on Sunday, we had over 30 people raise their hands to receive Jesus Christ as their Savior at the end of the message!

          Thankfully, because our world is so video savvy, our minds have become accustomed to receiving from someone on a video screen. And to our spirit, there is no difference. Video is simply a medium of communication, just like paper and ink are, or an audio CD is. It's merely a platform for communication, and therefore a non-factor for the Spirit of God to flow through. God's Spirit is at work regardless of the medium, be it written, spoken, in-person, or by video. The Word of God is faithful, regardless of the medium!

3. Prepares us for the future

          A third reason we are using video teaching more and more at Next Level Church is because it positions us for the future. The vision of Next Level Church has always been to be 1 Church in multiple locations. We believe the most effective way to reach people in a community is by having an expression of God's Church in that community. Said another way, we believe the best way for people to be apart of the Life-Flow of a Church is not for them to have to drive 30 minutes or more to attend a program or service, but rather for the church to have a "campus" in their city or community.

          Video teaching gives us the ability to do that. We truly can be 1 Church in Multiple Locations. Technology gives us the ability to be growing as a church family together, even though we may be living in different cities or communities across southwest Florida.

          Here are 4 examples of churches who use Video Teaching every week in multiple locations in other parts of the US.

4. We had a choice to make.

          The final reason we use Video Teaching at Next Level Church is because we came to a crossroads about a year ago. When our church began to explode and close to 2,000 people began to attend each weekend, we were running out of space. In that moment, we knew, as a leadership team, we had 2 choices:

  • First, stop adding services and creating more seats for people to attend. or

  • Second, continue to add more services, create more space, and leverage video teaching to make it sustainable and scalable.

          As we pondered that decision, we began to think about so many of the stories we were hearing of friends, family members, co-workers and classmates whose lives were being changed through NLC. The thought of not being able to create space for someone else's friend, or loved one to come and experience Jesus like that was not an option for us. We couldn't stand the thought of turning someone away, or worse yet, seeing a car pull on the parking lot and then drive off again, because they couldn't find a spot in our most popular service times (it happens just about every week).

          If using Video Teaching is a method God has given us to continue to create more Next Level Church environments where people's lives can be transformed then we will do it! People are worth it! Lost people are worth it! We didn't start Next Level Church so we could turn people away, we started it so we could invite them in… into a relationship with Jesus Christ! And praise God, video teaching gives us the ability to do that.

          Let me say thank you to so many of you who get this vision. So many of you who give up your seat at the "most popular times" and serve. So many of you who sacrifice and give and leverage your talents, gifting and abilities to make a difference in someone else's life.
         It's working, Next Level Church, let's keep doing everything we can to reach more people for Jesus Christ!

I love being your pastor,

Pastor Matt Keller

Monday, October 8, 2012

Teachability at a Large Level

When leaders get better, everybody wins..

     I believe this with all my heart. If we can keep the leader growing, the organization they lead wins, other leaders around them win and the people they serve, win. And the key to a leader getting better is found in the presence of teachability in their life.

Teachability is the Key to Everything!

     However, here's the secret of teachability in a leadership context…

The most valuable people to help you grow are those who work with you everyday.

     This means our team. They are the ones who know us best and can see our quirks and blind spots in the leadership context. However, the larger an organization grows, the more difficult it is for the leader at the top to remain teachable. Not because of a lack of desire, in most cases, but because the world has changed.

There is an invisible magic line in organizational life where a leader goes from being a "Normal Leader" at the table to being a "Large Leader." "Large Leaders" are perceived differently by their team around them. Its just an organizational fact of life.

     Suddenly, what used to be easy, effortless conversations about a leader's blind spots become infinitely more difficult to have with a "Large Leader." Why does that happen? And what can a "Large Leader" do about it?

3 Reasons Why:

1. "Large Leaders" are perceived to be a little bit "Larger than Life."

     When an organization grows and reaches a certain size, the leader of that organization takes on a bit of a "Rock Star" status in the eyes of people and team members. It's just an inevitability. It's not bad, it's just reality. And in most cases its not something a "Large Leader" desires or wants to happen, it just does. But this presents a difficult reality for maintaining teachability for a "Large Leader." Teammates who at one time could walk in and say things that helped keep the leader accurately grounded, feel like they have to be a bit more guarded in their words or protective. 

2. People want to "Please you."

     At the end of the day, the majority of people who serve in your organization want to "please you." Said another way, they want to know the vision, run the plays and paint the picture you see in your mind's eye for your organization. However, when it comes to the teachability of a "Large Leader," hearing honest feedback becomes more difficult the bigger an organization gets.
     Wise team members understand the pressures on their leader at this level. The see the stress in their eyes. They know how busy they are. So the last thing they want to be is the "nagging" or "nitpicking" voice pointing out an area in a leader's life or leadership that could use some attention.

3. Your Voice is Amplified.

     A wise friend and mentor told me several years ago, "When your organization gets big, you have to understand that your whispers are heard as shouts," to the people you lead. I can't even begin to tell you how true this is! I have learned this the hard way over the last couple of years. As a "Large Leader" if I walk into a room and ask a simple question about the light fixtures, by next week people will be ripping them out and replacing them, if I'm not careful.
     The bigger your organization grows, the more amplified a "Large Leader's" words become. This means there will be times where you think you're just having open dialogue, but in your team's mind, they are hearing something completely different and much louder.

     So what do we do?

How can a "Large Leader" position themselves to get feedback from those who are closest to them?

4 Ideas on how a "Large Leader" can Remain Teachable:

1. Invite It.

     Unless we invite feedback, it will not happen. Our teams are not going to go out of their way to tell us what they see in our blind spots unless we proactively ask. My recommendation is to build a culture where feedback is expected, sought out and highly valued. And as the leader at the top, you must model that for your team. Our teams will be as teachable as we are. This means, leaders, we must go over and above to keep inviting feedback from those around us. Even when we don't think we need it. And especially when we don't think we want it.
     Get in the habit of inviting feedback in the big and the small. When it becomes a habit, it will become part of the leadership culture of your organization.

2. Listen Intuitively.

     I would be willing to bet that feedback concerning our blind spots exists in the meetings we are in, throughout the week. However, the majority of the time, we miss it. Leaders, this is where we need to keep our intuitive ears up and open to see and hear what is being insinuated and what isn't being said because we're in the room. I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, there are things my team doesn't say because I'm in the room during certain meetings.
     Don't we owe it to ourselves to know what it is and why our team feels its best to not mention it? And let me say, I'm not talking about destructive or divisive things, not at all. There are certain details we don't need to know about because it will cause us to spend emotional energy our team knows we need to be spending on higher level things.
     However, I would be willing to bet there are a few areas your team guards from the conversation because they are particular hot buttons for us or are areas in our blind spot. Come on leaders, we've got to humble ourselves, listen and intuit what those areas are and attempt to grow there.

3. Shun Selective Teachability.

     If you ever find yourself thinking or saying, "That's just the way it is. That's what I believe. That's a fact. And its not open for discussion." Then that's probably an area you have selectively declared, "Off-Limits."
     And we are the biggest fool in the room, if we think our team doesn't know exactly what those areas are. Where are you particularly dogmatic about something? Is it doctrine for you, or dogma? As "Large Leaders" we must be careful not to make doctrines out of dogmas. A doctrine is a biblical imperative. A dogma is a personal preference. "Large Leaders" are capable of making dogmas into doctrines that will keep our teams from being able to speak perspective into our blind spots.
     We must fight against that with everything within us. Come on leaders, there's too much at stake for us to allow our dogmas to get in the way of the mission of the organization we lead.

4. Refuse to "Get Loud" to win.

     As "Large Leaders" we have an extra card in our hand in most meetings. Unfortunately, we leaders think its a trump card, when in reality its a Joker card that will erode our credibility long term. That card is the "Get Loud" or "Get Big" card. When something is being said we don't agree with or want to talk about, a "Large Leader" can feel the temptation to simply leverage their "Largeness" and shut the whole thing down. We do this when we raise our voice, sharpen our tone or "get big" at the table.

When we do this, we may win the battle, but we will ultimately lose the war. 

     In spiritual circles we are tempted to take it one level further with the, "God Card." Spiritual leaders, when we play the "God Card" we undermine our team's voice in a huge way. After all, why should they think creatively, push hard, enter the discussion and participate when at any moment, we're just going to throw down the "God Card" and trump all their ideas and do what we want anyway?
     Many great organizations have had their potential sabotaged because of a leader who "Got Big," got their way and then led the organization only as far as his insecurity and lack of teachability would take it.

     If you are a "Large Leader" congratulations, you've reached a place many others aspire to be. However, you're going to have to work 3 times as hard to be teachable at this level. Remember, your team loves you and wants you to become the best possible leader you can be for everyone's sake. Open yourself up to them, invite them in, and watch what happens.


     Have a conversation with 3 people on your team this week and ask them to give you 3 areas where they think you could do better in your leadership. Don't fight back. Embrace what they tell you. And at the end of it, thank them for their feedback and tell them you want to be the model for teachability in this organization. Then give them a gift card to take their spouse to dinner.

Watch what happens next…

That's the power of teachability. It really is the Key to Everything...