What I learned from the catch that broke the internet

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Odell Beckham Jr.

Last night the world paused to watch the replay of what will more than likely be the best football catch we will ever see in our lifetime. If you google search “Odell Beckham Jr. catch”, you will find an infinite number of post, vines and analysis of this miraculous catch. As I was going to bed last night, I thought about the catch and the response that came from it. Here are a few thoughts on how we should break the internet with what we do to.


1. He only does one thing:

OBJ gets paid to catch the ball. Not throw it, not look good in a uniform, but to catch the ball. I believe we would break the internet too if we could focus on doing one thing and one thing well. For me, its preaching. I want to allow others to lead areas that I am not good at and I want my one thing to be preaching. I want to break the internet with my preaching, not with my admin skills or graphic design skills or even my blog writing skills.

2. He trains all week for one thing:

I am not aware of the specifics of his schedule but I am sure he doesn’t just watch cartoons until its time for Sundays game. He works hard to do this one thing well. Same is true for us. More time should be spent developing our craft when no one else is watching so we can break the internet when everyone else is watching.

3. When you do one thing extraordinarily, you eventually will break the internet:

Refining your one skill overtime will break the internet. It might take 1000 ordinary passes, but one day there will be one pass that breaks the internet.



Do something today. One thing. One thing to break the internet.




How To Serve Without Signing Up

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Getting involved at Focus is easier than ever before! Simply by filling out the form on THIS PAGE, you can start the process. But sometimes, there are areas of service that don’t require any extra effort or time to be more involved. Here are some ideas for this Sunday.

1. Sit Closer to the front - The closer you are to the front of the stage the less distractions will be between you and the words being spoken from Gods word. No other assembly setting has a tougher time filling up the front row than the church. There is nothing more encouraging to a worship leader or speaker than a congregation that is fully engaged and expectant for what God is going to do. Unfortunately, sitting closer doesn’t increase your level of holiness or excuse you from paying your tithe that week, but it does however display a greater sense of expectancy.

2. Bring your bible - Your bible is the equivilent to your hydration bottle at the gym. You can workout without it, but it definetely helps a ton. There is no law or unwritten rules, but your bible in hand shows how serious you are about what is about to happen. Having your bible displays value to Gods word and how it is prioritized in your life. Most people are using iPads or their phones to follow along with the sermon these days, but there is something about a notification free paper bible that allows you to focus on what is being preached about.

3. Show up on time - It is interesting how little time we already spend as a collective body each week. Our average service only last around 70 minutes. In relation to your work week and the time you spend wathing TV, it is actually not that much. For some reason time gets away from us on Sunday mornings and we arrive late to something that is only going to happen once and only last a little over an hour. You can maximize your time in church by simply getting to church on time. Calculating the time it takes to walk from the parking lot and get the kids checked-in will help you realize that you might need to leave 15 minutes earlier than usual.

4. Post On Social Media - One of the most powerful tools in todays world is the web. By engaging with the sermon online, you open up the possibility of people who are not in church seeing what God is doing. One tweet or facebook update can cause someone to click to our churches website and potentially visit the following week. It’s free and painless to post online about what God is doing at Focus. Go ahead. Try it. I dare you. :) @MyFocusChurch 

No need to sign up for these 4 things. How cool is that?


The Story of Focus

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Santiago Family

The picture above was our very first family photo we used as a prayer postcard when we answered the call to plant Focus Church. Here is the rest of the story of how we arrived where we are today.

One call to a number I found on Google set in motion what you are experiencing today. After seven years in youth ministry, I knew God was calling our family to plant Focus. I was unaware of when, where, and am currently still learning how; but I knew it was God who spoke. I Google-searched the words “realtor in Raleigh, NC” and I clicked on the top search result, as many of us do. The conversation with the realtor lasted about 78 seconds, and included only one question, “Which area of Raleigh is currently experiencing the most growth?” She immediately answered Apex, Holly Springs, and Fuquay. So, like any crazy adventurer, I did very little research, and set off to visit this town called Apex. Once we arrived, it took about 3.5 minutes to know that this would be our new home. As we sat in the local café, we saw the people whom God had called us to reach. That bakery café would the place where I later worked, connecting with the people of Apex. After gathering a launch team in our living room, Focus Church launched on September 9th, 2012 in the gym of Baucom Elementary. Since that day, we have seen so many changed by Christ through salvation and baptism. We don’t take any of what God has done for granted, and we are honored that you would consider worshiping with us.

Mike Santiago

The FOCUS Church Story from FOCUS church on Vimeo.

23 Things About The Back of an Airplane

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Mike Santiago“Good morning ladies and gentlemen. The captain has informed me that we need to have 3 people anywhere from row 9 and above to relocate to the back of the aircraft.”
Those where the words out of the crackling speaker system on my jet blue fight to Boston.

“Anyone?” She continued. “Don’t make me pick 3 volunteers”.

I wanted to tell her that she negates the volunteer part when she starts picking people but I stayed quiet.
Reluctantly 3 ladies got up and moved to the back of the airplane.

I learned a lot on this early morning flight. Here are some random thoughts on balance and alignment that I took away from this brief interaction. 

  1. Our desire to be in the front of our organization can sometimes lead to misalignment.
  2. Only the pilot knows if the aircraft is unbalanced, so listen to what he says. He is educated and equipped to know how to get the plane off the ground.
  3. First and in front is not meant for everyone on board.
  4. For the sake of the aircraft, we might need to make some adjustments.
  5. Just because you move to the back, doesn’t mean you get off the plane.
  6. Ultimately we are all going to the same place.
  7. Chasing upgrades leads to an unbalanced aircraft.
  8. Moving to the back always sounds worse than it really is. The difference was only 20 feet.
  9. Small adjustments are what get the plane off the ground.
  10. Sometimes it is not you, it is the baggage you brought with you that needs to move.
  11. The people in the back got served first.
  12. No one questioned the stewardess about the pilots instructions.
  13. It’s the pilots fault if he doesn’t routinely check the balance of his plane.
  14. Everyone in the plane faces the same direction.
  15. You might not have direct access to the instruments that determines your organizations alignment but you do have the ability to balance it out.
  16. Your access should never limit your ability.
  17. The pilot never moved. And I am glad he didn’t. It is impossible to pilot the plane and balance it out by yourself.
  18. The more full the plane, the hard it is to detect misalignments.
  19. God will sometimes give you a lighter flight in order for you to learn who needs to be in the front.
  20. Spreading out is sometimes the organizations best move.
  21. Only 3 people needed to move. Not 30.
  22. An unhealthy transition might take too many people and keep the plane unbalanced on the other end.
  23. Once the plane reaches a certain altitude, you are free to move about the cabin.

What is my point?
My point is this. We don’t need a new airplane. We don’t need a new pilot. We don’t even need more leaders.
We need to make sure we have the right people in the right place. Maybe it is not even people, maybe it is even the baggage that they cary that needs to be adjusted,
The flight was still on time. The solution is more simple than we make it. Good leaders want to sit up near the cockpit. Great leaders understand that there might be seasons in the back in order for it to get up in the air.

10 Components of a Viral Vision

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Focus Church BaptismsWhat God has called us to needs to be naturally contagious. By naturally contagious, I mean that it should carry itself to the highways and byways of your community. Forcing your vision upon everyone in your community will never give you the genuine following you want. SO I have put together 10 components of a viral vision. Here you go.

1. A viral vision is only achievable with God at work.
You can’t have a vision that is viral and humanely achievable. What you will find is that when God gives you a vision it will be possible enough for you to believe but impossible enough for your to achieve.

2. A Viral Vision Initially is accidental…
The best viral videos are ones that where never trying to go viral in the first place. It many times is stumbled upon seemingly accidental but in all actuality God plan is for you to not take all the credit so you will look somewhat like a fool. We are the most unlikely people to have started Focus Church in Apex NC. In all seriousness our story sounds so accidental.

3. A Viral Vision requires a diverse team. 
There are so many components to an effective team that clones of yourself will never accomplish this. Diversity is the ingredient to a viral vision. A team of clones is simply a robotic army who’s personality and preferences always line up. If there is no diversity amongst your team than there is no tension. Where there is no tension there is no growth and where there in no growth there is no life. Diversifying your team is one of the biggest components in making sure a vision is well rounded. There needs to be diversity in order to extend your reach. Diversity in the following areas is key…

Leadership style

4. A Viral Vision requires a large amount of risk:
Without risk there is no reward. Behind your greatest current risk lies your next biggest breakthrough. Every risk I have ever taken has never left me questioning it once I stepped out. Its scary for a moment but satisfying for a lifetime. A constant state of risk is also a constant state of failure. A constant state of failure leaders to a constant state of learning. A constant state of learning leads to a constant state of growing.

5. A Viral Vision will never please everyone:
Believe me I’ve tried. My insecurity can lead me to try and please everyone. It never works. The energy you will exhaust trying to please everyone should be the energy you use to try and reach everyone. Just because it doesn’t please certain people doesn’t mean it’s not effective. You are the leader for a reason. Your first priority is to be an agent of change that brings your church closer to the vision it is called to accomplish.

6. A Viral Vision won’t come naturally:
One of the biggest problems I have found myself in lately is that after we launched the church I assumed the vision would simply unfold itself naturally. What I am finding more and more is that it has to be tweaked and changed more now than ever before. Now we are past the theory stage and the honeymoon stage, we are now dealing with peoples spiritual walks and their entire families. You have to set blocks of time where you supernaturally seek God for that which will not come naturally. I have felt several times that I have reached my leadership lid. Like God won’t send me another person because my vision is not prepared for it. It is at that moment where I ask God to supernaturally extend my reach to something that is beyond my natural ability.

7. A Viral Vision is messy:
Its dirty. Very dirty. Truthfully speaking, its dirty from day one. No vision that God has called you accomplish will ever be cookie cutter. If your vision is cookie cutter than you aren’t risking your recipe enough for God to do something original through you. I have lost close friends. I have burned great bridges. All because this thing is not cut and dry.

8. A Viral Vision doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg:
Maybe just a toe and a finger…

Our minds always wonder to the most expensive item on the list instead of the most effective change in Gods plan. It is much more effective to make a change in how you do what you do than to make the change with what you do it with.
Example: We had zero money starting this church. Days where we where not sure if we where going to make the rent for the school we where meeting in. We starting to simply get really good with advertising on the internet for free. What I have found is that people should be the initial investment not the product. No one knows how great your sound system is but they will notice how good your greeters are. I love to spend money. What I found in my first year is that I assumed too much that God wanted us to stay too long. I invested money improperly simply because I wanted the product more than I wanted the people. Your money should be invested into training people. Now I believe in excellence and we have nice things, but what I found myself doing now is looking at all the money that could have been invested into training new small group leaders instead of in pipe & drape.

A few things we did for cheap:
Satan Sign
Social Media Effectiveness
Search Engine Optimization
The Internet
YouTube is free
Twitter Is Free

9. A Viral Vision is rooted in simplicity:
We stand on four words: Life Change Through Christ
We only do 5 things: Experiences, Groups, Outreach, Next Generation & Involvement
Your vision should be stupid simple. Just Do It. Nike Simple.
Every person that comes to Focus needs to experience life-change through Christ. Its that simple. If your life isn’t changing we aren’t accomplishing our vision.

10. A Viral Vision is sustained by culture.
Culture is the natural distinctive that your organization expels. It’s the feeling you get when you walk into a room and you just know that there is a great culture here. My time is spent more on organizational culture than anything else. I want people to get an immediate sense that this place is different. This staff is different. This service is different. I can’t put my finger on it but their culture is different. Now culture is cultivated in a few ways…

The Language Everyone Uses
The Systems Everyone Prioritizes
The Results Everyone Wants

Viral is not the strategy. The vision is. When the vision is strong, it will naturally go viral. Natural viral visions have the longevity.

8 Things You Need To Know About First Impressions

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First Impressions At Focus Church


Recently, I wrote up some expectations for our first impressions team. Because a portion of this blog audience is also other church planters and pastors, I figured I would share these thoughts online. There is a lot to creating a lasting impression on Sunday mornings but here are 8 things you need to know about first impressions. Obviously your churches context might be a little different then ours, but I believe you might be able to get a few fresh ideas for your first impressions.




1. People over signs
Let us never try to make a sign do what a person could do so much better. When someone comes to our church, they don’t want their first few steps to be directed by a slick looking sign, they are looking for people. Because people make up the church. Whenever we put a sign out, we should always have a plan to put a person with that sign within 30 days. Every sign has a person is the motto.

2. Assumption is our greatest enemy
Because we love our church and we get really acustomed to the way of things, we can easily fall into the trap of assuming that everyone knows what we know. Truth is, they don’t and it is awkward walking into an environment full of assumptions. Do not assume anything. Do not assume they know where to go. Do not assume they know where the bathrooms are. Do not assume they know what time the service started. Do not assume they know where to take their kids. Assumption is our greatest enemy.

3. Prioritize coverage over convienence
Coverage as greeters is the top priority. Even when we want to be close to our friends or within the confines of the building, coverage is the goal. This means that we spread out as greeters. We go to where the people will be. 5 greeters with great coverage, is better than 15 greeters in a huddle.

4. No Lanyard, No Greeting
Attending a new environment is already tough. Our guest need the ability to identify who they can approach very easily. Every greater wears a lanyard. Every worker must be identified.

5. Know the foundation
You don’t have to know a ton of theology. But you need to know our culture. Our culture is laid out in our foundation. Knowing this will help motivate you for more.

6. It’s always someone’s first time
We treat every guest as if they are family. But not like immediate family that we don’t like. We treat them like new family. Like a newborn child or a newly married sister-in-law that is actually normal. But we should never treat people as though we where not expecting them. It is always someone’s first time.

7. Focus Kids Starts With You
If you don’t excite the kids first, they won’t want to go to Focus Kids. You are the kids first impression of how this day is going to be like. If you can start to make them comfortable around this new environment, then you are helping the kids environments improve substancially.

8. Don’t let them miss more of the service than nessecary
The tendancy becomes to start having some great conversation and forget that they came to check out a church service. Be sure to never leave them wondering how the church service started because they stopped to talk with you. It is always good to talk and walk at the same time.

Toxic Environments & Surprise Responses

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Toxic - Mike Santiago

Toxic Environments call for surprise responses. 

What have you done lately that was a surprise to people that hurt you?
Is there a differentiating factor between the way we react to toxic environments.
Here we see Jesus in the most toxic environment any of us could ever imagine and his response is completely surprising. When was the last time we responded surprisingly to the toxicity around us.
We can’t always change our environment, but we can adjust our response.
Our response is an indicator of our maturity.
Surprise responses are the number one indication that your life is different. Your response to toxic environments might very well be the best witnessing tool you are not using right now. Your response is your witness. Not your church attendance, not you’re giving statement, not your Jesus fish on the back of your car. My response is my witness and surprise responses make the best witnesses.

If Jesus allowed his environment to dictate His response, He would not be different. 

SO I will respond based on His example not my environment. 

How To Surprise In Toxic Environments

1. It starts internally.
Matt 26:39 – 39 He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

The heart behind your response will always be able to be read.
You have to decide how you are going to respond to gossip before you have the toxic conversations.
You have to decide where you are not going to on the weekends because you know how toxic the environments can get in certain settings.
When you have internally won the battle against toxic environment, you can then surprise people with your external response. Internal purity comes from time spent at the refinery.

You cannot spiritual respond if you have not yet spiritually prepared. 

What I have found is that we get what we pray for. We get what we prepare for. We are perfectly designed to respond according to how we have prepared. If I am not internally prepared, I will be externally weak the moment I am faced with a toxic situation.

Peter chops off a guys ear. Jesus responds differently. Because while Jesus was praying, Peter was sleeping. Jesus doesn’t bring a sword to a toxic fight, he brings His healing power.

We wonder why we are always apologizing to Jesus for waiving a sword around, it is because we are sleeping when we should be praying. And fighting when we should be loving.

You will pull out your sword at the wrong time if you have been asleep.

2. It expresses itself vocally. 
Matt 26:47-50
47 And even as Jesus said this, Judas, one of the twelve disciples, arrived with a crowd of men armed with swords and clubs. They had been sent by the leading priests and elders of the people. 48 The traitor, Judas, had given them a prearranged signal: “You will know which one to arrest when I greet him with a kiss.” 49 So Judas came straight to Jesus. “Greetings, Rabbi!” he exclaimed and gave him the kiss.
50 Jesus said, “My friend, go ahead and do what you have come for.”

Proverbs 18:21
The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you oh God.

I can tell a lot about someones pain by what they do with their lips. Do they bless or curse? Do they bring life or death?

I refuse to allow my environment to dictate my vocabulary. 

Your environment should not dictate your vocabulary.

While everyone else was talking about who the messiah was, He was out there doing what the messiah was supposed to do.

Because our environment has such an influence on our vocabulary, we have to make sure we are putting ourselves in places where our vocabulary is not in jeopardy.

Learning to use the right words at the right time during toxic situations can be the distinguishing factor for you. Your witness is found in your words. The world is watching our words during the toxic times.

3. It distinguishes itself practically. 
Luke 22:51New Living Translation (NLT)
51 But Jesus said, “No more of this.” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.
Its one thing to talk, but it is a new level of response when you can touch. I have to be willing to touch the toxic areas that we are called to effect with surpass doses of healing and power. Surprises are not found in the natural inventory of our spirit. We have to practice the practical art of surprising people with surprise responses.

Even when you have the right to ignore the wrong around you, be the person that does something about it.

True Story – New Series Promo

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The True Story series is all about the absurd, crazy and most unlikely stories in the bible. Its the fish stories of the bible. A camp fire experience where we dive into stories so crazy that they might be a little unbelievable. The goal of this series is to open eyes to see that God will do the bizarre in order to accomplish something in us and through us.

Easter At Focus Church

Thoughts on Easter

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It is the Sunday night of Easter 2013. My heart is overwhelmed and my mind is continually replaying the mornings events over in my head. Most Sundays are spent with the later hours reflecting on the earlier ones. Tonight is not much different. There is just something about the season and excitement around Easter that you cannot get during any other time. Here are a few random thoughts about our experience this year as a 7 month old church plant:

1. FLUFF Free - We called this years easter experience FLUFF Free Easter. We even snagged the domain name www.FluffFreeEaster.com in order to make it as simple as possible for people to find out more information online. The idea was simple, lets concentrate and center our easter efforts around what we already know we do well and what we know we can afford.

There were no eggs purchased, no bunny costume rented, no flat screen giveaways and no large easter production. We simply planned an experience that solely centered around the message of Jesus. What we did not do is make that an excuse for us to be lazy during this time of year. As a matter of fact we spent more time planning and preparing an experience that had no fluff than we normally plan any other service.

Special elements such as a completely cleared stage at the beginning with only a wooden cross created from pallets, a kick drum and acoustic guitar. We sang “nothing but the blood’ and “turn your eyes”. Super simple.

As people begin to shuffle in, despite not so beautiful weather, there was a sense of overall agreement that an easter service without fluff was exactly what our church needed. We spend many of our weekends in high energy and loud opening songs, we get extremely creative many times to the point of almost over doing it. This easter experience was Fluff Free and was a huge win.

2. My Team Works Hard - When you walk into Focus on any given Sunday you will find that we are prepared to operate at 3 times our normal size. 300 more strangers could walk through the door and even though they might not all fit in the building we operate every week out of that level of expectancy. This means that volunteers and staff work extremely hard to create environments even if the turn out is less than expected. We do everything we can to roll out the red carpet for our guest and this week was no different. From the parking lot to the pulpit the buzz and welcoming environment they created was top-notch.

3. Don’t stop at Easter - We made sure that easter was not the finish line of momentum for our church. Instead, we leverage the large attendance to promote our brand new series “True Story”. People walked out with a 411 sheet that gave them all the details and information to be able to join us the following week.

4. Spreading out our big Sundays – Right now we seem to be right on with how we have spread out big Sundays. Baby dedications, baptisms, holidays and new sermon series seem to be just lining up in a great flow. It really keeps the team excited about whats next and shows the life in the church throughout a long period of time.


Well there are some thoughts on our easter experience. Feel free to comment below if you have questions or want to share your experiences this Easter.