Mike Santiago

It’s a feast. Not a fast.

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Several months ago, at the outset of our 40 Days of Focus, I spoke a sermon on feasting instead of fasting. At the end of the message, I gave the church a list of things that I believe God would do before September of 2015. Here is a portion of my notes from that day:

10 Things I’m feasting for: 
I don’t share these things to boast, I share these things to let you know how serious I think we should take God during these next 40 days. These are things that I want to bring with me to the top of the mountain and allow Him to write the specifics of each one of these items on my heart. I am asking God for a spiritual strategy to accomplish these things in His name as a church. 
  1. 104 Salvations
  2. 52 Baptisms
  3. 25 New Volunteers
  4. 10 New Leaders
  5. Healthy and strong fall semester of small groups
  6. Outreach partnerships that change the city
  7. Clear direction in regards to our next facility
  8. Our next paid staffing positions
  9. $100,000 in our church savings account
  10. Complete the Church Multiplication Network funding


Fast forward to this weekend. We will be taking up our year-end, “Make Room 2.0″ offering. I am proud to announce that we are making some amazing progress on the list you see above.

  1. We have already seen 12 people respond to Christ through salvation.
  2. We have already baptized 4 people and plan on having a huge baptism celebration on February 8th. Sign Up Here To Be Baptized.
  3. We are adding new volunteers each and every week to all of our teams. We recently added 10 new people in various areas.
  4. The staff have really stepped up to create space for even more leaders in our church. God has been really good.
  5. Our fall groups where the highest attended groups in the history of our church! Right Now Media is leveraging technology in more than half the homes in our church!
  6. We fed over 10 families this thanksgiving and provided gifts to over 320 pastors kids this Christmas with PKChristmas!
  7. We are still on the hunt for a new space, but we know God has a perfect plan for us.
  8. Plans are in the works to have an additional, full-time staff member in early 2015.
  9. We are currently sitting a little shy of our savings goal of $100,000. This weekend should be a huge boost to that.
  10. Our Church Multiplication Funding is almost completely replenished! This $30,000 fund should be completely paid off within the next 60 days!!

I write all of this to say thanks. Thanks for praying. Thanks for fasting. Thanks for feasting.

Without your prayers and dedication to seeing God do amazing things, none of this would be possible.

All glory be to God.

Mike Santiago


I am not thinking about Christmas

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No Christmas
Christmas consumes the church. Parties, planning and production details fill the hallways of every building at this time of year. But I am not thinking about Christmas right now. Christmas is a thing of the past for me today.
As a leader, I am thinking about January and February. Sermon series, small groups and growing our teams of volunteers. Christmas is a great season for ministry but effective leadership happens when you are always a few steps ahead.
Christmas is already here and gone. You still have time to effect some serious change in the new year.
Stop thinking about Christmas. Start planning for January.

Why I stopped saying my church is different

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Mike Santiago Speaking

Church planting is so hot right now it would melt the snow off an eskimos dogsled. Which always leads me to wonder what makes all of our new churches (mine included) think that we are any different from the established ones. I am sure we could all list out a bunch of shallow reasons why and how our church is different like: music style, website design and percentage of tightness that our jeans are to our legs. But I have to decided to stop saying my church is different.

Truth is. We preach the same bible. We have the same goals. We sing the same songs.
But what makes me different, is not the shallow list of things I say. 
What makes me different, should be the deep things I do. 
Instead of spending my time talking about how my church is different, I need to start living like my church is different. My actions will get me so much further than my vocabulary ever will.
Talking differently falls short, where behaving differently makes an impact.
If I truly desire to be different, then I need to stop talking about how my church is different.
My distinguishing factor will speak for itself.

Where the camera goes after an interception

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QB Interception
As the football season is now in full swing, I catch a few games every Sunday afternoon like most good american citizens. Understanding that the NFL and broadcast television has changed immensily over the last decade, I love seeing the consistentcy throughout every game and every network. I am sure there are just some unwritten rules of sports broadcasting that just make for great TV. One of the things I have seen every time there is an interception is where the producer cuts to with the camera. Every time.
They cut to the quarterbacks response.
They cut to how he unsnaps his chinstrap.
They cut in right on his face. Close enough to read his lips.
Because all eyes are on the leader when things don’t go as planned.
Because the reaction of the quarterback is an indication of how to celebrate.
Even when the ball was thrown properly and the reciever missed the route.
Even when the ball is tipped and then picked off by the defense.
Even when it is not totally the quarterbacks fault because the offensive line missed a block and he had to throw under pressure.
They cut to the quarterback every time.
Chances are, you are the quarter back for something in your life.
Chances are, someone if not everyone is looking at your response when things don’t go as planned.
Be sure to be willing to take the blame for your mistakes and get off the field until its your turn to throw again.

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.