5 Qualities of Accessible Leaders


Image by Stuart Miles courtesy of @FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image by Stuart Miles courtesy of @FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Last week I was able to access some what I call “Big Time” leaders that influence me through their speaking and writing. I would have never thought I had a chance to connect with these leaders, but social media has made all things possible in regards to networking and relationships. At the same time technology has taken away the excuses for leaders to be inaccessible.

I wanted to share some of the characteristics I’ve observed that make up The Accessible Leader:

  1. The accessible leader acknowledges you: When a leader acknowledges someone or something a person says, does or contributes they are validated. Acknowledgement brings a sense of legitimacy to my personal work, efforts, and pursuits.
  2. The accessible leader takes time for you: When a leader takes time to respond, listen, or express gratitude people go from being a fans to a followers. Fans are with you as long as you are performing to their expectations. However, followers are invested because you made an investment of time that ultimately made a huge impact.
  3. The accessible leader uses technology to touch you: This is hard for some leaders to grasp, but its really powerful if you want to be personalize your influence. Accessible leaders understand that technology multiplies their touches. Saturday night I was able to reach out to a friend of mine who leads a church of almost 16,000 people. If anyone has the right to be inaccessible its him, but I found using Periscope for the first time. We had a couple exchanges and I had the joy of watching what he ordered through What-A-Burger drive thru. Life changing no, but his willingness to use a tool created access that allowed us to keep in touch.
  4. The accessible leader opens the door for you: Many years ago I worked for a boss that only worked behind a closed office door. Now I understand there are times when leaders must close their door to work on important things, but I remember there were times I would knock on the door, knowing my boss was in the office and my knock would go unanswered. I grew to hate that door. It intimidated me and shouted to me that I was not important enough. Accessible leaders invite you into their world by opening the door for you. I actually made this a practice of mine by having a personal open door policy when I was an executive pastor. A closed door intimidates people and open door invites people in your world.
  5. The accessible leader invites you to be a part: Accessible leaders realize they can’t get where they want to go by themselves. Therefore, they give you access to details and information that will be helpful to you helping them get where they want to go. When there is no access to there is no success in leadership.

There are no such thing as an ALL-ACCESS leader, but accessibility I believe should be high on the list when you are looking for a leader to follow. What qualities of an accessible leader can you add?

 

The 3 Most Important Decisions I Passed Along


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Following a 2 year intensive at Genesis Discipleship Training Center where my spiritual foundation was laid, I enrolled in my first semester at Santa Rosa Junior College. It was there that I met my English 1A professor, Mr. De La Ossa.  He was a Christian man who challenged me to be vocal about my faith around debatable issues and hot button topics. If I was ever quiet on a subject he would write on my paper, you need to speak up.

On the first day of class, Mr. De La Ossa asked, “What are the 3 most important decisions you will make in life?” It was the answer to these questions that stayed with me all these years. I recently passed this wisdom on to my son as we launched him into his next phase of life.

  • Who You Live For – As you have done, continue to live for Jesus! Keep God as the first priority in your life. I would encourage you to plug into a church, a campus ministry, or bible study as much as you possibly can. Here you will find the friends and support, the community you need to excel in your walk with God and college experience.
  • Who You Marry – You may find that special someone God has for you. The person you marry will either make you or break you. Don’t rush any relationship. You have 4-5 years to get your degree and a serious relationship is an extra responsibility that in the right timing will be an incredible thing.
  • What You Do – God has a purpose and plan for your life! Don’t worry about the future. Pursue the desires of your heart because God promises He will give you those desires. Follow your passion and God given talents because many times that is the direction God takes us in discovering what we were born to do.

The life you experience is a sum of the decisions you make. If you make good choices in regards to these three decisions they will add up to a successful beginning of your next chapter in life!

 

Giving Prayer Its Place


God's People Crying Out for Sacramento JC Sacramento is in the midst of what we are calling a Summer of Prayer. I have not experienced anything like last night for quite some time. Over 200 people came out to seek the face of God for our city and region on a Tuesday night. Worship scaled down, lights dimmed, Jesus exalted. The spiritual hunger and thirst is real. People falling on their knees, faces down, tears flowing, crying out to God for revival.

Thoughts were racing through my mind about how different spiritual revivals began. Could this be the beginning of something we couldn’t do on our own? Our prayers more catalytic than our plans. A spiritual momentum released through the prayers of the church not just the programs of the church. The potential and possibilities I sensed, were present in that room.

I love a good plan, but last night I believe I got a glimpse of God’s plan. A place for prayer in our city. I’m not referring to a location, I’m suggesting that in the greater scheme of what God is doing in the Greater Sacramento region that prayer will be at the center of what God is doing. Prayer will just not be a part of the plan, but prayer will be the plan.

Intercessors, prayer warriors, houses of prayer, prayer groups and the like have wrestled to find where the “prayer piece” of the puzzle fits in the greater city movement and last night I sensed God putting the “prayer piece” in its place. Right in the center of it all.  

How I Killed My Sermon Yesterday


Image by jesadaphorn courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image by jesadaphorn courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Note that I didn’t kill it, knock it out of the park, feel really good about my message yesterday. No, I actually killed my sermon. I murdered my message at the conclusion with a story that went way too long. Even though my message stayed within the 30 minute timeframe I was asked to stay within, because of it’s length the story was not effective.

You know your story went to long when the church staff makes a joke about it and the entire congregation laughs. Humbling for sure, but when you are a speaker you are not going to hit it out of the park every time you get up to speak.

Here is what I’m taking away from yesterdays homiletic homicide:

The biggest mistake I made was not practicing my story. I was asked to fill in last minute so I didn’t have as much time to prepare as I usually do. Normally, I would write out my story, read it through and practice out loud. This would have easily helped me avoid the mistake.

As a communicator you have to be willing to receive criticism. If you are not receiving criticism you are probably really insecure or you think you are the best speaker on the planet. Great communicators, speakers, preachers have people around them they can trust to help them become better at their art. Yesterday in addition to the joke, which made me laugh too was followed by the lead pastor giving me some advice to cut down the story for the 2nd service. I received it and was already thinking about how to cut it down.

I stated, “Let me tell you the short version.” Yes I said it! The first time around I made this statement. Halfway through I realized I lied. When you as the speaker realize a story is going too long, your audience feels like it’s taking an eternity. I set up myself to fail because since I never told the story before I didn’t have a short version and a long version. I just told it like I experienced it which included a lot of unnecessary details.

You can make changes the 2nd time around. Fortunately I had the 2nd service to make corrections and get it right.  I never like using the 1st service as a practice round, but when there are multiple services you have the opportunity to hear constructive criticism, correct your mistakes, take out things that didn’t work well and improve your message. I learned this from Ed Young Jr. several years ago. Between services he sits with a small team that gives him constructive feedback and he tweaks and implements those suggestions to improve his message each time. For me the 1st service is usually my better message because I don’t speak every week and have a lot of time to prepare, but in this case the 2nd service gave me a chance to change things.

It was a good story, just not good communication.  The story was about God answering a prayer that my wife and I had been praying in regards to our son’s recent move to Cincinnati. It solidified my point but it was hard to listen to for that length of time. I shortened it, hit the main points, threw out the meaningless details and did a better job in closing the next time.

You can see my mistake by watching the end of first service and then see how I corrected it during the end of 2nd service by making the needed changes.

 

 

 

 

Learning the Law of Release


Image by foto76 courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image by foto76 courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This post is a little different than most. I wanted to share something I’ve been learning and have observed over the last few weeks. I call it the Law of Release. I shared some of what God has been teaching me about this principle yesterday at church and wanted to include it in my post today.

We tend to all like the concept of increase, but we have to understand that releasing something always precedes God increasing something. You can’t have increase without a release or letting go of something.

The Law of Release acknowledges to grow in an area of my life I have to let go of something in that area of my life.

Practically what does that look like?

  • If you need forgiveness to increase in your life you have to release the person who offended or hurt you.
  • If you need faith to increase in your life you have to first release your fear.
  • If you want strength to increase in your marriage you have to release the attitude of always wanting to be right.

One of the pictures the word release paints for us is openhandedness. As Bob Goff would say, it’s living life with our palms up. This is a great way to live and posture ourselves. Not holding onto anything, ready to give everything.

Proverbs 11:24 says it like this:

There is one who scatters, yet increases more; And there is one who withholds more than is right, But it leads to poverty. (Proverbs 11:24 NKJV)

To experience the law of release in your life having an openhandedness approach in everyday life in every area of our life is required. Clinching our grip and holding onto things will hinder us from growing an knowing the God who desires to bring increase to our lives.

How to Validate Your Volunteers


Image by Gualberto107 courtesy of @FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image by Gualberto107 courtesy of @FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I will never forget my conversation with a mom that I had while fulfilling my 10 mandatory volunteer hours for the local junior football program in our community. She was serving inspired and dedicated. I could tell she was not helping because she had to, she was serving because she wanted to. While taking jam packed Hefty garbage bags to the dumpster she asked me if I had a child playing football. I told her it was my son’s, who was 9 or 10 at the time, first year of playing football. I then asked if she had a son playing or a daughter cheerleading.

She replied, “No, my son played when he was younger, but he graduated from high school 2 years ago!” 

With my jaw dropped and dragging on the ground I managed to ask why on earth she would serve voluntarily with no children playing in the league. Her answer would enlighten me greatly about the importance of validating your volunteers.

She went on to tell me how she looked forward to the volunteer appreciation banquet every year. She told me at the banquet the organization always went above and beyond in appreciating and valuing all those that volunteered their time during the season. She said when leaving the banquet she felt so appreciated and valued it kept her coming back. The appreciation she received was her inspiration behind her endless volunteer hours. 

I immediately brought this jaw dropping revelation back regarding volunteering to our church team and we went to work on creating an environment where our volunteers would always feel validated. Here are some vital principles you need in place to validate and keep your volunteers.

1. Appreciate Your Volunteers – We get this right a lot of the time. A Starbucks gift card, a hand written Thank You card can go along way. You don’t have to do a big banquet to honor you volunteers like the junior football organization did because the small things you do to appreciate your volunteers will have a big impact. Gratitude for your volunteers is the starting point for forming the attitude of your volunteers. The key is to not to stop at appreciation.

2. Create Meaningful Opportunities – Volunteers are not just looking to be rewarded; instead, they want their service to be rewarding. There’s a difference. Presenting your potential volunteers with meaningful opportunities has a lot to do with releasing creativity within those opportunities. For example, if you volunteer to be an usher and all you do is have them pass the plate for offering and put on a fake smile the opportunity will go from meaningful to mundane in about two weeks. However if I present you with an opportunity to create a place where at our church we make people feel at home, I just put meaning behind what would otherwise be an ordinary opportunity.

3. Validate Your Volunteers – Every volunteer is a unique individual. Many are extremely talented, more intelligent, and more than able to excel in any volunteer position we have available. Don’t discount volunteers by losing their uniqueness in a labeled position such as greeter, usher, parking lot attendant, etc. It’s important to understand that these opportunities are starting points for promotion within a ministry. If you value your volunteers you will not put a label on them that limits who they can become within your church. Validating your volunteers has to do with recognizing a persons worth goes way beyond their current task.

4. Inspire Your Volunteers – A volunteer needs to be continuously see what they are doing is an important part of a bigger vision. Without vision volunteers vanish. If your volunteers think they are just changing diapers in the nursery instead of changing the destiny of a child they will disappear. If your volunteers feel like they are just being used instead of being used by God, you will lose volunteers. Vision reveals to the volunteer that they are the vehicle God uses to see the vision come to pass.

I will follow up with another post on what this looks like on a practical level but these are the principles I’ve observed and put into practice when validating your volunteers.

 

 

 

 

Revitalizing Your Prayer Life


Image by stockimages courtesy of @FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image by stockimages courtesy of @FreeDigitalPhotos.net

After observing Jesus’ quiet times the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. I often find myself asking God the same thing. There have been times when I thought I have mastered prayer, then other times when I felt like I was stuck in a routine. I have experienced mountain top moments with God and other times feeling like I was crying out of from a dry valley.

Psalm 63:1 says, “O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water.”

Everyone’s prayer closet (the place where you like to pray) and what happens in that place looks different. If you observed me praying and asked me to teach you how to pray this is how I would instruct you.

1. Take Time to Listen – About 10 years ago I sensed that I needed to take more time listening to what God had to say rather than petitioning him with constant requests. Prayer is a two way art of communication and my prayer life shifted significantly when I added to my prayer life the discipline of listening for His voice in solitude. Jesus emerged from places of prayer knowing both what God was doing and saying. The eyes of His heart were wide open to every move God made and His ears were listening to every word God spoke.

The Scriptures say, “People need more than bread for their life; they must feed on every word of God.” –Matthew 4:4

2. Pray the Scriptures – Sometimes I find myself looking for the right words to pray. When I’m at a lost for words I realize the Bible gives me plenty to pray. Lately I’ve been taking time to pray through the Psalms. I have a daily reading via the YouVersion app and instead of reading the scripture quietly to myself, I pray it out loud. Here’s a real life example:

3. Create and Write Down Your Own Prayers: I learned this early on in my Christian walk, but it’s one of my favorite things to do. I will either personalize the scripture I’m praying or I will write a prayer after a blog post or journal entry I write. I showed an example how I did  this from the letters of Paul in an earlier post I wrote this year called 3 Prayers I’m Praying in 2015Here is one of those prayers I scribed:

“Thank you for the greatness of Your power that is working on the inside of me that cause my desires and dreams to be doable, my faith to be unshakable and the impossible things that I’m facing possible. Raise the level of my influence and expectancy in 2015 with same power that raised Jesus from the dead.”

4. Give God Praise & Worship Him in Your Prayer Time: Although I have to do this quietly because the rest of the family is sleeping early in the morning, there are times when I plug in the ear buds and invite God’s presence through my personal praise and worship. At this point I’m not sitting on the couch with a cup of coffee but I’m actually moving around, lifting my hands, even sometimes dancing before the Lord because He’s the only one that sees me! When we give God thanks for any and every circumstance, He lets us know that He is there through the thick and thin.

This is a peek inside my prayer closet that I hope will help revitalize your routine of prayer whatever that may look like for you. I pray you will experience life and vitality in the secret place in the coming days, weeks and months!

What disciplines of prayer help keep your prayer life meaningful?

How to Execute and Implement a Vision


Image by by suphakit73 courtesy of @FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image by by suphakit73 courtesy of @FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I was an executive pastor for 6 years and previous to that I served in other supportive roles for 14 years in church world. During these years I’ve learned what it means to execute and implement a vision. I have always fed off of and been fueled by vision. The wisdom of an old proverb says a vision with a plan can change the world. Likewise a vision without a plan is just your imagination!

Here are some keys to executing, implementing an sustaining vision:

1. Catch the vision:  A vision that is cast, must be caught! Tommy Barnett said it this way, “people without a vision perish, but the opposite is true; a vision without people will perish.” It is key for a person executing and implementing the vision to catch the spirit behind it. The implementation of a vision is determined by catching the inspiration behind the vision. If your inspired by a vision it’s a bonus to be able to implement it

2. Run with the vision: The person who catches the vision, must be able to run with the vision. A vision that doesn’t come with the ability to run becomes a burden and ultimately drains the once inspired vision of it’s excitement and energy. Vision is the fuel to moving forward faster! If the person that is executing and implementing is fully empowered they will fully carry out their assignment.

3. Determine a Deadline for the Vision – Every vision needs a finish line. BIG vision requires small wins along the way to a bigger result, but realistic and doable vision is just a matter of setting a deadline. A vision without a deadline will die over time. Enthusiasm will be lost, motivation will wane, and people will become disinterested and discouraged.

4. Fund the Vision –  Money follows vision. A vision that has no funds is no fun. Yes, I’ve heard the statement, “if I can afford my vision then my vision is not big enough.” I’ve presented plenty of big vision that got a big laugh. Those that cast vision have to also be intentional in getting the cash for the vision.

5. Invite People to Help You with the Vision – Leaders who execute and implement vision know how to get people to help with the vision. The vision caster ignites and excites and it’s the executive’s job to invite and get people participating in the overall plan.

6. Delegate don’t Regulate the Vision – Just like you were empowered to run, give people the ability to run too! Delegating is not giving someone a to do list of boring tasks you don’t want to do or don’t have time to do as an implementer. Delegation is an art that releases creativity and gives room for others to share their unique gifts, talents and skills within the vision.  If a vision is not delegated there will be as sense that it’s regulated where the only thing people see is red tape.

7. Pray for the Vision –  Timing is everything when it comes to a vision.  Now that I’m a part of an exciting church plant at JC Sacramento I often joke that I only missed the timing of my vision by 10 years when in 2003 I had a failed attempt. When your praying for the vision you will continue to hear what God is saying about the vision.

“Vision without a task is only a dream. A task without a vision is but drudgery. But vision with a task is a dream fulfilled.” – Author Unknown

Notes & Quotes from Q Boston


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Last week I had the opportunity to attend Q Boston. I call it a conversational conference. I’ve never experienced anything like it and enjoyed the discussion and dialogue on topics that cause tension such as racism, sexuality, and politics. These among others are conversations that are avoided, debated, argued about and in the process no one ever wins.

Gabe Lyons, founder and facilitator of the Q, does a great job of holding to conservative Christian values and a biblical worldview while still valuing and respecting others with sometimes very opposing views by inviting them to the table for meaningful dialogue. It was really insightful and helpful to me.

Here are some of my notes and quotes from the Q:

When we say we are colorblind we blind ourselves to our differences that make our country great. – Captain Ronald Johnson, Ferguson

Jesus call us out of the comfort zones and into the margins. – Richard Stearns

Pastors are using their cities to build great churches, but we need great churches to build great cities. – Ben Knockels

Show up in every moment like you were meant to be there. – Jessica Kim

You have to be a listener of the joyful and painful. – Gordon Macdonald

It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts. – John Wooden, quoted by Dana Tanamachi

Lead with grace before you articulate truth. – Michael Lindsay

Sacrifice is so extraordinary in our culture it makes the news. – Michael Lindsay

The future worldview depends on the success of future entrepreneurs. – Praxis

54% of millennials want to be apart of a start up. – Praxis

Q will be in Denver in 2016. For more information you can check out Q Denver by clicking here.

 

 

What I Learned from a 45 Minute Coaching Call


Image by ddpavumba courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image by ddpavumba courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There have been times in my life and career that I’ve wanted and needed a coach, but a personal coach was not in my budget. Several months ago I purchased a book that I had no idea came with a free 30 minute personal coaching session. I was a little skeptical because I knew the “free” call would end with a sales pitch for more coaching sessions that I couldn’t afford, yet I decided to schedule the coaching call anyway.

When it came time for the call, the 30 minute session went 45 minutes. Though there was a low pressure sales pitch at the end with a bunch of different pricing options that I expected; my over the phone coaching experience was like leaving the gym knowing that I got a really good workout in. It was amazing!

As I reflect on that coaching call there were some things I was reminded of and learned in that 45 minute window that I wanted to share with you.

1. Someone needs to be asking you the right questions. We get asked questions all the time! How are you? How are things going? The problem is general questions like these get general answers such as “fine” and “good.” The coach on the other end of the line asked me specific targeted questions to get detailed feedback. She was digging for dreams and goals that had been buried for years. As she dug deep she discovered disappointments, unfulfilled personal expectations and along with it a desire to still do something significant with my life. The coach drilled down until she hit what she was looking. Who is asking you the right questions?

2. Someone needs to help you get unstuck. Some friends of mine recently went 4 wheeling with their off road vehicles that usually never leave the main road. They purchased them for their large families and not necessarily off road recreation. After cruising some back roads for a bit, they ventured off into the mud where they soon found themselves stuck unable to get out. That is like our lives some times when we venture down roads we’ve never been down before and we find ourselves stuck in a situation we did not foresee. My friends had to call a friend that had a truck equipped with a winch to pull them out.  Sometimes we need to call on coaches that are better equipped to get us unstuck in life. Whether it’s financial jams, marital issues, personal struggles; if we refuse to make a call to someone that can help us we will remain stuck in that area of our life. Who can help you get unstuck?

3. Someone needs to shoot straight with you. It’s hard hearing the facts, but the real fact is we won’t change if we just get some good ideas and suggestions on what we should do. By the end of the call this coach had nailed some things that I needed to address. Things that were robbing me of personal significance and success. Obviously the plan to fix those things had a price tag attached to it but nonetheless they were pin pointed in a 45 minute conversation.  Who is shooting straight with you?

In 45 minutes I learned that I need someone asking me the right questions, helping me get unstuck, keeping me on the right path, and constantly shooting straight with me. I have recently found a coach that has committed to helping me in these areas. Who is helping you?

 

The Most Undeveloped Skill in Leadership


Image by Stuart Miles courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image by Stuart Miles courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I was asked a few weeks ago if I could teach our interns at Jesus Culture. As I pondered what profound wisdom I would impart to them from my 20 plus years of ministry experience (I’m trying to be humorous here) a thought occurred to me:  Don’t tell them what you think they want to hear, let them ask you any question they want.

I then sent an email asking them to send me any questions they wanted me to answer pertaining to life and ministry. Nothing would be off limits as it pertained to my life. I would answer openly and honestly. They were also able to ask one spontaneous question without me being prepared for it if so desired.

I was a little nervous because I didn’t know if this approach was going to work, but I soon found out it was exactly what they needed to be able to do. Here is some of what they came up with:

  • How do you do your devotions, do you have a format or something consistent you stick to?
  • How do you prepare for a message?
  • What are the top 3  most important things in leading a family well?
  • What are some tips for building a culture and a program in a Jr.High/Sr.High ministry realm
  • Are there moments you catch yourself not growing, and if you do, how do you continue moving forward in life reaching for “more.?”
  • How realistic is it to expect to do “full time ministry” in a secular job atmosphere?
  • What’s the biggest piece of advice you’d give us interns in regards to us about to transition out of our internship in a month?
  • What’s the biggest lesson and most crucial piece of life that you can give as a whole? What’s THE ONE thing you follow in all areas; family, ministry, friendship, etc?
  • Have you dealt with the disappointment of dreams not coming to pass? How do you either keep pushing forward or allow the Lord to take it away? Are there dreams you let go of?
  • What does retirement and the end of your life look like to you?
  • How do you define success?
  • What advice to do you have for a young couple getting married, going into ministry?
  • How do you say no to something you don’t feel like you are not supposed to do?

I have to admit I had a really good time answering these questions, clarifying what they were asking and making sure I understood their questions.

In church world we do good job at telling, but we don’t leave a lot of room for asking. When is the last time you were at a church service and the person speaking gave 15 minutes at the end of the message for question and answers? What would happen if we took an entire message series just to answer questions, clarify what we’ve been communicating and listen to what people are wanting the answers to?

Author Tim Stevens in his book Fairness is Overrated put it this way:

“Unfortunately, too many leaders walk in every day as if they are the experts. Either because of their positions, tenures, or influences, they act as if they no longer have anything to learn from others (and especially not from the people they hired). They don’t attend conferences, they never ask questions in an effort to learn, and they only read books or listen to podcasts when they are preparing for their next talks.”

I am convinced the most undeveloped skill in leadership is asking the right questions. Great leaders don’t always have the answer for everything, but they are willing to ask the right questions to get the answers they need. On the same note Great leaders are great listeners that take time to answer questions people have.

Do you have a question that you don’t have the answer to? You can ask it here in the comment section and I will give you my best answer.

How to Bring Easter Sunday Back Next Sunday


Image by potowizard courtesy of @FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image by potowizard courtesy of @FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I love Easter, but I have to ask myself this morning; why do things always seem to go up a level on Easter Sunday as if we only get to celebrate the power of the resurrection once a year? The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus is the Good News that deserves next level attention every Sunday.

Imagine with me if we did the same thing we did on Easter Sunday next Sunday. What things would be back again that are not categorically associated with Easter (Egg Hunts, Outfits, etc) that we usually save for our once a year approach.

1. Expectancy would be back! Social Media feeds would be filled with invites to services, family photos, and Instaquotes. Plans for lunch or dinner with family and friends would be arranged and prepared. Church staff’s would be busy putting into place the little extra’s that make a big difference. Church services would be the best back to back experiences and encounters attendees ever had. Expectancy is the feeling that something is going to happen! Let’s bring back expectancy next Sunday!

2. Excellence would be back! The things no one cares about always seems to get everyone’s attention on Easter! Like cleaning a messy house when friends are coming over for dinner, people present their best on Easter. My definition of excellence is not a standard to meet, but the Holy Spirit motivating people to serve God with everything they have. When people are serving God and others with their whole heart, mind, soul and strength the spirit of excellence is evident. When this happens all those little things that are often ignored, get attention and get done. Let’s bring back excellence next Sunday!

3. Everyone would be back! I wonder if expectancy and excellence came back next Sunday would everyone come back?  How about if people knew we were going to bring our best every week would they just happen to pencil us in on the calendar next Sunday? We put so much into Easter Sunday to make it a special one time event that the following Sunday seems like such a downer because we have nothing else in the tank. What if we looked at yesterday as the beginning of something instead of the grand finale? The Good News is the power of the resurrection will be just as powerful next Sunday as it was yesterday. Let’s bring everyone back next Sunday!

Just some post Easter thoughts I hope will get you thinking about next Sunday!

What a Great Culture Looks Like


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I’m on a culture studying binge right now and I couldn’t wait to share with you an excerpt from Tim Steven’s new book “Fairness is Overated” on what a great culture looks like. Here is a summary of his 12 observations:

1. People are waiting in line to join your team
2. Turnover is low
3. Top leaders are not insecure about other leaders succeeding
4. Gossip isn’t tolerated.
5. Lateral leadership is outstanding
6. Team members are energized by the mission
7. It’s not just a job; people do life together
8. The team believes they are more important than the task
9. People are smiling
10. Fear is missing
11. Communication is strong
12. Change is welcome

Excerpt From: Tim Stevens. “Fairness Is Overrated: And 51 Other Leadership Principles to Revolutionize Your Workplace.” iBooks.

You can download a free chapter or purchase “Fairness is Overated” at www.fairnessisoverated.com

6 Crimes that Kill Culture


Image by federico stevanin courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image by federico stevanin courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Culture is difficult to create, but easy to kill. Here are 6 crimes that I have seen that are commonly committed in churches, businesses and other organizations that kill culture.

Crisis Reaction – Nothing crashes culture faster than an unexpected crisis. When cultures are not prepared to handle a crisis they will react to it. Many times when a company reacts it subtracts from the stability of a healthy culture. A crisis can put a culture in critical condition. A crisis is the crash test of culture. It will quickly reveal the cultural convictions of an organization.

Chemistry Imbalance – Great team chemistry breaks down many times after a bad hire. Team members must like each other, have some common interests, and enjoy each others company to create a team that people want to be on.  Bad chemistry stifles momentum and slowly strangles the life out of a team and the culture of an organization.

Control- Individuals who use their position to abuse their power will create a culture of horror instead of a culture of honor in their organization. Nothing grows in an organization whose employees are paralyzed by fear. Controlling someone is the furthest thing from leading someone. Healthy leaders influence people in such a way that causes them to want to follow. Control freaks insist that the people they oversee do what they say. Control freaks quench culture.

Conversations Behind Closed Doors – These type of conversations reveal a lack of trust in a culture. Yes, there are times when critical conversations need to happen with the door closed, but more often than not conversations behind closed doors are full of unfair criticism about someone or something about an organization. Cowards create closed door cultures.

Complacency – Complacency is a feeling of being satisfied with how things are and not wanting to try to make them better. Cultures that are not continually pushing forward and trying to improve are complacent cultures. A complacent culture has people who have stopped trying, given up and not putting forth their best effort. These cultures are full of mediocrity, monotony and the mundane.

Corporate Hierarchy- Top down leadership kills culture because it never empowers or invites others “below” in the org chart to instill and implement ideas that would bring strength to culture. Communication flows top down but those working in the trenches , rubbing shoulders with the common folk are most often never heard. A corporate hierarchy can have a tendency to classify groups of people  and therefore overlook the potential power that an individual could bring to culture.

These killers are on the loose in organizations everywhere. As leaders it is our job to report and stop these crimes as soon as we witness them happening to keep healthy culture alive!

 

Why Culture is so Captivating


Image by thephotoholic courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image by thephotoholic courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In my previous post I’ve mentioned that I am a structure and strategy guy in the process of learning about the importance  of creating culture. Many times our strategies and structures are right, but our culture is all wrong.  When culture is wrong structures die, strategies become strained and systems become bureaucratic red tape. As I’ve been diving into discovering more about culture I have found that when we get culture right it becomes captivating.

A culture captivates us because it is compelling to all five senses. We can see it, hear it, smell it, touch it and taste it.

1. Culture is Visual- When I see captivating culture I see excellence. Excellence is not limited to extravagance. It is not necessarily expensive, but when you see it, it’s always impressive and exceeds your expectations. Excellence exudes from an excellent spirit. An excellent spirit cannot be taught or bought, but it can be caught! You see it in someone’s eyes, their attitudes and actions. They are all in, all the time. Culture is expressed through people and cultivated by people being empowered to in their gifting and calling. It is not a standard to live up to, it’s values and vision being lived out by people.  

2. Culture is Audible- When I hear captivating culture it’s buzzing with life and filled with a language of their own. There is clarity, community and creativity. You hear it in the music, you read it in the program, you pick up on it in conversations. People are talking about it constantly and posting about it continually. Make no mistake about the vision, missions or purpose because it’s loud and clear and on the lips of the people.

3. Culture is Aromatic- When I smell captivating culture it draws me in close. This may seem a little weird but let me explain. The Apostle Paul talks about our lives being a sweet fragrance:

2 Corinthians 2:15-16 (NLT) – Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. 15 Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. 16 To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume.

I love how the Amplified Bible describes the aroma of a Christ exalting community as a vital fragrance, living and fresh. Have you ever drove by a really good restaurant and you got a whiff of the aroma that filled the air? It made you want to change your dinner plans! The people that are a part of vibrant culture attract others with the fragrant fumes of what God has done in their lives. It attracts, invites and causes people to want to change their lives!

4. Culture is Tangible- I’ve been experienced many different cultures as I have traveled around the world. I’ve always felt very welcome when I’ve visited Africa. Yet, I didn’t feel as welcomed when I traveled to India. There were reasons for both feelings. So many things can effect the “feeling” a culture such as how they view people, opinions and stereotypes they have about people that don’t look the same act the same, or are from a different part of the world. Healthy cultures have healthy vibes when they have a healthy view and value of people from all walks of life. 

5. Culture is Flavorful – We’ve all talked to someone that said, “I went there, but it left a bad taste in my mouth.” How do we taste the culture of an organization that doesn’t serve food? Well, every organization serves something that is consumed. We get a taste of the menu when we encounter the people who have been consuming there the longest. Jesus said, what goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” If you visited somewhere and felt like someone vomited on you, you got a taste of that culture. On the other hand captivating cultures have tasteful things to say about the organization and the people who lead and support it.

I believe this is why culture is so hard to create and cultivate because culture ultimately  flows from the heart of people. You know when culture is not right, yet it’s hard to put a finger on it to correct it. You know something needs to be done about it, but you don’t what you need to start doing. Start with your senses! What are you seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, and tasting in your church that is not right?

How to Let Go…I Think


Image by arztsamui courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image by arztsamui courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Well the countdown begins as we launch our son into the next phase of life. Josiah committed to attend and play college football at the University of Cincinnati where we will be taking him in just 10 weeks! It’s so right and so hard at the same time. Amy and I are randomly crying a lot these days. Watching his last high school basketball game, looking through a lot of pictures, planning his graduation party, and crying some more.

Super excited and super emotional at the same time.  

I don’t think you are ever really prepared for these moments, but there are few things that are helping us as we are getting ready to let our son fly. Here’s just a few things that we are experiencing…

Enjoying Every Moment: I have to admit I’ve been having a lot of fun the last several months. It’s helped to focus on the positive things in life that bring you joy instead of the things that just don’t matter and suck the fun out of this phase of life. We’ve spent a lot time with long time friends, laughing, hugging, sharing stories, memories and of course still learning. We are also encouraging Josiah to do the same. As we are enjoying every moment we are telling him to do the same. He’ll go to Mexico on a missions trip for spring break with his sister and 100 other teens from Folsom, the Senior Ball, and will continue to hang with his friends as much as he can as graduations approaches.

Don’t Hold Back the Emotion: I’m going to blame my emotions on my Italian heritage (ha ha), but these days we’re not trying to hold back the tears we’re just letting them flow these days. It’s part of the process. It’s not unusual for us to hear a song while we are driving to see tears start streaming down our face. Country music seems to get us every time these days!!! Amy and I laugh at ourselves (shoot I’m crying as I type this right now!) but when you are letting go you can’t be afraid to let the tears flow. I’m told it doesn’t get easier so I guess there will be a Kleenex box close by at all times! Yes it’s emotional but that’s how we are grappling with our parental fears and swimming through our tears.

Valuing Every Conversation: The teenage years can be quiet years full of one word answers, head nods and grunting sounds. Lately though we’ve had some in depth conversations about real life stuff. Not that we haven’t had these talks before but we are having those kind of talks that let you know he was really listening all these years! I’ll never forget when we were visiting Cincinnati, Josiah came into my room and sat down and said, “Dad, God’s been speaking to me.” I was all ears because we were trying to figure out what God had for his future. He went on to say, “God’s telling me to get out of my comfort zone. I know it’s far a way but I really feel like Cincinnati is a great fit for me.” At that point Cincinnati hadn’t even offered him a scholarship yet, but later that night they did and Josiah was right. I had never talked to Josiah about comfort zones in my life, but to hear these words come out of his mouth was such a proud moment for me. As a dad I had a peace and I knew God was talking to him and leading him. To hear some of the things Josiah has said in this entire process has been profound. I’ll be hanging on every word the next 10 weeks!

Amy and I know that this is just the end of chapter and the beginning of another, but we are having to let go so he can write the next chapter for his life. We couldn’t be happier for Josiah and thankful for all of the family and friends who have helped us raise a fine young man. We are so appreciative.

Where’s the Kleenex?  :-)

Book Review: Divine Applause by Jeff Anderson


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Divine Applause by Jeff Anderson is about taking practical steps to encounter God and experiencing His applause. Anderson takes what would seem to be experiences only for those that are super spiritual and makes it super practical for everyone to reach. With a balance of scripture and personal story telling, the reader is invited, encouraged and challenged to recognize God’s rewards in the everyday moments that life offers.

Divine Applause teaches us that God notices even our most intricate thoughts that the author refers to as Buzzer-Shot Moments! As Christians who are connected to God, we all have access to these moments when we are made aware of God’s presence in our lives and His longing to reward us. However, we are not always aware of these moments because we are not expecting God to notice our simplest requests, prayers, thoughts, visions and dreams. Anderson makes the reader aware that God not only notices us, He is applauding us!  

My favorite thing about this book is that Jeff Anderson shows that an encounter with God is attainable for everyone. If you are pursuing it and making yourself aware that God can show up anywhere and use anyone you will experience God’s reward. You will experience His divine applause.

I received Divine Applause for free in exchange for this review.

Creating Healthy Culture


Image by David Castillo Dominici courtesy of @FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image by David Castillo Dominici courtesy of @FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Culture is the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization. Here are some key questions to ask yourself and your people when searching the soul of your organization and creating healthy culture:

What are the shared attitudes of your team? Awesome attitudes create awesome atmospheres. When these types of attitudes our shared amongst team members it creates authenticity, honesty and transparency leading to a culture of trust. On the other hand, wrong attitudes that exist among team members can lock up an atmosphere and create a culture of mistrust. Instead of open and honest conversations, a lot is said behind closed doors. Instead of having each other’s back, team members are stabbing each other in the back. An organization’s altitude is determined by the people’s attitude. Sharing the same healthy attitudes as a team requires shaping the heart of your team.

What are the shared values of your team? Values are what make a vision worth pursuing. If everyone in the room does not share common values it will be hard to arrive at the desired destination. Values propel teams on their pursuit of a common vision. A vision will have no worth if values are compromised on the way to seeing it fulfilled. For example, a vision for community cannot be accomplished if a team has no value for going deeper in their relationships with one another. Values fuel vision with meaning and purpose.

What are the shared goals of your team? Goals inspire teamwork. A team that has shared goals are working together toward seeing that goal accomplished. The greater the goal, the greater need for each other. Teams without goals don’t need each other. Goals keep teams focused, accountable, productive and pursuing the dream. Without goals teams get stuck, stagnant and set in their ways.

What are the shared practices of your team? What are your teams shared practices that are permeating healthy culture throughout your church, business or organization? Last December I was at Disneyland when I ran across Mickey’s 10 Commandments for their Imagineers (employees) in a book called Disney’s Imagineering – A behind the Dreams Look at Making More Real Magic.

1. Know your audience – Identify the prime audience for your attraction or show before you begin design.

2. Wear your Guests’ shoes – Insist that your team members experience your creation just the way the Guests do it.

3. Organize the flow of people and ideas – Make sure there is logic and sequence in our stories, and in the way Guests experience them.

4. Create a wienie (visual magnet) – Create visual targets that lead visitors clearly and logically through your facility.

5. Communicate with visual literacy – Make good use of all the non-verbal ways of communication- color, shape, form, texture.

6. Avoid overload – create turn ons – Resist the temptation to overload your audience with too much information and to many objects.

7.Tell one story at a time- Stick to the story line: good stories are clear, logical, and consistent.

8. Avoid contradictions- maintain identity- Details in design or content that contradict one another confuse an audience about your story of the time period in takes place in.

9. For every ounce of treatment, provide a ton of treat – In our business, Walt Disney said, “you can educate people but don’t tell them you’re doing it! Make it fun!”

10. Keep it up! (maintain it) – In a Disney park or resort, everything must work! Poor maintenance is poor show!

It has been said practice makes permanent, but in regards to creating healthy culture what you practice together as a team is the culture you permeate throughout the organization.

Why Culture Eats Strategy and Structure for Lunch


Image by savit keawtavee courtesy of @FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image by savit keawtavee courtesy of @FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In his book, Cracking Your Church’s Culture Code, Dr. Sam Chand said that “culture eats strategy for lunch.” He was implying that many leaders focus on implementing strategies and building structures and ignore the most critical component of creating a healthy culture.

For the record I’m a both/and guy. In fact if truth be told I’m a spiritual architect that loves to develop systems, implement strategies and construct uniquely designed structures. However, what I’m discovering about culture is that it is the glue that holds everything together, it’s the mortar between the bricks and the nails that join the wood.

My favorite definition of culture is the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization. These are the invisible ingredients that often get overlooked, are unseen and many times an organization can’t overcome when attempting to break through barriers that hinder organizational health and continual growth.

A culture is the soul of a church, business or organization. It’s reflects the WHO. The WHO is what drives and motivates an organization. It flows from the heart of people and that’s why it’s so easy to gloss over. Leaders spend a lot of time on the WHY, the WHAT, the WHERE, and the HOW, but seldom is time spent on the WHO. If an organization is not investing in their WHO the WHY, WHAT, WHERE, and HOW may appear strong and healthy from the outside but what’s really going on behind the scenes, if you will; could ultimately erode any foundations that has been laid, dismantle anything that has been built and buck any systematic process that brings life.

It doesn’t matter how strong your structure appears, how slick your systems are, if your culture is not healthy it will consume all of your hard work. I am will be posting later this week on how to create a healthy culture and why it’s worth doing the hard work of establishing culture with your team first.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like a beautiful tract home quickly built with cheap material and careless labor

 

 

Why I’m Still Blogging Almost 5 Years Later


Image by Stuart Miles courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image by Stuart Miles courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I originally launched a family blog in 2007 on Blogspot with the idea of keeping friends updated. In November of 2010 however I made a shift when a life experience sparked something in me to write more regularly. You can read about that life experience here. I’ve tried to post once a week ever since.

I love writing. It has become an intricate part of my life. It has helped me in so many ways and I wanted to share with you why I’m still blogging consistently almost 5 years later!

1. My Blog is My Mirror – If you read my blog regularly it is a direct reflection of my life. It could be current things happening in my life or things that have happened in the past I’ve had to think about for a while and learn from. I attempt to be as transparent and honest as I can without throwing people under the bus. Blogging allows me to expose the things from my inside world to the outside world. It helps me get the things that would otherwise be bottled up inside me out there for all to see. Sometimes its my struggle and other times its my strength, but I’m constantly pulling things from my life with hope that it’s not only helping me, but helping others that take time to read.

2. My Blog is My Coach –  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at an old post I’ve written and said, “I wrote that?” Things I’ve written and forgotten about over the last 5 years encourage me when I take time to glance over the almost 350+ posts I’ve written. I see how I’ve grown and I see how I can improve. It’s also been a cool thing to get feedback from others, hear how it helps my readers, and encourages them in their own lives.

3. My Blog Makes Me Better – I really believe the practice of blogging regularly has made me better in a lot of areas.

  • It has helped me become a better leader. Writing down the leadership lessons I’ve learned has been so valuable.
  • It has helped me become a better communicator. Story telling was one of my biggest weaknesses as a speaker. Writing down my personal experiences has helped me capture them and create and archive of great stories from my own life that I hope will make people laugh, cry and learn from.
  • It has helped me become more creative. I’m always thinking, dreaming and looking for things that I’m learning in life to write about. It might be something I hear, see or experience, but I’m always looking for a good idea.

If you’re a blogger or thinking about becoming one it’s going to encourage you and others in ways you’ve never dreamed of. Your blog could be more personal or even more of a platform for business. Whatever path your going down you are going to grow as a person and inspire others to do the same. That’s why I’m blogging almost 5 years later. It helps me and it helps me help others.

Keep blogging and keep dreaming!

How to Get Better Outcomes


Image by Bill Longshaw courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image by Bill Longshaw courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We get bombarded with better promises for better results all the time. Download the new ebook and you can learn how to shave 10 hours off your work week. Participate in the 8 week course and get your blog the attention it deserves. Attend this seminar or conference and increase your income.

Everyone wants better results, but how can you really guarantee a better outcome for your passionate pursuits.

1. Learn From Your Mistakes: Author Steven Denn wrote, “You can never make the same mistake twice because the second time you make it, it’s not a mistake, it’s a choice.” When we choose to learn from our mistakes we position ourselves for better outcomes because we are becoming wiser through experience. Repeating the same mistake over and over again is refusing to learn what our choices want to teach us. Learning the hard way is never the best way.

2. Learn to Do the Hard Work Required: Better results and outcomes require hard work. Many times promises for better outcomes are marketed in such a way that cause you to overlook the hard work involved that will get you where you want to go. Proverbs 14:23 in The Message says it best. Hard work always pays off; mere talk puts no bread on the table. People talk a lot about better outcomes, but those that are getting better outcomes are doing the work. If you want a better harvest you better be willing to put your hand on the plow. 

3. Learn From the Outcomes of Others: I was reading a familiar bible verse in the Amplified Version in preparation for teaching on generosity and was struck by the amplification of Hebrews 13:7 –

Remember your leaders and superiors in authority [for it was they] who brought to you the Word of God. Observe attentively and consider their manner of living (the outcome of their well-spent lives) and imitate their faith…

When desiring better outcomes we tend to look to those who have bigger incomes. I will never forget accepting a job because the owner of a company, who was a cash multi-millionaire; told me he would help me become a millionaire if I taught him the bible. I got sucked into one of the worst jobs I ever had and one of the worst years of my life. Why? I based my decision on his income not his outcome. Don’t be impressed by people’s incomes, be impressed with the outcomes of their lives. 

  • If you want a better marriage find someone who’s been married 50 years and ask how they did it.
  • If you want to increase your income, find someone who is willing to tell you about the hard work and the ups and downs it took to acquire it.
  • If you desire a stronger faith in God follow those whose faith is strong and learn from them.
  • If you want to strengthen your relationship with your kids, seek those parents out who have cultivated strong relationships with their children and ask a lot of questions.

*By the way if the people you are seeking out with great outcomes have great incomes it’s a bonus! I just have seen a lot of people who have sought out people only because of their great incomes. It can be a hurtful situation for all involved.

Getting better outcomes many times means growing from our mistakes, putting in the hard work, and learning from others who have the outcomes we desire.

How are you getting better outcomes in 2015?

 

 

Creating Culture by Thinking Differently


Image by KROMKRATHOG courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image by KROMKRATHOG courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Mark Batterson has said, “there are ways of doing church that no one has thought of yet! There are new forms of preaching. There are new forms of discipling.” 

How do we find these new ways and these new forms of doing church differently? As leaders we have to give ourselves permission to think differently and do things a different way.  We live in a copy cat culture, so our tendency is to see what everybody else is doing, read the book everyone else is reading and do it the way everyone else is doing it.

A lot of people approach me with this phrase all the time: “Nameless Church is doing it this way and that way.” I usually respond, “That’s an awesome way to do it!” The key as leaders is knowing there is more than one way to do what God has called you as a leader to do. 

Part of creating culture is establishing new ways of thinking. This can be challenging whether you are starting something new or revitalizing something old because wherever there is people there are established ways of thinking that resist change. Ralph Neighbour once told me about a book he wrote called the Seven Last Words of the Church: We’ve Never Tried it That Way Before. In the book Neighbour suggests that traditional thinking has hindered the effectiveness of the church.

As leaders then, how do we tap into God’s imagination and innovation so that we can think differently in in creating the culture we want to create.

1. Ask God for new ways, then be patient – Discovering the new might not happen in the now! When God gives us something new there is always a process of transitioning from the old. God doesn’t birth something new to blow people out of your church. He births something new that will bring life into your church. Over the years I’ve had to to learn that new ideas are not always suppose to be implemented immediately. Instead, God had given me new ideas way in advance so that I could prepare people for the new thing.

2. Resist doing what you know – I’m not suggesting that we ignore wisdom, that would be foolish. What I am suggesting is that if we always do what we know, we may never experience the new God wants to release. Whenever a leader sets out to do something new the greatest temptation they will face in pursuit of the new is defaulting back to what they know. What a leader knows is always easier to do than what a leader doesn’t know. When the new thing is resisted a leader must have faith to embrace the unfamiliar and move ahead.

3. Embrace the new even if you don’t know what it is yet. As I mentioned above, embracing the new will require faith. I recently saw this tweet in my feed from @myrecruitboard:

If you want to go somewhere new, throw out the tired, old map and stop traveling the same road to the same dead end.  

Embracing the new begins with a step of faith towards the unknown. It means throwing out the old map we’ve followed for years, tossing the tired ministry philosophy that is no longer effective and traveling down the roads less traveled. I have discovered that faith works best in places you’ve never been before. That’s where I’m headed and that’s where I’m going!

If my writing has encouraged you in anyway leave a comment or share it with a friend! I appreciate it.

 

 

 

 

 

Are You Settling?


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Since the above phrase came out of my mouth as I was leading our church in prayer I cannot stop thinking about it. It has forced me to look at the harsh reality that I’ve been settling for less instead of contending for all that God has for me.

So many times I have settled for 50% of what I’ve been asking God for in prayer. As if God only could come up with half of my request. Even though my favorite scripture is Ephesians 3:20 (MSG):

God can do anything, you know – far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!

It wasn’t until a couple weeks ago while I was praying at church on Sunday that I had a revelation of God the Father’s heart for us. The last couple of weeks we have been navigating the recruiting waters with my son Josiah. He has a desire to play Division 1 college football, and has had two D1 offers but one was only 50%.  We discovered the 1st 100% offer was not a good fit for him, so that left us with the 50% offer and a little frustrated as well. My desire and determination to see my son get a 100% offer from a D1 school increased.

Two weeks ago I was at our Sacramento conference with Jesus Culture and during worship at our concluding session I received a phone call from a number I didn’t recognize so I continued to worship and let it go to voicemail. After worship I proceeded up the stairs so I could listen to the voicemail. It was the head coach from the school with the 50% offer offering a 100% full ride.

What this process revealed to me is that my desire for Josiah to receive 100% of what is available to him and not settle for the 50%, is the same desire God has for me. It was at this point the phrase rolled from my lips.

God can’t give 50% to anything. He can only give 100% of Himself.  God doesn’t want me to settle for the 50% discounted answer to my prayers. He is wanting to give me far more than my wildest imaginations and dreams! 

Don’t settle, keep contending for ALL that you’ve asked for and God will meet you 100% of the time with 100% of the answer when your heart and desires are aligned with His.

 

 

 

 

 

Finding God’s Will For Your Future


Photo by phanlop88 courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo by phanlop88 courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When you have several options it can be challenging to determine what direction to take. As Amy and I have been talking to Josiah and praying with him about his future, I have recognized some key indicators that begin to emerge when you begin to discover God’s will.

1. There is PEACE, not PRESSURE. I learned early on that if you are being pressured into a decision, or rushed to give an answer you might want to back off from making a decision. God’s will comes with peace.

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. – 2 Thessalonians 3:16

God doesn’t force anything, He applies peace to everything. He doesn’t give you stress, He gives you strength. Through His mercy he extends a promise to guide our feet into the path of peace (Luke 1:79).

2. There is PROVISION, not PERSUASION. I will never forget the words of my pastor when I was a new Christian in my early twenties. “Where God guides He provides, Where He leads He feeds.”  If the direction you are taking means taking on a huge amount of debt you might want to decide to go another direction. A recent report from Wells Fargo found that 40% of millennials said their debt was overwhelming.

Finding God’s will should never be overwhelming and finances can be an indicator that God is opening a door or slamming one shut.

3.  There is Confidence, not Confusion. Through the process I have been reminded that God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33). God’s Word, the Bible gives us confidence as we step towards our future. Here are a few of the promises that I’ve been thinking about:

The steps of the godly are directed by the LORD. He delights in every detail of their lives. – Psalm 37:23

We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps. – Proverbs 16:9

I have to comment on this verse because it has really helped me, especially in the recruiting process we are walking through. We’ve wondered with the success of our high school football program and Josiah’s personal achievements why recruiters haven’t been knocking down our door. This verse came to me and has given me confidence in helping Josiah discern God’s will with the few offers an options that are in front of him. God is determining his steps! We have our ideas, dreams, plans but God is directing every step. God’s will doesn’t go against our desires, remember what I mentioned earlier. He doesn’t force you to go somewhere you don’t want to go.

May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. – Psalm 20:4

I’m looking forward to when Josiah makes his decision, but these are the indicators we are looking for as we sort through the options and seek God’s will. I hope they will encourage you if you are in transition or thinking about making a big decision.

What are some indicators for you in finding God’s will for your future?

 

The Secret To Living A Defiant Joy: An interview with Margaret Feinberg


FIGHT BACK WITH JOY

One of my favorite authors, Margaret Feinberg, has been through a brutal fight with cancer and shares the unexpected lessons she discovered along the way in her new book and Bible study Fight Back With Joy.

It’s been inspiring to learn how Margaret has been practicing a defiant joy, and I and thought you might like to get an insider’s look, a sneak peek of the video and read an interview with Margaret.

Your newest book and Bible study, Fight Back With Joy, was born out of your fight with a life-threatening illness. What was your difficult diagnosis, and what has your journey to health entailed?

For the last 18 months, I’ve been battling breast cancer. Breast cancer isn’t just one disease represents thousands of different diseases with their varying components and factors. Being diagnosed under the age of 40 is significant. I’ve been through a brutal year of chemotherapy, radiation, and more surgeries than I can count or want to remember.

Why did you write Fight Back With Joy?

I studied joy for a year and was putting the finishing touches on book on joy—just two weeks from turning it into the publisher, when I received the diagnosis. I had been pursuing and activating joy in my life in the relatively good times, now I had to do it in the midst of darkness, depression, and torturous pain. Through the process, I’ve discovered the breadth, depth, and power of joy—that despite hundreds of sermons and many decades in the church—no one had told me of before.

In Fight Back With Joy book and Bible study, you really push the reader to reevaluate their definition of joy. Why do you think this is so important?

Much of the teaching I’ve heard on joy over the years is oversimplified. I remember those days in Sunday school learning that JOY is spelled Jesus, Others, Yourself. While that made perfect sense at 9 years old, I’ve seen how distorted that can become as an adult.

I see friends who love Jesus but spend so much time pouring into their kids, grandkids and others that their joy looks something like this: jOy.

Technically, it still spells joy, but more than anything, these men and women who are so exhausted, so empty, so running on fumes from pouring into others need to pause and take time to focus on themselves. Laying hold of joy right now will require them to reevaluate for a season and discover the joy that comes with JYo.

I also noticed how most of the definitions of joy define it more by what it isn’t than by what it is. I constantly heard that happiness is based on circumstance but joy is not dependent on circumstance.

Biblical expressions of joy turn out to be far different than what I had been taught. I am now convinced the writers of the Bible would say that, the reason we have joy is because we have great circumstances. If you are a child of God, you are drenched in the grace and mercy of God.

No matter what you’re facing: Your circumstances are better than you think.

If you’re not experiencing joy, perhaps it’s because your definition of joy is too narrow.

On a scale of 1-10, how hard was it for you to write this book and Bible study?

An eleven! This journey has been the most painful experience of my life. And, to share about it requires some vulnerability. Okay, a lot of vulnerability. And, that’s really, really hard. But I feel like I’m finally ready to share what God has stirred in my heart along the way because although cancer has been the most painful journey—it has also been the most joyful. And no one is more surprised than I am.

Pick up a copy of Fight Back With Joy at Amazon or Barnes and Noble today.

MargaretFeinbergMargaret Feinberg teaches at churches and conferences including Catalyst, Thrive, and Women of Joy. She was recently named one of 50 women most shaping church and culture by Christianity Today. Her books and Bible studies, including The Organic God, The Sacred Echo, Scouting the Divine, and Wonderstruck, have sold nearly a million copies. She lives in Colorado, with her husband, Leif, and their superpup, Hershey.

 

 

3 Changes You Must Make On Your Church Calendar


Image by Stuart Miles courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image by Stuart Miles courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Most church staffs have went on a planning retreat by now and have their calendars set for the upcoming year, yet it’s not too late to make some last minute changes before going public with 2015! After observing what churches are doing and adjustments churches are making there are 3 changes I think you need to make if you haven’t already.

1. Change Your Midweek Youth Ministry Meeting to a Weekend Meeting –  Okay, it’s time to pull the plug on the midweek youth service concept we’ve been doing for the last 25 years. Yes there are some youth ministries still thriving on the midweek but a lot of that is a result of having really good adult programming on the same night. With small groups killing most midweek programming at church campuses (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing), it has taken its biggest toll on youth ministries. Groups of 100 plus meeting during the week are very rare where 10 years ago it wasn’t unusual to have several youth groups in the same city at the 100-500 mark. Not making this change will prevent youth ministries from reaching influential students that are really involved in school extra curricular activities during the week which is requiring more and more from students not less.

2. Change Your Church Service Times to Include and Evening Option – In California the Sunday evening service is all but dead, but making a strong comeback is an evening option (4-6pm) that duplicates the Sunday morning service. If you are having to add a service don’t go earlier because early birds are near extinction. A later service allows people to enjoy the day and still make it to a great church service. This isn’t a half baked, do different music for a different crowd, no childcare service. It’s an opportunity to cast your net to a crowd who really want to attend your church but can’t.

3. Change Your Church Calendar by Adding a Missions Experience – If it’s not already on the calendar you have to make room for a missions trip experience that invites the entire church to obey The Great Commission’s command to GO!  A commitment to go next year almost never happens and incredible open doors often shut if we do not walk through them. I’ve heard so many leaders say that they are going to change the world but never venture outside of their own zip code. Most churches are strong supporters of missions and that is to be applauded, but adding a missions experience to the calendar will turn your church into a launching pad, thrusting people into the harvest field.

You have two days to make a change before you publish your calendar. Will you implement some of these changes or will you settle for the same easy to do thing because that’s the way it’s always been. If not these suggested changes then what changes can you make to make your calendar work for you and not against you?

What changes have you made going into this year?

How to Raise Champions


imageThis last weekend Josiah and his teammates, the Folsom Bulldogs, won the Division 1 California State Football Championship.  The team has broke multiple state and national records along the way and over thelast 3 years have a combined record of 44-2.

However more than the stats, records and trophies this championship team has earned; this team is made up of quality young men from a community that supports them, families that love them and coaches that believe in them. It’s crazy to think that there may be some kind of recipe for making champions and if there is I definitely have some ingredients that I would like to share.

1. Tell your kids they are champions before they become champions. Since Josiah was born I’ve prayed and spoke the destiny of a champion over his life. Have I said some things as a parent that I’ve regretted? You bet. I’ve made more mistakes with my mouth than I like to admit, yet I’ve admitted my mistakes and chose to speak more life than death. I’ve tried my best to bite my tongue and not say anything rather than say something that would hurt and hinder their future. Death and life are in the power of the tongue! 

2. Find a community of friends that want to raise champions. When we moved to Folsom in 2003 we met other parents just like us that wanted the best for their kids. I often say that moving to Folsom was the best move I ever made because of the people that we’ve met and the friends we have made. The making of a champion has so much to do with the friendships that are made. My mom told me when I was in 6th grade that “you are who you hang around with.” That stuck with me and so it is with my kids. Champions our developed in a caring community that look out for the best interest of others.

3. Allow your kids do what it takes to become champions. The making of a champion takes time and hard work both on and off the field of play. Spend the money, take the time and don’t complain about it. Enjoy the championship journey! It goes by way too fast, but the memories you create will always last. I’m talking about more than sports here. If your son or daughter needs tutoring spend the money. If they need to be driven across town make the drive. It’s not always convenient, but it will teach your kids something about  a championship commitment.

4. Entrust others with your champion.  You can’t raise a champion by yourself. I wish I could take credit for my sons performance in football and basketball but I can’t. I owe that to his coaches over the years. There are things they have taught him I could never have taught him; not just about the games he’s played but the life that happens after the game. Whether it’s sports or any other extracurricular activity the best lessons on becoming a champion are learned from real life and real talk. When you entrust your kids to others a championship caliber can be imparted.

5. Realize champions don’t always win. Raising a champion requires leaving room for failure. Notice at the beginning of this post our record was blemished by 2 really tough losses to nationally ranked De La Salle who ended our season the last two years. I believe the state championship would have never became a reality unless our kids felt the agony of defeat and the pain of falling short. Winning isn’t everything but failure also isn’t final. Champions are made in the furnace of failure and the temptation as a parent is to protect them from it. It’s in the furnace where the heat gets turned up and champions are formed. Failure doesn’t define our kids, it refines our kids.

These are 5 ingredients that I would have to add to the recipe for making a champion. I’d love to hear what you would thrown into the mix! What would you add?

3 Prayers I’m Praying for 2015


This image by winnond courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

This image by winnond courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak at Disciples Church with Stu Streeter and shared a message from Ephesians 1 titled, “Waking Up to Your Worth.” Then last night at Jesus Culture Sacramento we had the privilege of having Bishop Parnell Lovelace from Center of Praise who just happened to speak, pray and encourage us from the same text as well.

I believe these simple prayers I created for Disciples Church and for myself will awaken you to a greater awareness of the power of God that is within you and the promises of God that await you!

  1. The Prayer of Revelation

 Ephesians 1:17 – asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you might grow in your knowledge of God.

Paul prays specifically for three things that will help bring revelation to our lives.

  • He prays for a spirit of wisdom. Having the spirit of wisdom reveals how God is wanting to work.
  • He prays for a spirit of understanding. Having a spirit of understanding reveals why God works the way He does.
  • He prays for knowledge. Having knowledge given by the Holy Spirit is having clarity and correct knowledge about who God is. A revelation of His character.

 Prayer: Thank you for Your work in my life, now I ask that you give me wisdom and greater understanding so that I can allow what your working in me to grow and cause me to know you more.

   2. The Prayer of Evaluation

Ephesians 1:18 – I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the wonderful future he has promised to those he called. I want you to realize what a rich and glorious inheritance he has given to his people. 

Have you ever tried to do something simple in the dark. Darkness makes the most simple things difficult.  Paul prays that we wouldn’t be in the dark about the person and work of the Holy Sprit inside of us.

  • The Holy Spirit will shed light on your future
  • The Holy Spirit will shed light on what He’s calling you to do
  • The Holy Spirit will shed light on the resources that are available to you to help you in your everyday life.

That’s why they call the Holy Spirit the Helper.  He wants to help you and He helps us by turning the light on for us in areas that we need assistance in such as:

  • Parenting
  • Marriage
  • Finances
  • Personal Breakthrough
  • Calling

Prayer:  Thank you for person of the Holy Spirit that lives inside of me. I’m asking that you would shed light on my future, my calling and that you would equip me with every good thing that I need for my everyday life.

  1. The Prayer of Elevation

 Ephesians 1:19-20 – I pray that you will begin to understand the incredible greatness of his power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.

Paul prays a prayer of resurrection over the Ephesians. He prays that the same power that raised Christ from the dead would begin to rise inside of them. Do you have dreams that need to be resurrected? Relationships that need resurrection life? Are you lacking power to overcome the thing that has you down? Are you ready to go to higher heights in Christ by raising your expectation level? Pray the following prayer!

Prayer of Elevation: Thank you for the greatness of Your power that is working on the inside of me that cause my desires and dreams to be doable, my faith to be unshakable and the impossible things that I’m facing possible. Raise the level of my influence and expectancy in 2015 with same power that raised Jesus from the dead.

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The Deadliest SIN of Leadership


Image courtesy of kongsky at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of kongsky at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Banners of headlines about leaders who have fallen from the graces of those they lead are constantly being waved across the media outlets we all indulge at times. It has really become a common occurrence to see professional athletes exposed, pastors and ministry leaders confess, business men caught in fraud and political leaders tangled in scandal.

However; what we read in the headlines is more often than not the fruit of “small sins” that leaders admittedly ignore, overlook or even justify leading up to a major crash that shocks their followers.  In fact, long before a person of influence misses the mark in leadership and hits the headlines they’ve most likely committed the most deadliest SIN of leadership that frequently goes unseen and unnoticed until it’s too late. The BIG SIN of leadership is actually made up of three “small sins” that I’ve identified.

The Sin of Separation – When God calls someone to lead he sets them apart. To live your life as a leader set apart is the furthest thing from living a separate life. Leadership is a call to influence people not separate yourself from them.

The Gospel of John tells us that the Word became human and lived here on earth among us.  As leaders this is our example from the life of Jesus. Leaders don’t live above their followers, they actually can be found among their followers.  Leaders committing the sin of separation often begin setting themselves above and live life at a distance instead of among the ones they have been called to.

The Sin of Isolation – My friend and pastor, Banning Liebscher says it this way, “Isolation is a killer for leaders!” Isolation is the place leaders can be located after living a separate life. The isolated place is created by living life above others, disconnected and secluded.  Leaders are called to lead in community not outside of it.  When leaders isolate they cut their lives off from strength, accountability, wisdom and safety. Leaders that are isolated often can be found on the edge of burn out, trying to do life alone, attempting to solve problems by themselves, overwhelmed and ultimately overcome.

The Sin of Negotiation – Negotiation is the act or practice of each side giving up something in order to reach an agreement. Leaders that act upon the sin of negotiation have often given up their integrity, their values, their character to enter into a compromising agreement with the enemy. We see the devil himself trying to entice Jesus by negotiating truth. Jesus reminded the devil that the truth wasn’t negotiable and that it was written ‘people need more than bread for their life; they must feed on every word of God.’ Leaders that negotiate and agree with things that are not true will self destruct as leaders.

The deadliest sin of leadership is actually made up of several small transgressions that happen along the way and what we witness in the end as the fall from grace. If your leading and you are being tempted to separate, isolate or negotiate reach out to those among you, connect yourself to a healthy transparent community and refuse to enter into an agreement with your adversary. Live and lead in the truth that will bring freedom to your leadership.

How have you as a leader avoided the sins of separation, isolation and negotiation?

How to Get Unstuck


stuck_in_mud_2_004

Many years ago my wife and I were headed to South Lake Tahoe to speak at a youth winter retreat. The weather conditions were forecasted to be extreme, but we figured with snow chains nothing could stop us. Except a blizzard!  We were caught in a snow storm on Highway 50 and as we made the approach to climb the summit the highway was completely shut down. There we sat parked on Highway 50 for hours. A three hour drive from Santa Rosa turned into an 6 hour sleep over. When the roads were opened the adventure had just began. As we made our way to South Lake Tahoe and arrived around 2:00am, the 10 car caravan we were a part of pulled over to account for everyone. We were the 10th car and as I was checking and adjusting my tire chains they obviously didn’t see that I was out of my car and left us behind. We were only 10 minutes from the cabin, so I frantically tightened my chains, jumped back in the car, but it was too late we had lost them. Mind you this is the day of no cell phones, GPS, and all the street signs were covered with snow so we were literally lost (imagine that). As we hurried up the hill to find our caravan the chain I tightened came loose and we spun out into a snow bank. My wife, Amy was really loving me at this point, but needless to say we were stuck again helplessly with little hope of being found.

As a leader getting stuck can be frustrating and humiliating, but staying stuck can be even more shameful. I heard a great quote from Jon Acuff on the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast that describes being stuck perfectly:

In stuck moments shame gets really loud. @JonAcuff

So how do leaders get their lives unstuck? How do they get their organizations out of the deep ruts of embarrassment and chagrin?

My answer to these questions may seem over simplified but as I observe the leadership landscape in front of me it has become apparent to me that leaders who find themselves stuck must find the favor of God for their unfavorable situations.

Many leaders I talk to are trying to get unstuck without any favor at all. My biblical definition of favor flows from God’s reply to Moses’ prayer in Exodus 33:13-14:

If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.” 14 The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” 

When we find favor we ultimately experience God’s presence and confidently enter into His rest. This is the kind of favor that helps us get leaders unstuck: Knowing that God is with me and understanding that He is for me!

I believe favor can be found by leaders who are willing to look for it. Observe the lives of some of our heroes of the faith:

Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord when there seemed to be no favor to be found! Joseph found favor in Potiphar’s eyes, then in the eyes of the prison warden!  Ruth found favor in the eyes of Boaz and Esther won the favor of everyone who saw her!  All received favor in unfavorable situations. These heroes of the faith found favor because they were looking for it in unfavorable places.

In regards to your favor-less situation. God is inviting you to places you are not invited. Places no one expects you to be. Platforms no one expects you to be on and conversations no one expects you to be a part of.  It’s in these instances that we need to find God’s favor when all the odds are stacked against us!

Let me give you three places where you can look for and find favor:

1. You’re going to find favor in unfavorable situations! You don’t need favor if your not facing unfavorable conditions. God wants to release to your leadership a fresh faith that goes out and finds favor to face the unfavorable. Leaders that are waiting for favor to find them before facing the unfavorable are in for a long wait!

2. You’re going to find favor among friends! Friendships are such a key when it comes to favor. The favor I’m experiencing now in my life started with relationships when I was 17 years old. If you have never asked a friend for a favor your missing out on how the Kingdom works. One of the things that makes finding favor impossible is the inability to find forgiveness for friendships that have gone bad. Favor flows from relationships. When you isolate yourself as a leader to do it by yourself your not doing yourself or your organization any favors! 

3. You’re going to find favor with God – Finding favor you means that you have found His presence and rest in all your endeavors. If you are worried, stressed, feel betrayed, or feeling like you don’t deserve anything good from God; which by the way all the heroes mentioned above were tempted to respond to their situations in one of these ways, you may need to change the way your are thinking (repent) about your situation. When we turn from our way of doing things we will find God favor in every situation and with everyone we are dealing with.

Two hours later at 4:00am, out of nowhere, a taxi pulled up to our car stuck nose first in the snow bank and only said he would call a tow truck on his CB radio (remember those?). Twenty minutes later we were pulled out for free and found our way to the cabin. We would have never found our way if we didn’t find favor first!

In what situation do you find yourself stuck in that you need God’s favor to get you out?

 

 

 

What NOT to Do With Your Weakness


Image courtesy of marin @FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of marin @FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Over the years I’ve been acutely aware of my weaknesses that have surfaced in my leadership ability. At the same time I always knew that coaching and assessments could help me get beyond my weaknesses, but I could never quite could convince others that it was worth the investment to do so. Over the last 11 months I’ve been able to take advantage of these things and have been able to effectively confront my weaknesses that have been constraining me as a leader. Through this I’ve learned some valuable things about what NOT to do with your weakness.

1. Don’t Ignore ItAs a leader, you have to have a willingness to confront your weaknesses.  I’ve read in leadership books to not pay attention to your weakness but focus on your strengths. I’m not saying that we should give all our time to focus on our weakness, yet if we completely ignore our weakness it will begin to sap our strength! When I acknowledge my weakness I now create an openness to get some outside help from God and others.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. – 2 Corinthians 12:9

2. Don’t Hide It – When you hide your weakness you not only are hurting yourself, you will begin hurting your organization. A prime example of this in my own life is my tendency to be quiet in meetings that I’m a part of. I will often go into meetings and listen intently and because I’m a processor I will not give any feedback until the following day. The problem with that approach to meetings is that some decisions need to be made now and not tomorrow. Now that I realize that I’m invited to meetings because they need me to speak into things I make up my mind before I sit down that I’m going to say something. It might be irrelevant but I make it point to confront my weakness by speaking up and making my thoughts known even if they are totally processed. I’m practicing thinking out loud!

3. Don’t Use it as an Excuse – Being aware of your weakness doesn’t give you an excuse to do nothing about it. When we exercise our weakness we get stronger.  I recently started doing CrossFit again. I became aware of my weakness as soon as the clock started. I could stop the work out and say, “I can’t do it” or I can suck it up,  do what I can do, experience the pain of my weakness and over time become stronger.  Recently I took an assessment that identified things that were constraining my leadership. I knew all about these constraints because they have confronted by ability to lead for years. The difference this time is that after the assessment I developed an “exercise plan” to address these constraints that will eventually make me a stronger leader when I take action.

Awareness of weakness is not enough. A willingness to confront our weaknesses with action is required. Don’t ignore it, don’t hide it and don’t excuse it. Do something about it!

What weaknesses are constraining you as a leader?

What it Takes to be a Builder


 Image by Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image by Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I have heard the verse above taken out of context so many times to remove oneself from having any responsibility in building God’s church. It goes something like this…“God said, I will build my church.”

Actually that’s only some of what God said. Matthew 16:18 in its entirety says:

And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. – Matthew 16:18

Imagine being in Peter’s shoes, face to face with Jesus when these words were spoken. I think He got it! I think Peter took it personal and passionately because of his zeal for building God’s house we see throughout his ministry. When God desires to build something He always has someone in mind He can build with!

A quick breakdown of this verse shows that God looks for people to build on. He was referring to Peter when he said, “and on this ROCK I will build my church.” The word rock is being used metaphorically to depict a man like a rock, by reason of his firmness and strength of soul. Here we begin to see what it takes to be a builder.

1. Builders have a certainty about what they are building. They are not uncertain. Builders are firm with their decisions and have the emotional and mental capacity to build according to God’s blueprint and timeline.  I think of what the scriptures say about Noah; that he did everything exactly as God commanded him when building the ark. Builders are clear about what God has called them to build, believe it and build it. 

2. Builders have the confidence and character to build what they’ve been called to build.  The word BUILD that Jesus uses means to promote growth in Christian wisdom, affection, grace, virtue, holiness, blessedness. . Jesus’ introduces a growth strategy to build with godly, gifted men and women willing to work! These are the qualities of those He builds with:

  • WisdomBuilders know where to build!

“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock” – Matthew 7:24

  • AffectionBuilders have a passion for what they are building!

“Passion for your house burns within me, so those who insult you are also insulting me.” – Psalm 69:9

  • Grace – Builders always find favor!

“O Lord, please hear my prayer! Listen to the prayers of those of us who delight in honoring you. Please grant me success now as I go to ask the king for a great favor. Put it into his heart to be kind to me….And the king granted these requests, because the gracious hand of God was on me.” – Nehemiah 1:11, 2:8

  • Virtue – Builders build with a spirit of excellence! I wanted to add something here. Sometimes we get excellence mixed up with extravagance.  Builders that have a spirit of excellent do things right with integrity. It is revealed in the the work they do not the materials they buy.  Virtue is what gives things there value.

…because his divine power has bestowed on us all [things] [that are] necessary for life and godliness, through the knowledge of the one who called us by his own glory and excellence of character… – 2 Peter 1:3

  • Holiness – Builders say YES to whatever God calls them to build and however God wants to build it!

Your written testimonies are completely reliable. O LORD, holiness is what makes your house beautiful for days without end. – Psalm 93:5

  • Blessed – Builders are blessed by God!

Then Moses looked over all the work, and indeed they had done it; as the Lord had commanded, just so they had done it. And Moses blessed them. – Exodus 39:43

God desires to build with us. We cannot be afraid of using our abilities to accomplish impossibilities together with God!

For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building – 1 Corinthians 3:9

Let us rise up and build!

 

Church Launching vs. Church Planting


Image by by ratch0013 courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Image by by ratch0013 courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

I’ve had the opportunity now to be on both sides of starting a church: church planting and church launching.  Though I am only officially 6 weeks in the Jesus Culture Sacramento launch there are some key differences when you compare the two.  I came to some of these conclusions from my failed church planting attempts (2 of them), but they have been confirmed during this launching experience.

1. A church that has been launched originated from a launching pad.  

Lift off for the space shuttle has everything to do with the thrust of the engines. The total thrust at launch for the space shuttle is about 7.8 million pounds. To achieve orbit, the shuttle must accelerate from zero to a speed of almost 18,000 miles per hour. 

Church launches have a sending church that thrusts them full throttle into the harvest field. Sending churches give church launches the velocity and speed it needs to break barriers immediately that a church planter might be up against for years. This velocity and speed can be created by a variety of things yet two essential boosters that ignite a church launch and thrust it forward are a team of people and finances.  Church planters often have to raise their own support and find their own people when they are connected to a church that doesn’t have a vision to send and thrust out laborers into the harvest.

2. A church that has been launched can focus on vision and not survival. When a church has been launched well it can focus on the vision and mission that it has been sent to accomplish. I’ve talked to several church launchers over the past 10 years. They are not worried about taking care of their family, where their next pay check is coming from or how much has been given in the weekly offering. They have been freed up to focus on doing what God has called them to do. That doesn’t mean church launchers will not have financial challenges because there are those challenges at every level. Church planters though are often consumed constantly with the critical needs of the now and struggle to see beyond what’s right in front of them never having time to look ahead.

3. A church that has been launched cultivates community from the outside in. I have to admit the church planter stories that start with only 8 people in a living room and experience unprecedented growth and are now at mega church level status are inspiring. I have always wanted that to be my story.  However, what I’m currently experiencing in church launching is amazing to see. There is much to be said about the ability to gather a crowd and create and cultivate a thriving community and core team. In a lot of ways it can be more difficult, but at the same time it creates more opportunity for the “outsider” to belong to a family. Church planting often requires a committed core that is often burned out in the first 3-5 years. Because of that many times it is said about church planting teams; that those who start with you wont be around in 5 years. Church launching gives you the ability to enjoy your community and not just employ your community with endless tasks.

I know that everyone’s experience is difference, but these are just a few observations I’ve made over the last 6 weeks. I know that many church planters have great experiences and success stories to share and I would love to hear them.

I looking forward to sharing about my church launching experience with Jesus Culture Sacramento in the future.

Have you ever been a part of a church launch? What was different? 

Why We Need More Managers


Blog_Too-many-Chiefs-and-Not-enough-Indians

You may be familiar with the following proverbial sayings:

  • There’s to many chefs in the kitchen.
  • There’s too many chiefs and not enough Indians. 

The wisdom behind these proverbs for any organization is that when too many people want to be the leader, there is no one to follow up with the detail work. 

Everyone wants to be a leader these days. It’s admirable yet I don’t think it’s attainable. It sounds great but it’s not sustainable. Leadership sounds like a higher calling, but in all reality it’s just a different calling. 

I write this because great leaders have great managers around them. Many times when there is chaos in the leadership of an organization it’s because everyone has there eyes on the destiny but few pay attention to the details. That’s why you’ve heard it said that destiny is in the details. Leader’s cast a vision for where we are going, true managers tell you how we’re going to get there.

I found it interesting that this is the case commonly seen throughout scripture as well. God would speak to a leader or a dreamer then would call interpreters of those dreams, managers, visionaries and designers to make the revelation a reality. A dream that is not managed well is a mess and can often lead to missing the potential of the promise God has given.

Somehow in church world we’ve demoted the importance of a manager to a second class leadership position, yet how we manage is the biblical qualifications for leadership.

2 For an elder must be a man whose life cannot be spoken against. He must be faithful to his wife. He must exhibit self-control, live wisely, and have a good reputation. He must enjoy having guests in his home and must be able to teach. 3 He must not be a heavy drinker or be violent. He must be gentle, peace loving, and not one who loves money. 4 He must manage his own family well, with children who respect and obey him. 5 For if a man cannot manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church? – 1 Timothy 3:2-5

A lot of the things I find on the topic of leadership vs. management many times presents the manager as being some kind of status quo, sub par leader. However, I did find a summary comparison by John Kotter and Peter Northouse in a post at The Nelson Touch Blog  that I thought reflected and represented both roles well that I’d like to leave you with:

leadership-versus-management

* From Peter G. Northouse’s Leadership: Theory and Practice, Fourth Edition (2007) in which he draws from John Kotter’s A Force for Change: How Leadership Differs from Management, (1990).

Leaders and managers are both high producers it’s just important to understand the difference and importance of what they both produce.

Are you more of a manager or a leader?  A dreamer or detailer?

Dealing with Disgrace


Image by patrisyu courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Image by patrisyu courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

When the Holy Spirit repeatedly highlights a word, a phrase, or a verse while I’m reading my Bible it gets my attention. The word DISGRACE began to jump out at me several times over a couple of days, and as I always do I asked the Lord to confirm if He indeed was speaking to me. I then opened my YouVersion app after that brief prayer for confirmation and read  Isaiah 54:4-

Fear not; you will no longer live in shame. Don’t be afraid; there is no more disgrace for you…

There are several angles on the definition of disgrace but one stood out to me. Disgrace is the loss of favor or standing.  I broke the word down even more and was reminded that the prefix dis means opposite or absence of.  I then dug even deeper to unearth the biblical meaning which is defined; to sink or drop down, languish (to live in a state of decreasing vitality), wither and fall, fade away.

When you seemingly sense a loss of favor with the Father, when you feel as though the grace of God is absent from your life, when you feel your faith withering I would dare to say unless there is some undetected pride in your life the enemy is opposing the work of grace in your life. James tells us that “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” (James 4:6, NIV). 

If we are not careful, we can find ourselves dealing with disgrace because we’ve allowed the enemy to dispute who we are in Christ and displace us from living in our God given authority. When the enemy opposes our identity and authority in Christ it opens the door to insecure feelings of disgrace and shame.

You may notice there is an evident absence of grace flowing in your life. You can’t find favor, it seems as though you are being resisted in every way, nothing is coming easy, every door seems closed, you can’t find your groove! Life is a constant grind.

So what do you do when you find yourself in the description above?

Dealing with feelings of disgrace requires me to do nothing on my own, but by faith receive the grace that God continually gives. Grace is a constant gift that keeps flowing from the the throne referred to in Hebrews 4:16:

We may come near, then, with freedom, to the throne of the grace, that we may receive kindness, and find grace — for seasonable help. – Young’s Literal Translation

Dealing with Disgrace

1. When you feel like there is an absence of God’s grace in your life, seek God’s presence where grace is found. God’s presence raises the faith level in my heart to receive the grace that I need.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God…(Ephesians 2:8)

2. When favor seems to be fading realize a new season is coming. As the glory of a flower fades and withers when seasons change don’t fear if you see a favor filled season come to an end. The truth is God’s grace never ends, but seasons do. Yesterday’s favor will help you overcome tomorrow’s fear.  Grace sometimes seems to lift when God desires a shift in our lives. Favor seems to fade, but can always be found in the next season your stepping into.

Today, deal with disgrace with the divine grace that God makes available to us. There is no requirement to His endless resource of favor. It by faith we receive everything we need for season of life we are in.

What are you dealing with that you could use some divine help?

Becoming a Q2 Organization


quadrant-4-time-management

We spend time in one of four ways, depending on the two factors that define an activity: urgent and important. Urgent means it requires immediate attention. Urgent things act on us and are usually visible.A ringing phone is urgent. Importance, on the other hand, has to do with results. It contributes to our mission, values and high-priority goals.We react to urgent matters. Important matters that are not urgent require more initiative, more proactivity.

We had the opportunity to have Danny Silk speak to the Jesus Culture staff yesterday on the subject of Destiny Management. It was an introduction to the Four Quadrant Time Management system by Stephen Covey found in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

I first learned this system through personal life management training I received about 15 years ago. It changed my personal life and the way I approached ministry. Before then my life and ministry was like a fire drill. I was on call and on the run all the time reacting to life and ministry’s demands instead of intentionally designing my life. God is an intelligent designer and His desire is for us to be intentional and intelligent when it comes to designing the lives we lead. 

Becoming a Quadrant 2 organization begins with my personal life.  The principles of Destiny Management that I was reminded of yesterday have become a part of who I am. It’s no longer something I have to learn. Instead, it’s something I live and that is reflected now in my professional life. That does not mean that I have these management skills completely mastered, but it does mean that I’ve learned how to master my calendar, my priorities and processes that assist me in becoming a better leader.

Becoming a Q2 organization begins with identifying priorities. Priorities are something that are more important than other things and that need to be done or dealt with first. Dealing with the most important things first brings freedom to your personal and professional life. For example; as I have made my family a priority it’s easier for me to say no to things that are not as important. On Friday nights you will not see me at a prayer meeting or any other church related event as in times past, but you will find me at the top of the bleachers on the 40 yard line with my family watching my son play football every Friday night!

The same thing will happen as your organization becomes more effective in establishing its priorities.The hardest thing for organizations is knowing what to say NO to.  God didn’t call us to say YES to everything. When you know what’s first it’s easier to identify what to say YES and what to say NO to.

Becoming a Q2 organization begins with planning. When I know what’s first, I then can fashion my planning around priorities. This is reflected on a calendar. You may be familiar with the old saying, “if you want to know a person’s priorities look at their bank statement.” The same is true for an organization. If you want to know an organization’s priorities look at their calendar. If the priorities are not clearly seen on the calendar it’s an indicator that there is no clarity. Planning brings clarity to what your priorities are! Before I learned these life management skills I had no calendar so when something “came up” I was always available. Much to my chagrin when my kids were real young ministry demands trumped family time too many times.

As an organization if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Many don’t take enough time to manage their time. An organization that plans ahead will stay ahead and make better decisions that are more thought through.

Becoming a Q2 organization begins with processes. A process is a series of purposeful actions that lead you to what has been promised. Processes are priceless to an organization because they are the key to productivity. They move people and things forward faster. Many organizations never reach their promises, their goals, their desired results because there are no processes in place to take them where they want to go. This often is a tension to be managed in organizations.

Some will resist processes because they mistake them as red tape, others will insist on processes so they can have control. Notice the tension? Good processes however avoid both extremes. Good processes are never rigid and are marked with gradual changes that benefit those who follow them. At the same time good processes should not be implemented to control people, but to put people in control of their destiny. When good processes are created great outcomes come forth.

If you want to be productive and effective as an organization you have to be intentional and intelligent in designing your destiny. It begins with you establishing priorities, planning and processes both in your personal and professional life.

What is one life management principle that has propelled you personally and or professionally?

Recognizing an Attack from the Enemy


Image by digitalart courtesy of @FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image by digitalart courtesy of @FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In the late 90’s when spiritual warfare was a hot topic I attended a seminar on the subject where I heard a statistic that claimed 80% of what Christians call spiritual warfare is really just disobedience to God’s Word and God’s will. At the time it sounded right and even logical , so for years that has always been tucked away in my brain when I hear someone say that the enemy is attacking them.

For the most part I can say that was true for me. The only time that I can recall experiencing “spiritual warfare” was when I was fighting and struggling with God’s will for my life until recently. I’m writing this post today because I didn’t recognize the enemies attack. I didn’t see the satanic schemes coming until it was almost too late. I am living my life in obedience to His Word and I am submitted to His will, so I was blindsided when things broke out.

Without going into great detail about the circumstances that caused the warfare I wanted to share the indicators that should have tipped me off and help me recognize that I was being spiritually assaulted.

1. I Had No Clarity – Where you don’t have clarity the enemy has the opportunity to bring confusion and chaos.

1 Corinthians 14:33- For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.

Clearly the enemy has written the original manuscript on confusion and chaos, so when things are not in order he looks to bring disorder, disturbances and instability. Instability is defined as the tendency to change your behavior very quickly or to react to things in an extremely emotional way. When confusion comes you begin to doubt what you believe about yourself and others. What you believe changes how you behave. I found myself extremely emotional and reactive.

2. I Experienced an Untimely & Odd Sickness – I got a case of shingles that ended up only lasting 4 days when I was originally told 2-4 weeks.

Luke 2:13 – And there was a woman who for eighteen years had a sickness caused by a spirit.

Luke recognized that some sickness is caused by a spirit of infirmity. I am convinced that my sickness was part of a spiritual attack because what it prevented and how quick I recovered.  My wife and I were suppose get some much needed away time that didn’t happen. This was very discouraging for my wife and I. Secondly, I was told that shingles was going to be painful, yet coupled with taking the meds the doctor prescribed and believing God for healing in 4 days scabs began to form ( a sign that your on the mend.) A week after I was diagnosed I was totally delivered from sickness.

3. I Was Extremely Frustrated – This was interesting because now that I look back I wasn’t mad or upset with anyone. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I was angry with something. Frustration is something that causes feelings of anger and annoyance. I was annoyed with the enemies ploys but didn’t identify the enemy as the source of my frustration.

I failed to see what Job saw when he said, “I know that you can do everything, that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” 

4. I Had a Good Friend that Recognized my Reality – Out of desperation I contacted a friend who has been a voice of encouragement and strength to me throughout my entire Christian walk. Without knowing what was going on, as soon as he saw me he discerned that this wasn’t the Dean he was used to encountering and that I was going through a spiritual storm. He said it was the first time he met with me that he didn’t see purpose in my eyes (no clarity). The next two hours his prophetic insight and counsel helped me “elevate above the storm.” To make a long story short I was set free as he spoke in truth and power over my life.

Ephesians 6:10-13 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

 

I humbly submit to you that I didn’t recognize the enemies attack. I think sometimes I forget that I am in a war, a spiritual war that I cannot see. It’s a battle we all fight, a battle Jesus Christ has won for us. I’m just asking God to open my eyes to the unseen so that I am not leaning on my own understanding!

2 Kings 6:19 – And Elisha prayed, and said, “Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

 

3 Solutions for Dismantling Ministry Silos


Image by xedos4 courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image by xedos4 courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Have you ever been a part of staff that calls themselves a team yet the ministries each “team” member oversees are in constant competition with one another?

Undoubtedly, you’ve witnessed this competitive struggle. Fundraisers for each department fight for a spot on the annual calendar. Space for blurbs in the bulletin a constant battle.  Airtime for Sunday morning announcements an all out frontal assault and room requests launching logistical land warfare.

When this competitive combat is allowed to exist it creates ministry silos. The word silo is derived from the Greek work siros, meaning “pit for holding grain.” Ministry silos then can be described as what I refer to as a P.I.T. (Program In Trouble) that is more focused on holding onto something than releasing something.  Ministry silos create need focused departments that are more focused on what it can get than what it can give. More money, more paid staff, more visibility, more volunteers, more of this and more of that.

Ministry silos do not cultivate an environment where teams thrive. Instead, they produce unhealthy competitive climates that pit so called team members against each other. Here are some solutions I helped one church with in dismantling their ministry silos to bring about ministry synergy; moving them from competition to combined action: 

1. Shed the Solo Mentality – The solo mentality is a mindset that if something must be done it’s up to me (or my department) and only me (or my department) to get it done. “If its gonna be, it’s up to me.”  This mentality results in having a staff  full of solo performers rather than a staff full of people producers. Ministry is too tough to do in this state of mind because it traps staff into territorial thinking. I’ve heard the craziest things come out of the mouth of ministry teams such as “my people, my room, my equipment, my job.” Dismantling ministry solos starts with casting down the solo mentality. You have to take your staff from me to we.

2. Shape the Definition of Success – If one ministry is thriving while other ministries are barely surviving your ministry team as a whole is not successful. Ministry silos highlight and celebrate the solo performance rather than what the entire team is producing. We praise God that 50 people gave their hearts to Jesus through the Community Outreach Department Director’s efforts, but the fact that the Assimilation Team is overwhelmed and under staffed to handle such a response is the Assimilation Director’s problem. In this scenario we see one team member’s success is another team member’s stress. True team success is when all team members are thriving, healthy and their ministries are working towards the common goal and outcome.

3. Shore Up the Weaker Member & Ministry – To shore up something is to make it stronger. Every staff member has strengths and weaknesses that they bring to a team. As a team you have a choice to let an individual remain in their struggle or you have an opportunity to loan them your strength.  To keep your strength to yourself while another team member struggles in weakness will keep you team from winning. It is a true sign that you are stuck in a silo when you allow a fellow team member to fly solo. It may even be a sin knowing that what your holding onto could help someone if you released it.  Shoring up a weaker team member or ministry not only makes the person or program stronger it strengthens the entire team.

What are some other solutions for dismantling ministry silos?

Conquering Your Constraints


Image courtesy of  khunaspix @FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of khunaspix @FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A constraint is defined as a limitation or restriction. We all have them and make a choice to live with them or loose ourselves from them. I am personally in the process of confronting some of my limitations as a leader and wanted to share my journey with you with hope that it will encourage some of you to do the same.

I have discovered that it is so easy to grow comfortable with the the thoughts, attitudes and behaviors that constrain us rather than finding the courage to confront them. I understand now that if you don’t confront the lies that constrain you as a leader, you will conform to those lies. It is necessary to grasp that negative thinking can negate your leadership. Wrong attitudes can cultivate wrong actions,  and bad behavior can blow up your leadership instantly.

First, to conquer your constraints you have to be willing to acknowledge them as the Apostle Paul did:

“Each time he said, “My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may work through me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

This verse reveals to us that acknowledging our weakness gives us access to Christ’s power to conquer it. Paul said that God’s power worked best when he boasted about his weakness. We hate the thought of this powerful truth because we like to hide our weaknesses, bury our struggles and ignore the things that our limiting and restricting us. Instead of embracing our weaknesses we are embarrassed by them.

Acknowledging your weakness gives you access to God’s power, but you only gain access to God’s power when you take action in the midst of being confronted by your weakness. I’ve acknowledged my weakness plenty of times yet ignored the action that I needed to take to conquer it.  Instead of accessing the power that was available to me to overcome my weakness I avoided confronting my weakness and made a choice to grow comfortable with it. When you grow comfortable with your constraints they will blind you to  your need for a breakthrough. 

Lastly, to conquer your constraints you have to be accountable. There has to be a willingness to open up to others about your weakness. I want people to know that I rather not speak up even though I know I should. I rather keep the peace than cause a problem, and that when I’m not confident when I’m not accessing God’s power that is always available to me when I’m faced with the fear of my constraints.

I am finding freedom in this process. I’m not there yet, but I’m on my way to breaking free of every limitation and everything that’s restricting my life and leadership.

What constraints do you need to acknowledge, take action and make yourself accountable for?

 

 

How to Get Comfortable with the Uncomfortable


Image courtesy of Stuart Miles @FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles @FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In the western world we don’t like our Christianity uncomfortable. If we are honest we want comfortable Christianity.  We want safe missions trips absent of any danger.  We want calculated risks where no faith is required.  We want vision that doesn’t cost us too much.  We want promises to come to pass without prayer and persistence.  We want the amenities of Christianity without dealing with our enemies.  We want spiritual rewards without self sacrifice.  We want a church that doesn’t have any challenges and requires no contribution.

In contrast Jesus told his disciples He was sending The Comforter because their uncomfortable Christianity required the Holy Spirit, who provided supernatural comfort in the midst of persecution, trials and tribulations in their pursuit to preach the gospel. One of the most overlooked functions of the Holy Spirit is to release divine strength needed to enable to undergo trials and persecutions on behalf of the divine kingdom.

I believe the reason this particular function of the Holy Spirit is overlooked is because it is not needed with our western brand of the gospel.  The church will never see it’s need for a Comforter if the goal of our gospel is a comfortable life.  If our primary pursuit as Christians is a comfortable life we will never encounter the Comforter releasing divine help, relief, aid and counsel in the midst of the world’s complex crisis and chaos.  

Comfort is a pleasurable pursuit, but the Comforter is a person pursuing you in the midst of the uncomfortable. He is the God of all comfort but our goal should never be comfort.  Comfort should never be our god because the Comforter is our God.  

I believe things are getting very uncomfortable for comfortable Christianity to exist and that God is disrupting the lives of Christians who have disconnected themselves from engaging the uncomfortable life Jesus calls us to. We need to understand once again the supernatural provisions that the Comforter brings to us and through us for a world that desperately needs Jesus Christ.

Scripturally The God of ALL Comfort is always found in the context of ALL hell breaking loose.  Great Comfort is always coupled in context of Great Conflict. Here is just one of many examples found in the Gospels.

 John 15:18 If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own.  Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also…. ‘They hated Me without a cause…26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.

The Apostle Paul was familiar with supernatural comfort superseding his circumstances so he could continue to preach and teach the Good News. 

2 Corinthians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. 6 Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.

The Uncomfortable Life requires divine intervention and demonstration from the Comforter. With all the conflict that is currently breaking out in our nation and world as Christians we cannot shrink back, shrug our shoulders and shut our mouth. The bible promises when we don’t know what to say the Comforter will tell us, when we don’t where to go the Comforter will guide us, and when we are being intimidated and threatened the Comforter will supernaturally empower us.

If we want to get more acquainted with the Holy Spirit we can’t ignore the problems around us, we must confront them.  If we want the Holy Spirit to come upon us in power, we have to come out of our comfort zones. I believe God is inviting us to take step towards the uncomfortable so that we can witness the uncommon.

 What can you do today to take a step out of your comfort zone?

Overcoming Organizational Bottlnecks


Image by winnond courtesy of @FreeDigitalphotos.net

Image by winnond courtesy of @FreeDigitalphotos.net

I remember distinctively wrestling with the Lord about whether or not to take the opportunity.  In my heart I wanted something fresh, genuine and healthy. What I felt during the interview process was a lot of control, heavy handed, unhealthy leadership. The Lord had his way and it probably was one of the most memorable leadership journeys I have ever taken when I accepted the position.

One of the most valuable things I learned in this particular experience was how to overcome organizational bottlenecks. An organization will never function at its full potential when bottlenecks are present. They are easy to identify but very difficult to remove. When bottlenecks are not addressed they will belittle people, create bureaucracy, and centralize power.

Here are three ways I was able to help our organization break loose from bottlenecking.

1.  Value People over Processes – If  processes don’t empower people they will devour people. I recall some of our processes such as annual calendaring for our volunteers requiring a 40 hour work week to accomplish (I’m not joking). There were so many forms that it caused more frustration than freedom. Our check request process was a 2-3 week process that wasn’t working in a PayPal world and so our bottlenecks never produced the best outcomes for our people. Overcoming bottlenecking processes happens when we create processes that help produce better outcomes for people. Never elevate your processes over people. Instead allow your processes to elevate your people’s productivity.

2.  Choose Common Sense  Systems over Complicated Structures – Bureaucracy blinds and organization to better ways of doing things. It elevates structure over systems. It makes simple things super complex, doable things difficult and good ideas impossible. The creative life of an organization will always be restricted by bureaucratic bottlenecks. If an organization is not open to changing it’s structure it will never choose better systems. Common sense creates a culture that is always looking for ways to do things better.

3. Distribute Power within Your Organization – If only one person is powerful in your organization, everyone else is powerless. Leaders that have a ton of responsibility with no power to make decisions or spend money are not leaders at all. They are not even managers. They are employees that are not empowered. To be completely honest they work for you and not with you. By distributing power throughout your organization bottlenecks break wide open. When you level the playing field your organization goes to the next level.

Have you ever experienced being belittled by a bottleneck? How did you overcome it?

 

Speaking at REVIVE Conference


Excited to be back at New Life speaking at REVIVE, a conference I helped create 5 years ago with some of my favorite people – Sean Smith and Havilah Cunnington. A FREE conference to benefit the greater Body of Christ in Sacramento! Hope to see you there! Details at aboutnewlife.com

Is There More to Life than Becoming a Leader


Image courtesy of Victor Habbick @FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick @FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I discovered last week that leadership is overrated.  For all you leadership junkies like me that just choked on your bagel, relax for just a few minutes as I lead you down the path of my discovery.

For many leadership is at the pinnacle of their pursuit. It is their number one priority, their goal, for some, possibly even their god. How could this be? We’ve been told that becoming a better leader will produce the outcomes we all long to see in our lives. Great leaders have magnificent marriages, overachieving kids, flourishing financial portfolios, thriving businesses or organizations, and a list of award winning accomplishments as a result of their superb leadership.

But what if there was more to life than just becoming the best leader YOU could be? Last week I discovered during a staff training day the one thing better than becoming a leader, and that is becoming a multiplier. 

Most have learned as I have the goal of every leader should be to multiply themselves, yet many leaders get caught in the trap of waiting until the end of their careers to identify someone that will continue their leadership legacy. A life of great leadership can be marred by the mistake of not multiplying oneself.  Think of how many succession plans have failed, organizational transitions that have went south, or generational batons that have been dropped.

So let me finish my bagel choking statement I made at the beginning of this post.  Leadership is overrated if it cannot be duplicated.  Living your life as a multiplier maximizes the life of others through your everyday behaviors. It’s not an action plan at the end of a leader’s career, it’s a lifestyle that is modeled and multiplied. A multiplier is focused on creating more of who they are or better than they are in the life of others. A multiplier’s life is duplicatable and maximizes the best outcomes for the people they invest in.

The life of a multiplier is clearly modeled in scripture. From the very outset of his ministry Jesus had multiplication in mind when he said, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  The prayers that fueled Jesus’ ministry were prayers of multiplication when he instructed his disciples to “pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” Jesus cast vision for multiplication when he promised  “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.

The Apostle Paul clearly saw Jesus’ model and multiplied himself many times over as he encouraged others to “imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” Most notably he multiplied himself in the life of Timothy.

Therefore I urge you, imitate me. For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church. 1 Corinthians 4:16-17.

So more than becoming a leader, become a multiplier. Duplicate your life in the life of someone else and let your leadership legacy live on.

Who is currently in your life that you can invest and multiply your life in?

 

3 BIG Myths of the Organic Church


ID-10095010

In 1998 I was handed a book by my Senior Pastor that would change the way I viewed church and deposit a vision in my heart for a church that wasn’t program based. That book was “Where Do We Go From Here?” by Dr. Ralph Neighbour. I would later that year end up moving to Houston to be a part of a church planting team led by Dr. Neighbour and his wife Ruthie. Though that planting effort was short lived the desire to see something more organic emerge from our traditional ecclesiology has never faded. The pursuit of the organic church is elusive because we have failed to clearly define what it means to be organic; possibly fearing to taint even the pure perception of the word or hesitant to put our fingerprints on something we think only God should be touching.

In order to bring clarity, sometimes it is helpful to identify the misconceptions of a word or phrase. so first let me define organic and then present some myths about the organic church.

One of the definitions of organic we are most familiar with and that I will use for this post is how it relates to organic produce or food production. In this context organic is the use of feed or fertilizer of plant or animal origin without employment of chemically formulated fertilizers, growth stimulants, antibiotics, or pesticides.

This definition actually implies that organic is so much more than 100% spontaneous and all natural.  In all reality organic production requires more planning and sweat equity to produce the desired product. With that said let me attempt to lay out some myths I’ve experienced with the concept of the organic church.

Myth #1 – Organic Church is not organized. Organic can only be derived from a living organism. An organism is a system with many parts that depend on each other and work together. Organic is not spontaneous, but strategic and a part of God’s plan. Organic church is by intelligent design not an undirected process of evolution. When God created life He made it complex and calculated so there would be know doubt who The Creator was. Organic Church should have the signature of The Creator on it. Obvious to all that it is a work of His hands.  Organic is not a hands off approach, it’s hands on!

Myth #2 – Organic Church is system free.  This myth shifts all responsibility to others instead of one another. To be organic is to be free of religious formulas, church growth methods and gimmicks. Systems however assist getting people to trust and depend on one another as they work together towards a greater cause or vision for a community. Healthy systems create and enhance  healthy organic church communities. Without systems you really are more of an evolutionist who believes that chaos can produce healthy organized life. 

Myth #3 – Organic Church isn’t messy.  When ever you go organic you can guarantee crap is involved. Organic farming uses green manures, animal manures and crop rotations to fertilize the soil and maximize biological activity and maintain long-term soil health.  I make mention of this because if you’re going organic you might want to grab a shovel. In order to maximize the life of your organic church community you are going to have to get knee deep in crap. People’s crap…sorry for being so blunt.  Organic church is a call to life on life. Life that can get messy at times, life that stinks at times, but ultimately it is the fertilizer that causes us to grow mature in Christ and with one another.

Organic is the complexity of life simplified in Christ. Pursue it and embrace it and get ready to go to work!

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Best Leadership Tweets of JCLA


BWfNFdrz_400x400 Scott and his wife Karen are the founding pastors of Real Life Church in Sacramento, CA. He writes at his personal blog ScottHagan.org and regularly shares his free values driven leadership content on his Facebook page note2leaders.

25 One Liners from My Jesus Culture LA Notes


John Gray

I love taking notes at church and conferences, but before I started blogging I really didn’t know what to do with them. This morning I wanted to share and inspire you with the top one liners I jotted down during the weekend.

There is a story of God unfolding in America right now! @thebanning

It’s impossible to be hopeless when you know the story of God. @thebanning

When God intends to move somewhere He sets apart someone! @thebanning

God wants to use your life in the coming awakening. @thebanning

The church is looking for better methods but God is looking for better men and women. @thebanning

You can’t avoid holiness, you have to embrace it. @thebanning

Holiness is not a list of rules and regulations it’s a revelation that I’ve been set apart unto God. @thebanning

God is a God of 100%. @thebanning

Holiness is a relationship. @thebanning

Christianity is one massive YES! @thebanning

I see a generation giving themselves FULLY to God in the midst of options. @thebanning

What you’ve gone through is to help those now going through. @_ScottHagan

Great leaders pay attention, careless leaders seek attention. @_ScottHagan

In these last days it’s courage not creativity. @_ScottHagan

The love that presses in must overwhelm that pain that pushes back. @_ScottHagan

When you are going through the motions nothing ever happens. @_ScottHagan

Level 2 faith calls the marginal the miracle. @_ScottHagan

Gone are the days of safe church @RealJohnGray

The sound of worship can shift culture. @RealJohnGray

The blood that saved you, saved me… we are blood brothers. @RealJohnGray

Perfection is not the aim being perfected is the aim. @RealJohnGray

Can you sing in your midnight? @RealJohnGray

Don’t ever minimize your worship to make someone else feel comfortable. @RealJohnGray

Real power can whisper.@RealJohnGray

How many believers live in the tombs of their bad decisions? @RealJohnGray

Do me a favor be encouraged and tweet some of these today and encourage somebody else!

 

 

 

How to Teach the Amazing Truth of the Gospel


We are reminded in my interview with Banning Liebscher, founder and director of Jesus Culture, that teaching and preaching the most important message in the entire world effectively has nothing to do with us but everything to do with the power of the Holy Spirit in us and upon us!

When it comes to teaching the truth of the Gospel, Jesus set the bar high!

Matthew 7:28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

Jesus teaching ministry flowed from the heart of the Father. He was anointed and authorized to preach “Good News to the poor, proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Here are some steps everyone can take implement in teaching the amazing truth of the gospel:

1.  Receive the anointing of the Holy Spirit upon your life. God’s desire is to continually increase the power of the Holy Spirit in your life and ministry. Who God appoints He anoints. God’s desire is to mark your life with courage and power.

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. Acts 4:14-15

2. Realize that God sees you as an amazing son or daughter! God’s love is expressed through a personal relationship with His children not a performance based relationship.

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. John 15:15

3. Risk stepping out of your comfort zone. We will never see the amazing truth of the Gospel at work unless we take risks to see God’s power released in us and through us.

Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping and praising God. Acts 3:6-8

 

 

How to Get a Month Ahead in Your Message Planning


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It’s Friday, you had some unexpected interruptions and now you are pressed for time in preparing your message. You frantically surf the internet for a free sermon you can download, digest and deliver by Sunday, but you forgot your wife planned for friends to come over for a late Saturday afternoon BBQ. Bummer for you!

That is unless you’ve finally figured out how to get ahead and stay ahead. Last year I posted a blog 5 Free Creative Sermon Series Ideas. It is by far the all time most viewed post on my blog with multiple views per week and the bulk of those views coming on Friday & Saturday night! Why do you think that is? We all know why. Pastors are looking for some help! Many don’t have the luxury of having a creative team around them or someone who can help them with a projected preaching calendar. Instead, they find themselves in a sermon prep frenzy each week instead of confidently and calmly looking ahead.

If your looking for some free sermons hopefully one of the five free sermons can help you out, but if you are willing to make a small investment you will not only have content for this weeks sermon you will have your  messages for following three weeks laid out as well. Let me tell you right up front that I’m not gaining anything personally for blogging about the product except the gratification knowing how much this investment can free you up and improve your preaching and teaching.

Two weeks ago you could only purchase 40 sessions of Jesus Culture’s Emerge Kingdom or Identity resource in it’s entirety for $199.  Now, for $29 you can have access to Emerge Kingdom or Identity 4 weeks at a time, making it really affordable.

It comes with everything you need to put together a message filled with rich content and resources that will assist you in adding your own flair to it. Check it at www.jesusculture.com/emerge out and let this resource take some pressure off.

How to Tackle Trust Issues on Your Team


I was a new staff member, unaware of any trust issues, really enjoying the book 5 Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lenconi that we were reading and discussing as a staff. That is until we got to Part Two.  Part Two brought up the issue of trust; specifically the absence of it. In Lenconi’s fable the absence of trust is defined as the failure on the part of team members to understand and open up to one another. It was clearly evident at this point when all the conversation stopped that we had struck a chord within the broken soul of our team. The book was shelved and so was any further conversation about the subject. Awkward!

Trust is at the very foundation of team building. You can’t build anything significant when trust issues exist amongst a team.

Trust is powerful! It is a belief that someone or something is reliable, good, honest and effective. Trust issues exist when wrong beliefs about a team member portray them as something other than these positive characteristics that are listed above. When bad beliefs about others go unchecked they build walls between team members instead of bridges.

To say someone is not trustworthy is to say they are unreliable, bad, dishonest and ineffective. That is the power of belief. It can turn someone who you should trust into a person that is a total bust. When trust is absent from a team distrust is present. Distrust breeds disrespect, disappointment, disillusion, discouragement and a disconnectedness among teams.

It is interesting that distrust is defined as a feeling that someone or something is not honest and cannot be trusted. Notice the contrast between trust and distrust. Trust is based on belief and distrust is based on feelings. We can only experience the best in someone when we’ve believed the best about someone. Feelings on the other hand will mislead us in drawing wrong conclusions about others.

 So how do we tackle trust issues that are trampling team unity, synergy and cohesiveness?

1. Affirm Your Beliefs Publicly about Your Team – If you don’t acknowledge publicly the good things a person brings to your team you open the door to form wrong feelings about a person privately. Teams that don’t affirm one another are usually teams that being misled by their feelings and therefore experiencing emotional highs and lows constantly.

2. Celebrate Your Team Members – You have to find reasons to celebrate each and every team member not just the team leader. A team member that isn’t celebrated is a team member that doesn’t feel appreciated. Birthdays and anniversaries are given opportunities to celebrate others. I know many organizations that “feel” like they can’t afford to celebrate these simple things, but to be completely honest you can’t afford not to. A 5 year work anniversary should be celebrated! A 20 year wedding anniversary should be celebrated! A job well done should be celebrated! Teams that celebrate typically are teams that accelerate!

3. Deepen Your Relationships with Your Team – There are a lot of differing opinions about this but as it relates to ministry and the church but I’m going to say it anyway. Teams that are relationally superficial will never do anything supernatural!  To deepen your relationships you have to move past the formal into the familiar. You have to take relational risks with the people around you. Spending time outside the office, double dates, trips, bbq’s, whatever excuse you can find to go deeper it’s worth the risk. If the team that you are a part of can’t be likened to a family then relationally your team isn’t going to stick together. In fact it could get ugly!

Trust issues are the most difficult issues to tackle on a team, church or organization. They will run over you, trample you and stomp you if they are not confronted. You cant tackle them alone but you can tackle them as a team!

How have you cultivated trust within your team?

The UNLEARNING Process


Image courtesy of by Idea go @FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of by Idea go @FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’ve been taught over the years that leaders should always be learning. However, I’ve discovered that it is equally important to commit to the unlearning process as a leader. To unlearn is to put out of one’s knowledge or memory, to undo the effect of, discard the habit of some formed behavior.

Learned behavior can become a barrier to your leadership. Biblically we would call these strongholds; wrong attitudes that have been formed into unhealthy mindsets that are difficult to dismantle. Eugene Peterson says it this way in The Message in 1 Corinthians 10:5 –
We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. 
So how do we commit and submit  ourselves to the unlearning process as leaders?
1. Make room for NEW thinking – Old attitudes are dismantled by new thoughts and ideas. Unlearning the way you’ve done things for the last 10 years can unleash the new innovative way you do something for the next 10 years. If something that has always worked is not working it may be that there is a better way to do it if you allow room for fresh ideas.
2. Get NEW perspective – Better outcomes require different outlooks. Unlearning will require you to consider what others are telling you. A leader that is unlearning is open to listening to different perspectives.
3. Allow God to do a NEW thing! – God is the author of all things NEW!  The idea, system, method or structure you need might not look like anything someone else is doing or that you’ve done. A good starting place to see a NEW thing happen is to ask God what He’s wanting to do or already doing.
For I am about to do a brand-new thing. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? (Isaiah 41:7)
The brand NEW will help you with your breakthrough! Unlearning the old and embracing the new is key for advancing leaders and moving their organizations forward into the future.
Is there anything you need to unlearn?