Monday, August 20, 2007


He stood on the rocky ledge. Behind him his father lay with a gun wound that was slowly, but surely, pulling the life out of his body. Ahead was the cave entrance that held the hope of healing. This cave contained the Holy Grail… the cup of Christ. It was this scared cup that could restore wholeness to his father’s ebbing life. He had met the two of three challenges that stood between him and the prize. A wide chasm separated him from the entrance.

This was the dilemma of Harrison Ford’s character Indiana Jones in “The Last Crusade.” What had begun as a search for a precious artifact had become a desperation for life. The key was a truth. It would come down to a step of faith. Indiana would have to step into the chasm and believe. It would be a genuine “leap of faith.”

The necessary step and belief were seamlessly interwoven. Without belief the step would never materialize. And the step held no guarantees. It demanded an abandonment of human resources. The only possible method of validating the belief was to risk it all. And with that risk… a possibility all could be lost.

Holding his hand to his chest as if to keep his heart from escaping Indy took the step. With fear and faith colliding he moved off the ledge. He stepped with full knowledge it may not work. But such is the nature of faith: Moving out with no guarantee.

What he discovered was the solid footing he risked would be there. With the discovery came the validation of his faith. The necessary resources to proceed were realized. He was able to attain the desired Grail and therefore restore life to his dad. Neither would have occurred if he had held to the relative security of the ledge.

Indiana Jones’ situation typifies many church leaders. We cling to the ledge of local church ministry. It is the ledge of church as usual. It is the ledge of tradition and “what we are use to.” It is the ledge of protecting our turf. It is the ledge of perceived success. It is a ledge clung to even in the awareness that remaining perched will limit our effectiveness.

There is the desire to bring eternal life to those who have no recognition of its availability. It is a life that must be effectively communicated in new ways. Such communication is enhanced through new churches. New churches are better poised to do ministry in more culturally relevant ways. And these new churches are best started when existing church leaders courageously spearhead their planting. The planting of multiplying churches will necessitate stepping off the ledge. It will be a leap of faith. And in the leap there is the risk that one may lose it all. It may cost them everything.

Stepping off the ledge is the willing investment of resources to start growing, healthy multiplying churches. Stepping off the ledge is the recognition that it is never about just one church, but it is about a multiplication movement. Stepping off the ledge is risking it all to provide the resources necessary to change the world.
Who will be this kind of leader? Who will step off the ledge? Will it be you? Will it be now?

Friday, August 17, 2007


A church multiplication movement is just that…a movement. A movement can never be comfortably controlled, nor should it. Directed, yes! Controlled, no! This movement will never gain momentum unless local church leaders drive it. Will denominational structures allow such a movement? They should! But the rub is that most denominations are structurd for control not guidance.

Denominational leadership seldom releases, instead they create reliance. There seems to be an underlying fear that releasing others will result in their irrelevance. It is this insecurity that causes systems to be implemented that bind more that build, maintain more than motivate and fetter more than free.

It is the local church leaders that must take this leap. It always starts at the grassroots. If we are waiting for an organizational initiative it will be too late. Most denominations respond too slowly. The responsiveness must come from front line leaders who are willing to boldly step out in faith.

Gary McIntosh quotes business consultant Tom Peters as saying, “Revolution? The word is not too strong. And it’s not the same thing as change. Change? Change? Yes, we’ve almost all, finally, embraced the notion that `change is the only constant.’ Well, sorry. Forget change! The word is feeble. Keep saying revolution.”

Revolutionaries! They are needed. It cannot be soft sold. It must be trumpeted loudly. Leaders need to step up, accept change and create revolutions. Waiting for denominational initiatives is skirting our responsibility. It is time to stop pointing fingers and begin to multiply churches.

There needs to be a rebellion against simply planting churches. The notion that churches are to be healthy for health’s sake must be soundly defeated. Growing a church larger as the primary harbinger of success must be overcome.

It is not about planting A church. It is not about getting a church to a point of health. It is beyond church growth. It is beyond church planting. Everything must drive toward the multiplication of churches.

A church is planted so it can help multiply others. A church gains health in order to invest in the starting of more healthy churches. A church grows to multiply from strength. Settling for less is still settling for less.

We must live by the simple rule of the soldier as expressed by General Douglas MacArthur, “There is no substitute for victory.” The victory is a growing healthy church multiplication movement: A movement that can only be the result of all out revolution!

Thursday, August 16, 2007


Stacy Dragila was a pioneer of women’s pole vaulting. She won the first Olympic Gold medal in this event. She has achieved three world championships, 17 US titles and has held the world record both indoors and out.

However, Stacy did what few others at a late competitive age would attempt. She overhauled her technique in order to stay at the top of world competition. This is “…a radical move few athletes would attempt so late in their careers” (The Buffalo News, 5.11.04, pg D-1).

Her coach remarked, “To get up at age 30 and change all that is extremely difficult.” Stacy observes, “It was like, I’ve done things for 10 years in certain ways and now you’re asking me to change?” She embarked on the hard work of change, because not to do so would be disastrous.

Leaders need to change. It will be uncomfortable. It will demand unprecedented paradigm shifts. But it has to be done. Leaders cannot afford to stay the same in technique, nor in mindset! Am I leaders change? Absolutely!

We need leaders to push the envelope of territorialism. We need leaders to challenge the status quo. Leaders must stretch beyond their resources to the place where they are desperately dependent on God. Not to do so will leave a leader in the wasteland of mediocrity.

Saturday, August 11, 2007


This past week I attended a video venue for the Leadership Summit. The Leadership Summit is a two and one-half day event of intense leadership lectures and interviews. Some of the presenters were Bill Hybels, Marcus Buckingham, Michael Porter, and John Ortberg; two interviews were conducted with Carly Fiorina and Colin Powell.

There was so much information I just hope that when challenges squeeze me some of what I absorbed will be wrung out. In an attempt to hold onto some of what I learned I will share a few nuggets I wrote down. Take them for what they are worth. Apply them where you might. Enjoy as you can.

A leader’s greatest fear is not what happens to them, but what can happen in them

Courage is not always enough

Strong leaders submitted to no one are trouble

Plans don’t accomplish work, charts don’t accomplish work only people get things done

Reward your best performers, get rid of your poor performers

Be prepared to disappoint people

Trust the element of instinct

Charity is hard. It is difficult to be good, at doing good

People are not our greatest assets; people’s strengths are our greatest assets

As you grow you become more of who you already are

You grow most in your areas of greatest strength

A great team member volunteers his or her strengths for the betterment of the team

Management produces acceptable results within existing parameters

Leadership is getting people to move in a new direction

When we are outside our comfort zone we really learn. If we only work inside our comfort zones we simply are practicing skills.

There is a gift in everything if only we will see it.

Vision is the painting of a picture that produces passion in people.

Vision is the most powerful tool in the arsenal of a leader.

People don’t have to have their way, they just need to have their way considered!

I wrap up with this statement by Anais Nin: “And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight in the bud became greater than the risk it took to blossom.”

Monday, August 6, 2007


I ventured out on a personal retreat for renewal today. It is the first time I have done this since moving to the Indianapolis area twenty-one months ago. I used a Catholic Retreat Center. I have discovered that Catholics understand the power of renewal through reflection. They know how to do retreat centers. They know how to create space that cultivates reflection, inward turning, and honest probing. Contrast that to Protestants who would typically have a “retreat” center full of ropes courses and a variety of other activities to keep ones mind occupied.

Catholic folk seem to understand that a mind freed from external stimuli can stay engaged enough filtering through its own issues. Frankly, I prefer the Protestant version. The more I am externally occupied, the less time I have to turn inward having to wrestle with my inner life. Even with my personal preference for outward noise I have come to appreciate the necessity of “centering down.”

I found Our Lady Fatima Retreat House. It offers “Spirit-Driven Renewal.” I took them up on their offer. What they actually provide is an environment where a person might connect with the Spirit of the Living God. They offer two things, I believe, one needs to achieve this Spirit-Driven Renewal: A place to be and they simply leave you alone.

Upon my arrival I found they had a Labyrinth. Each time I hear this term I think of mythology. What exactly in mythology I don’t know, but it simply smacks of that genre. A Labyrinth’s purpose, however, is to help a person find their way; they have only one path that starts at the outer edge, goes into the center and comes back out again. Labyrinth, I discovered in the Retreat House literature, is also a term for the part of the inner ear that regulates balance.

I determine to wander the Labyrinth. I went hoping to discover a bit of insight into my life, ministry and future. It was not an impressive looking path. I was hoping for high hedges; something that might be more maze-like. Instead, it was a simple stamp pattern on concrete. It was a path that went back and forth. It was a winding journey. It would have been very easy to walk straight to the center of the Labyrinth and my natural bent would have been to do just that. But what I was able to hear from my inner spirit told me that such a straight line would short circuit the very reason I was on the path. I also could have quickly covered the 861 feet of total distance that was compacted into a small area, but that too would have violated the integrity of the journey.

I invested time in this walk. I concentrated on paying attention to the turns in the path. I listened for sounds. I observed the small butterfly that rested on the path. A butterfly that seemed intrigued by my meanderings; at least it hung around and watched. Many thoughts, impressions, spirit promptings wedged their way into my consciousness. But if I was to summarize my discovery it would be this: Every twist and turn in our journey contributes to who we are in our core. And it is from our core that we must navigate the twists and turns of our journey. What is at our core is critical!

Sunday, August 5, 2007


The other day my wife and I were watching the game show Jeopardy. The game is played were an answer is given to which the question is provided by the contestant. On this particular round the answer was: A Dan Brown novel were a murder occurs in the Louvre in Paris. The correct question to that answer: What is the Da Vinci Code? Ironically, none of the contestants knew the question. Once the host gave it there were nods of, “I knew it, I just couldn’t pull it out of the memory banks.”

I commented to my wife how strange this was. After all, it wasn’t too many months ago when the world was caught up with this compelling novel. The Church rallied itself to oppose this individual’s attempt to undermine the very foundations or our faith. It became the church’s opportunity to once again stand against heresy and apostasy. A cottage industry of anti-Code resources was created. Yet that which stirred so much controversy and angst was unable to be dredged up from the memory wells of a game show contestant. When was the last time you thought of the Da Vinci Code?

Christians can be a reactionary bunch. It seems we have to be against something. Our attitude of fighting what we perceive as evil somehow gives us a sense of meaning and mission. We are defending our God! As if God needed us to make a point.

When will we realize people would be more interested in what we are for, than what we are against? Why can’t we just be for Jesus? What happened to the simplicity of the gospel? The reality that God so loved that Jesus was given, and Jesus came into the world not to condemn it, but to save it.

You see when all the rhetoric is over. The last words of “defending” the faith have been spoken. The most current “Da Vinci” foe has been vanquished. When the riot has been quieted and protectors of the faith patrol for another enemy. The cross will still stand!

The cross is a poignant reminder that Jesus did come into this world with a message of hope, love and meaning. We need to be for that cross. We need to be for Jesus. And when people see what we are for we can stop attempting to convince them of what they should not believe, they will simply be compelled toward Jesus.