Monday, June 29, 2009


It seems that one of the unintended opportunities of this economic challenging time is the rise in teen entrepreneurship. Many of the typically summer jobs that have been fertile soil for youth employment are not as plentiful as in the past. The result is that many young men and women are beginning their own businesses.

Laura Petrecca (USA Today, “Teen entrepreneurs offer tips to aspiring peers,” 5.19.09) interviewed some of these young people and garnered tips for their peers. What she discovered can be helpful to aspiring church planters. Church planting is a start up. So if you are considering such an endeavor here are some helpful insights. I will share the tip and offer applications to church planting.

Don’t let shortcomings thwart you: When it comes to church planting don’t look at what you cannot do, but see what you can do. A primary method of uncovering strengths is through an assessment process. Go to as a beginning point.

Expand upon your interests: What do you enjoy? What people do you like to be with? Where do you like to live? This is how, to whom and where you ought to consider planting a church.

Create a formal business plan: Church plants just don’t happen. Get trained in the development of an action plan. Find a coach who will help you implement the plan.

Scour for savings: Dollars are limited in the beginning of a church. Look for places you can get quality items for fair prices. Don’t be afraid to ask for contributions. “If you don’t ask the answer is always no” (Jim Bogear, Church Planter).

Price wisely: This refers to the cost asked for the service or product sold. In church planting this can be applied to what “price” you are asking your launch team to pay with their time, gifts and finances. Be careful you don’t ask the impossible. At the same time don’t sell them, or youself short…people tend to respond to big expectations.

Make taxes less taxing: Bottom line keep excellent financial records. Churches are tax exempt, but planters are not. Keep receipts, develop a sound paper trail. Be above reproach in all financial matters.

Create a sound financial plan: This is an Achilles Heel for many planters. Don’t confuse faith with foolishness. God does provide, but He also instructs us to count the cost.

Don’t overinvest in supplies/equipment: Everything you may think you need before your launch may not be accurate. Begin with good equipment, but resist thinking it has to be the very best. It lots of cases store brand is as good as product brand and at less cost. Allow your church to grow, and then grow your equipment into your church.

Promote your business and yourself: Church planting is a great deal about initiative. Seek out people don’t just expect them to come to you. Be innovative in your promotion. Do not shy from attracting people to you.

Know the rules: What are the expectations of the movement you are connected (denomination, network, association, etc…)? What zoning laws are there in the community you are planting? Are you incorporated correctly as a non-profit?

Carve out personal time: Church planting can be completely consuming. No one will care for you personally, physically, emotionally, relationally or spiritually like you will.

Stick with your dream: If you know that you know that you know that God has called you to planting pursue it relentlessly, hold it firmly, cherish it regularly, care for it lovingly and don’t let it fade!

Friday, June 26, 2009


Today it was the little things I have taken joy. Joni and I went grocery shopping. We used the self-check out scanners. I love those things. We took the groceries home and then we worked on separate projects together.

Simply sharing the same space. Doing our stuff, but together. Didn't need to talk to each other much. We have learned that being in close proximity, doing our things is relationship building. We are accessible to one another if necessary, but we don't have to be holding hands, or sitting next to each other.

I took her to work. Being together talking about our days ahead. I then went to my "office." A neat coffee shop called "It's a Grind." Free Internet. Wonderful work spaces.

I will pick up Joni after work and we will be seeing Brody, our first grandson. Later we will simply end our day together. It is this together that is so very important to us. Currently we spend chunks of time apart due to work. So the together times are that much more appreciated.

Friday, June 19, 2009


Leaders and how they do things have always mesmerized me. I am fascinated by those who have waded into the deep waters, gotten in over their heads and emerged wet, a bit rattled, but better for the experience. I have been intrigued by those whose visions were much bigger than them. I have been drawn to the stories of bold faith, unrelenting passion, the willingness to forge ahead when others have simply fainted from the challenge.

I have noted that leaders cannot be neatly categorized. We want to do this. We want to somehow shoehorn them into a box. We want our leader's somewhat predictable. We tend to want them Teflon. But this is seldom the case. They come in variety of sizes and shapes. They emerge in all kinds of situations. They evolve in different environments. Often their commonality is that they are not very common.

I think, I think this: I think that what they do share is a sense of destiny. They deeply believe they have a mission that must be fulfilled. It is not self-generated, but it has been given to them from beyond. It drives them to continue in the face of most adversity.

It is not so much they can do whatever, it is they cannot not do whatever. They somehow have a sense of something beyond the now. They see, not so much with their eyes, but with their spirit. It is sense more than sight. And because it is something they sense, it compels them. The compulsion is not to see it more clearly, but to fulfill it completely. They are drawn more than directed. They are pulled more than pushed.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


My wife and I were watching TV. A commercial for Post Shredded Wheat came on. I am not an avid commercial watcher, but every now and then an advertisement, or its tag line, gets my attention. This was the case with this product. The tagline: “We at Post put the no InNOvation!”

I laughed out loud. What a great line! They were attempting to communicate they were a company of tradition, wholesomeness and they could be counted on in these unstable times. At least I think that was it. I really got pretty intrigued by the line.

I commented to my wife how many churches actually have that as their mission statement. Not written out, but in their actions such is the case. The question is why? Why do many churches and church leaders pride themselves in InNOvation? Here are a few thoughts:

We confuse innovation with creativity: Innovation and creativity is not the same thing, although many use them interchangeably. Truth is God is the only genuinely creative being. It was God and God alone who spoke, “Let there be…” and there was. He created something out of nothing. We resist inNOvation simply because we believe we are not creative people. We may not be creative, but this does not mean we can’t be innovative.
Innovation is seen as compromise: For some innovation is connected with change and change is viewed as compromise. How change and compromise got put in the same basket I am not real sure, but for many it has. Is changing the oil in our vehicles compromising the vehicles integrity? Or is it extending its effectiveness?
Innovation is costly: What does it cost? Time? Energy? Frustration? Relationships? Possibly. But as in most things the cost of InNOvation must be weighed against innovation.

I believe churches and people can learn to be innovative. Wikipedia states, “A distinction is typically made between invention, an idea made manifest, and innovation, ideas applied successfully.” Understanding this will hopefully motivate us to be innovative people and churches. Meaning, we can take existing ideas and apply them to our context. Doing this can move us from inNOvation to INnovation. That is, move us from saying “no” to ideas to working “in” ideas we uncover.

I offer the following to develop an INnovation mindset:

Increase your “IA” (idea awareness) quotient: Look in a variety of places for ideas. Do not limit yourselves to what other churches do, but see what businesses are finding effective. An example would be Craig’s list. Many churches are finding this to be an effective tool.
Know your context: It is difficult to apply ideas to your situation if you don’t understand it. Not every idea is for you, nor is it adaptable to your situation.
Sit in a different chair: When I sit in a different chair I gain a different perspective of the room in which it is placed. View ideas from a variety of perspectives. Look at them from various angles. An idea that doesn’t look good from the top may look completely different from the side.
Try stuff: We get too tentative when it comes to trying an idea. An idea that doesn’t work is not an indication of our failure, just that the idea was not the best, or didn’t fit our situation. Melinda Gates when asked about ideas her and husband Bill’s Foundation comes up with said, “We will get out there and try something. If it doesn’t work, we will try something else. And we will keep trying until we find something that works” (Fast Company, June 09, p62).

What is it for you? InNOvation or INnovation? The choice is yours.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


The military goes to great lengths to develop effective strategies for battlefield engagement. They research, study, evaluate and re-evaluate all plans. They do not go into battle unprepared. They do all they can to insure the enemy will be effectively engaged, quickly dispatched and the troops carrying out the plan will be as safe as possible. Yet, with all this, I understand that their underlying motto is: When the first shot is fired all strategies change.

I met a gentleman not too long ago who had an extensive military background. I asked him if it was true that war strategist believed that when the first shot was fired all things changed. He affirmed this was absolutely true. And then he said, “That is why all those going into battle has an understanding of the Commander’s Intent.”

This phrase fascinated me, so I asked him to elaborate. He went on to explain that even though everything changes in battle the Commander’s Intent does not. Bullets may be flying, soldiers may be adjusting to the circumstances but everything accommodates the Commander’s Intent. If there is a hill to be taken, regardless of the strategy they went into battle using, they never forget the hill. Everything on the battlefield flows toward the fulfillment of the Commander’s Intent. The goal is not to implement a preconceived strategy; the purpose is to achieve the Commander’s Intent!

We must embrace this concept. It can be applied wonderfully to our mission as movements, local churches and Christ-followers. We tend to neglect the Commander’s Intent. We get caught up in strategy, protectionism of methods, honoring of our created structures and how we want things to be. We forget that we are in a battle! We downplay changing climate. We strive to keep things as they have been. We want the church of yesterday in the world of today.

The shots have been fired, all things have changed and we make feeble attempts of re-implementing the strategies we have developed. What we need is to understand our Commander’s Intent and let that dictate actions, strategies, structure and methodology. Our purpose is to relentlessly pursue our Commander’s Intent, not save our way of doing and being the Church.

What is our Commander’s Intent? It is to GO AND MAKE DISCIPLES! This is the hill he wants us to take. Things have changed, but his intent has not. How do we, as leaders, keep the Commander’s Intent in our ministry field?

Keep the intent front and center: When the chaos of battle happens, when crisis begins to nibble at our focus remind those you lead of the intent. Why you exist? What is the ultimate purpose?

The intent must be the filter: All information that flows in, the changing climate of a community, the updating of strategy, all things and everything must be run through the filter of achieving the Commander’s Intent.

Flexibility in implementation: The Commander’s Intent is the guiding principle for carrying out the purpose. There needs to be tremendous latitude in implementation. If a means of fulfilling the Commander’s Intent is discovered and it does not fit neatly into an existing structure than the structure must be discarded or rearranged.

Front line freedom: Once the Commander’s Intent is understood decision making must be given to those closes to the front lines. Those in the trenches (local churches) are the most leveraged to understand the battle and they must be empowered to make choices in implementation.

We live in challenging, yet opportune times. Let’s hold firmly to our Commander’s Intent and allow that to dictate the parameters of the battle.

Saturday, June 6, 2009


Spent one and a half days listening to presenters share on a Wesleyan Hermeneutic, or lack thereof. I am never completely clear what is meant when we use hermeneutic? I know of Herman Munster. But it has to be understood that I took German as my High School language elective so I could find out what the Germans were saying on the TV show Combat. I tend to filter way too much through the lens of TV. Can you have a television hermeneutic?

Basically hermeneutics is the study of interpretation theory. For those in pulpits it deals with our handling of the biblical texts. How do we understand them? What do we use to inform our understanding of the bible? How might we effectively communicate our understanding to those who enter our church doors and wish to hear?

It seems to me there is one context in which the texts were written, but there can be a variety of applications of that text. The application often emerges out of the preachers historical, cultural and personal context.

We, I believe, can never completely separate our perspective from the interpretation, application and implementation of the biblical text. To void our cultural, historical and experiential perspective from our exegesis and hermeneutic is to hollow out the power of the applied gospel.

I didn't really have much to say, but did want to say that!

Friday, May 29, 2009


I was aboard a plane waiting to depart to the West Coast. All passengers were on, but the boarding door had yet to be closed. The flight attendant came over the inter-plane sound system and said, “Would the lady with the wheelchair please come to the front?”

My first thought was, `can the lady really make it to the front of the plane?’ After all walking to the front of the plane and being with a wheelchair would not appear to be doable. And if it was, it would get my full attention. Shortly after the request a very able bodied woman made her way up the aisle.

It was then the distinction flashed into my recognition sphere (fancy way of saying I got it). Being WITH a wheelchair and being IN a wheelchair is, necessarily, not the same thing. This lady was with the wheelchair, but not in it herself. She was, obviously, accompanying a person who was in the wheelchair. She was alongside the person, connecting with her and being of what help she could be.

This got me thinking (and I trust I am not making too big a leap), there is a difference of a person being with Christ as opposed to being a person in Christ? Often we think of them simultaneously. The assumption is that if a person is with Christ they are also in Christ. But I think, I think, this is not the correct assumption.

In the Bible we see many people who were with Christ. They hung with him. They enjoyed his presence. They benefited from his miracles. They were able to catch a bit of the overflow from his early popularity. The crowd was with him, but I am not sure they were all in him.

The challenge of being with and not in is the ease in which one might disassociate from who you are with. Lots of those who were with him, were not so “with” when he was arrested. Many of those who were with him, were not so “with” when he was crucified. Quite a few who were with him, were not so “with” when he was taken off the cross. With can support us for a season, but seldom sustain us in the stress times.

It is Paul who tells us that those who are IN Christ are new creations. “In” does make a difference. “In” is fully immersed. “In” is engulfed by. “In” is full throttle. “In” seldom looks back, rarely regrets, minimally wishes to go back and wades through doubt.

“In” is the variable between giving up and going on. “In” is the constant in commitment. “In” is the handle to grasp when afraid, the reminder our choice was correct and the wall to steady ourselves in shaky times.

So what is it for us? When we plant our churches, lead our people, attempt to transform our churches, motivate our movements, connect to our communities, challenge our complacency, repurpose our ministries, fuel our passions and pursue our calls? Are we doing these things with Christ or in Christ? It really does make all the difference.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


Dan Webster, way former youth Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, was a speaker at the youth camp we conducted for Skyline Youth Ministries. He shared an insightful comment I have yet to forget. He told us, “The natural flow of life is down.”

This is so true. Muscles left to themselves atrophy. Gardens do not naturally stay tended. Lawns do not remain cut, trimmed, lush green and dandelion free. Car oil gets grimier not cleaner. People do not stay fit. Churches do not easily keep externally focused, evangelistically passionate, nor spiritual fit. Why? The natural flow of life is down!

We resist this reality. We want to get ourselves, our homes, our churches to a point and trust they will remain there. Seldom does this happen. Each may maintain for a time, but the end result will be down. We compensate for this by defining effectiveness as a `slower downward spiral.’ Or as Zig Ziglar wrote, “Even a dead fish can swim downstream.” We can get so discouraged in our ministry that we will take any kind of movement, even if it’s down. But not all movements are helpful, many are hurtful.

Earthquakes are often the result of a shift (movement) of land plates. This is movement, but not the most beneficial. What are some movements that might hurt?

Moving from being consumed by Christ to a consumer of Chris: We help lead a person into a consuming relationship with Christ. They grow in their understanding of Christ and the life changing faith needed to mature…then it happens, what our community of faith provides is not enough. They are not being fed. They need something for their kids, or parents. So they make the trek to a more “full-service” body. They have moved from being consumed by Christ to being a consumer of Christ.

Moving from insight to insecurity: We begin desiring to learn all we can about effective ministry. We ask questions. We connect with key leaders. We read all we can. We listen. We apply. But often as our effectiveness increases we get insecure. We are concerned that what we have gained may be lost. We get proprietary. We lose the edge for fear of falling off it.

Moving from Team to Me: It was John Maxwell I heard say, “It takes teamwork to make the dream work.” We tend to believe this; at least we want to believe it. This is one of those beliefs that doesn’t often find an expression in our behavior. We talk team, but act me. We try to build team, but tend to bask in me.

Moving from Kingdom to kingdom: Ministry can get competitive. We get about building our local ministry (kingdom) at the expense of what God may want to do more expansively (Kingdom). Existing churches easily get territorial when a new church arrives in their community. They see this as an affront on their kingdom, not an assault for the Kingdom. We are all for Kingdom ministry just as long as it does not emerge in our kingdom.

Moving from striving to arriving: Many leaders view life as an array of achievements, so we strive to accomplish. We complete our education. We complete our building. We plant our church. We disciple our leadership. We connect to our community. And once any of these, or others, are achieved we stop. We stop looking for what God has for us next. We stop adjusting what we do. We stop acting in faith. We arrive!

We must go beyond being content with movement and make sure the direction we are headed is correct. Where are you moving? What are you moving toward?

Friday, May 22, 2009


Timing is critical. Never has this been more clear to me than now. There is a decison that needs to be made, well really it has been made...the question now is simply when do I act? Timing will be crucial in this. The action impacts many. It impacts me! I want to act, but not too soon, nor too late. What will determine the time? I guess if I knew this I would know exactly when to act.

Could it be that acting not genuinely confident of the timing is when faith is needed? Faith journeys are always interesting. Often you know when they begin, but seldom where they will end, or how.

Good news! My faith does not have to be in my wisdom, nor my choice of timing, but in God who has ultimate say.

Something tells me the deep end of the pool awaits. Now where are those floaties? What? No floaties! And the deep end still awaits? How about a nose plug? No nose plug! What about? Okay, I am going.

Is alright if I go slow? I think I might be too old for a quick plunge. The plunge may be it you say. Will you be standing close to the side in case I need a little help? Whats that? Oh, you are going in with me. Gotta love a God like that.

Monday, May 18, 2009


When I was a kid the launching of a capsule into space was a huge deal. Being on the West Coast the television coverage began very early. I vividly remember being wakened by my dad about thirty minutes prior to liftoff. I would sit along with the rest of the family excited by the countdown. It was thrilling seeing that small capsule encasing human beings being thrust into outer space. We would watch as it became nothing more than a dot in the sky and then gone.

The liftoff was exciting, but it was not the end. The launch was the beginning of the mission. The same is true for church planting. There is much enthusiasm and excitement that surrounds the launch day of a new church. People come to support. Much work is put into it being effective. There is a tendency to sense that once the launch has happened the mission is complete.

This got me thinking: What can be done after launch to insure an effective mission (church)?

Monitoring systems. Everything is monitored. This extends from the external and internal integrity of the shuttle to the health of the astronauts. What monitoring systems need to be in place for church plants? What is being done to insure that the organizational structure is sound? Is there a way to monitor the spiritual and physical health of the planter?

Constant communication. The ground is constantly in communication with those on the mission. They want to know what is happening and they are desirous of making sure the people are doing well. Sadly this is often not the case once a plant launches. We forget about the plant, neglect the planter and her or his leaders. We need to do a better job staying connected. Text, e-mails, phone calls and even the ancient method of face to face interaction can all help keep communication lines open.

Available to resource. The ground team is there to provide all they can, as they can, from where they can what the mission needs. They provide encouragement. They give instruction. They make suggestions as to how emergencies are to be handled. Those on the mission know they have a team of people who want them to succeed as badly as they desire to succeed. But resourcing goes two ways. Those on the mission must recognize those not with them have something to offer. Those who say they are available to resource must be ready when called upon.

Future planning. The mission has been thought through to its end. Every scenario of ineffectiveness has been considered. Solutions to potential problems have been developed. Little is left to chance. Planters can easily get caught up in “We will figure it out when we need to.” This may appear cutting edge and faith filled, but it often is the cover given for, “I just don’t want to plan.” A friend who works with Neo360 (an organization committed to starting all kinds of churches) said, “One of the most difficult challenges we have is convincing planters they need to figure out how to assimilate new people.” This is post-launch stuff and not very ‘wow,” but without it the mission of reaching and connecting people will be ineffective.

Adjust as needed. They do all they can to plan for everything, but everything cannot be planned for; so adjustments will be made. The adjustments are not to the mission, but to the method. Church planters can get just as enamored with their method as others. Just because a method is different does not mean it is effective.

Move beyond the launch to effective mission. Don’t merely blast off, but build off your beginning to achieve mission fulfillment.

Monday, May 11, 2009


I saw a Post Shredded Wheat TV ad where the tag line was: We put the "no" in InNOvation. I loved it! I thought of how many churches could say something like that? Taking pride in staying the same and not innovating. What might you be putting the "NO" in?

Saturday, May 9, 2009


Eli is my second grandson. He is still biding his time getting into the world, but should be here later today. I am very much looking forward to meeting him. I am excited to see how he and Brody (our three month old grandson) will connect and get along. I have visions of them hanging out. Getting into all kinds of "interesting" situations.

As they get older, I want to have Pappy days with them. The is where just me and the two little men hang out. We can do all kinds of stuff. After all, they can plead they were too young to know better and I can say I am too old to remember. Either way we ought to have lots of wonderful adventures.

I plan to enjoy them at every stage of their growth. I won't change diapers, however; did this for their parents, so no need to revisit that aspect of child rearing (literally). I want to spend enough time with them now so when they are teenage boys they will still want to hang with Pappy.

I have had a blessed life (and I trust it will continue). Great kids, wonderful grand kids and an incredible amount of opportunities in my ministry. As much energy as I have, as much as I still want to achieve in ministry, as much as I have a tremendous amount of things I want to write about, as much as I would like to invest in future ministry leaders through teaching; I am realizing there can be no finer investment of my time than in the lives of my adult kids and grand kids. I look forward to this.

When the day comes and I am called to Heaven (which I am anticipating being many years away) I do hope for tears due to my passing. But more than that I trust my remembrance will bring smiles to my families faces and they will often find themselves asking, "what would dad/pappy do?" Now that would be a life of significance.

Friday, May 8, 2009


Recently I was on a regional jet from Minneapolis to Indianapolis. I did plane side check in. This meant that I would need to pick my bag at a designated location after departing the plane. In Indianapolis’ new airport they have luggage elevators to accommodate this. These small elevators are often located at the top of the jet way. The luggage handlers load the bags at ground level. The bags are then lifted to our level where an airline worker opens the door allowing passengers access to their bags. The airline employee left informing us he would be back to open the door once the bags had been loaded and lifted.

There was a crowd of us waiting for our bags. We sensed, by the commotion behind the metal door, the bags had been brought to our level. There was a panel of lights that confirmed the sound, but no airline employee. One button was clearly marked “open door.” It was even green to give it that air of permission giving. I thought to myself, `I ought to press that button so we could get on with this;’ instead I waited. We all waited. I would guess about three minutes went by. I kept eyeing that “open” button contemplating the easy push it would take to release us all to whatever it was we all needed to go next. Another minute passed.

A young man standing behind me stepped forward toward the inviting panel. “Do you think we’d get in trouble if we push this button?” He asked rhetorically as he connected his finger with the correct button. The doors opened exposing our long awaited bags.

This young man led. He pushed the button! I thought about pushing the button, but he pushed the button. It made me think: What is the difference between a button pushing leader and one who thinks about pushing the button?

Button pushing leaders take action, while one who thinks of pushing the button might be aware, but hesitates to act. I was aware of the button that would give us access to our bags. The young man, obviously, noted the same thing. Yet he acted on his awareness. Awareness separated from action often results in missed opportunities.

Button pushing leaders ask why not, while one who thinks of pushing the button tends to think what if? I caught myself pulling back as I asked: What if the bags really are not there? What if pushing the button causes a disruption of the process and we have to wait longer? What if the pushed button results in the baggage handler losing a limb with an unexpected mechanical movement (I didn’t say it was logical)? The young man’s comment as he pushed the button seemed to indicate he had the why not attitude. Why not give it a go? Why not risk a reprimand? There is significant difference between a why and a what.

Button pushing leaders are willing to, while one who thinks of pushing the button idles at want to. I wanted to push the button, but the young man was willing to push the button. Wanting to do is conceptual, inactive and philosophical. Willing to do is concrete, enacting and powerful. Moving from wanting, to willing is the difference maker.
In reality, if the young man had not pushed the button we would have eventually gotten our bags. The end result would have been the same. However, his willingness to act moved the future eventuality into present reality. And is this not something leaders do? Help create a present future!

This unassuming young man with his low key willingness to act taught me a great lesson. I want to be more of a button pushing leader…how about you? What buttons do we need to push?

Monday, May 4, 2009


In a January 2009 lecture given at Talbot Seminary, Charles Van Engen observed that of the 168 hours (24x7) in any given week active church members will give five of those hours to the church. That low number shocked me. In the 1980’s I had heard that active members would invest up to twenty hours a week. Prior to Van Engen’s remark I had understood it had slipped to ten. Regardless of the number it appears that the time those most committed are willing to invest in the local church is eroding.

My question: What are we encouraging them to do with the other 163? I understand a segment of those hours will be for food and sleep, but there is a huge chunk of hours we need to leverage. How these hours are leveraged would appear to be built on two potential philosophical foundations:

Retrieval: This is getting those hours back for the church. We pull, prod and plead to have them show up for, serve at and support church ministry.

Retrain: This is giving them tools to serve Christ and the community of faith within the realty of their everyday life. It is helping them see their daily living IS ministry.

When a church places their emphasis on retrieval they may get an additional five plus hours, but that still leaves the larger segment of congregational participants with more time outside, then inside, the church. And this is as it should be for Christ has SENT us.

We need to retrain our people for more missional effectiveness. We need to provide tools that will equip them as ambassadors. We must take a sledgehammer to the wall that divides the sacred from the secular, church from society and personal faith from public values. Our people are indigenous in their environment. We must give them missionary eyes. Here are few suggestions:

Put an emphasis on members as missionaries. Believers will never be effectively mobilized apart from a deep sense of service. Salvation is both personal (we have been saved from our sin), but it is also communal (we have been saved to engage in purposeful service in society). The church is to equip its people for this saving purpose.

Teach on missional living. Missionaries are not sent ill-equipped. A new approach must be taken to teaching those in our communities of faith. Believers must be encouraged and taught to look at their neighborhoods, workplaces and communities with the eyes of a missionary.

Release people to engage their culture. When we release our people with limited time resources to choose community involvement over church only participation we are moving toward a missional mindset.

Downplay involvement in “church only” activities. A church that keeps their people so busy with “church activities” will effectively remove them from the culture they are to engage. If you have so many church activities that it leaves your people little time or energy to be with their neighbors, you may have too many activities.

Place a high value on church planting. New churches are in desperate need of launch team members to help establish a base for effective ministry. Existing churches are populated with potential launch members. “Without regard to locations, missional churches are actively releasing members to new ministries and new churches. Their passion is to see the churches grasp the principles of multiplication” (Rick Rusaw).

Determine to be a transformational community. Transformation can only happen up close and personal. Yeast transforms dough when it is intermingled with it, not simply set beside it. A church will only be able to transform communities when they intermingle themselves in those communities.

What are you encouraging your people to do with the other 163 hours? Do you need to change or adjust your approach?

Saturday, May 2, 2009


Last night over pizza with my family the conversation regarding Kirstie Alley's appearance on Oprah came up. It seems Ms Alley has backslidden in her weight loss. After losing seventy-five pounds and being a spokesperson for Jenny Craig she is now back to her pre-Jenny weight.

If I understood the story correctly she entered the National confessional (Oprah Show) and gave public penance for her lapse. She confessed she had returned to her old eating patterns and stopped exercising. She even turned her exercise room into a dinning room and began hosting dinner parties. It seems these dinner parties did not include Jenny meals. She went on to declare that she is going to re-commit herself to lose the weight once again.

Her inspiration for this re-commitment is Valerie Bartinelli. Kirstie saw Val's bikini-clad picture on the cover of Shape Magazine. This visual has motivated her to reintroduce herself to Jenny and, I assume, move the dinning table over and make room for exercise equipment.

I applaud Kirstie for getting back at it, but this does remind me it is always easier to start something than continue it. Inspiration can motivate us to begin, but it will never sustain us for the long haul. If we never move beyond inspiration into internal motivation we will soon lapse in our willingness to continue.

People start stuff all the time. We start marriages, exercise routines, diets, relationships with God, families and well the list is long. The challenge is to continue them for the long haul. To do this we will have to move beyond external motivation into internal momentum. We have to be willing to continue with our commitments even when those around us do not.

I trust Kirstie will not rely too much on Valerie, or Jenny. She needs to rely on herself. Make this her commitment. Valerie can inspire her, but that is only the beginning.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


I was in McKinney, Texas earlier this week. I was able to combine a teaching stop and a visit with my son, Scott, and his lovely wife Ashley. Tuesday morning I went out on a morning run. I had run the previous two days, but on this morning I took a different route. Not sure this was the best idea.

My plan was to run about 4 miles. But half way through I realized I was not real sure how to get back to Scott & Ashley's house. Now their house sits right next to two large antenna towers. On these towers are flashing lights. Scott had told me to always look for those towers, head toward them and I could easily find their house. And I am sure he is correct; unfortunately on this day it was foggy. I could see no towers. I was on my own at ground level.

The good news I have had experience in being lost on a run in somewhat unfamiliar territory. I have found it best to keep running until you see something, anything, that has some semblance of familiarity. For me it was a street. I found a street that Scott and I had been on the day before. This was the good news. The bad news was if I went the wrong way on the street I would be going away from, not toward their house. And since I am prone toward being directionally challenged there would be no guarantee I would move in the correct direction.

I was able to find my way back, which is why I am able to write this blog. A residual benefit was I actually put in an extra mile plus of running. I also learned when it doubt...keep moving! Sooner or later you will find the way home.

Friday, April 24, 2009


This baseball season both the New York Yankees and Mets unveiled their new stadiums. Both stadiums are architectural marvels and multi-million dollar venues. Actually the Yankees spent $1.3 billion, but what’s a decimal point and a few zeros among sports franchises? In constructing these facilities they reflect centered change. They changed to mirror the sports climate of today, while holding onto the integrity of the past. “Both [stadiums] hark back architecturally to the glory years of New York baseball, but both hint at how the design-and the role—of the stadium is evolving” (Fast Company, “If They Build It,” April 2009, p39).

Historically as the church strove to connect culture with the Christ they have looked for venues to help house communities of faith. These faith venues have evolved over time. Today churches utilize all forms of buildings, a variety of venues and structures to house centers of ministry. Innovation is only limited by our flexibility, our situations and our responsiveness to the flow of the Holy Spirit. In the building of facilities, or the adaptation of existing spaces, there are things we can learn from stadium construction.

Merge tradition with technology. New Yankee stadium “…echoes their original 1923 one…,” yet it is one of the most technologically advanced. The designers did not compromise with maintaining a traditional feel with a technological flavor. A church does not have to be either traditional, or technologically with it; it can be both/and. Tradition provides a connection with the past. It gives a sense of comfort. Technology supplies an inroad into the future.

Create intimacy. I had a minister friend who said, “The only place I like a crowd is at church.” Most pastors would echo this. We like lots of people in our facilities, so we enlarge. The new stadium constructed for the Mets will have over 15, 000 fewer seats. They want to sell intimacy. If baseball executives recognize an innate need for intimacy we ought to catch on. Larry Osborne Pastor of North Coast Community church said, “A person needs to be able to stand in one place in your building and be able to look around and find a person they may want to locate. If they are unable to do this, your sanctuary is too big.” Don’t compromise intimacy.

Multi faceted, not mono focused. In the past stadiums were used on the days of their particular sporting event. “Fans came, they saw, they left. But the stadium of the future must be—and do—much more.” Steve Burrows a venue designer states, “These very expensive facilities just cannot sit empty for days and days.” Churches need to move beyond Sunday only to seven days a week. They must be sending stations and ministry hubs. Worship ‘only’ venues are limited and limiting. In many cases a churches worship space is the largest square footage under one roof. If these are designed for week-end only worship experiences you may want to rethink their use. If the set-up of your sanctuary space doesn’t allow you to rearrange (pews or immoveable chairs) for other uses, you may want to redesign. We can be bad stewards of our space much like we are of our finances.

Be of the community, not merely in the community. A church can easily be in the community, but they need to be of the community. Earl Santee, stadium designer, believes there needs to be more interaction between the community and the ballpark. “Stadiums,” he says, “will become a point of reference—maybe even the identity—of the community.” OF is interactive, available, connected and involved. IN is stagnant, stationary and staid.

I understand that churches are not entertainment venues, like many ballparks. But this does not mean we cannot gain insights and ideas to be more effective. After all, they paid a great deal of money to determine what works, why not glean from their investment.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Do you know that you know that you know that you are exactly where you need to be in God’s history? Are you convinced of your call? And if you are convinced of your call, does this mean you are enamored with every aspect of your particular ministry assignment? And if the enamor is absent, are you questioning your ministry?

Answering these questions become critical as a movement is being built. You want those involved to have a sense of call. You want them to have a pull of destiny on their lives. A movement supersedes motion. Something can be in motion, but have no movement. A running car’s engine is in motion, but if the gears are not engaged there will be no movement. A movement necessitates engaged leaders; engaged leaders share both call and destiny. Here are some things to consider as you weigh your call and sense of destiny.

Call is forged in changing circumstances. Change happens. It is in this change dynamic we form our calling. We may be pursing our call in an area when something changes. An opportunity rises. An unexpected dismissal occurs. A life-situation shifts. Does this mean the call has ceased? No! It means we have the potential to forge our call in the new circumstance. Never let the circumstance define the call. Instead allow the call to flesh itself out in your circumstance.

Call may be prompted by passion, but it must not preside there. Passion alone a call does not make. I am very passionate about football, but this is not where my call presides. To think that passion alone dictates ones call is irresponsible. Passion is often short-lived. A genuine call has staying power. Passion can deplete, a call draws us to something beyond ourselves. Passion can be counterfeited, but a call resides in the deep waters of confidence.

Call is motivated by overall purpose not any one particular. There will be things about the call a person will not like. The ministry responsibility that is the current vehicle to transport the call may have particulars you would rather not do. But if the overall purpose fulfills you, the frustrating particulars can be handled. Now, if the overall purpose is de-motivating, you may want to evaluate.

I heard it said, “People who have a sense destinies die old and unhappy or young and unfinished.” This seems a bit pessimistic, but striving to fulfill ones sense of destiny can be frustrating. Consider these observations as you pursue your destiny.

Destiny is beyond any one daily activity. Many have heard the parable of the Bricklayers who were asked, “Why are you doing this job?” The first worker: “I am doing this for the wages.” The second worker, “I’m doing it for my family.” The third worker, “I’m helping build a cathedral.” But a fourth response is lacking, “I’m doing this because I love laying bricks.” It is not the daily stuff that we do that brings a sense of destiny, but it is the reality beyond the daily stuff.

Destiny is not the one thing. Destiny is not the pursuit of that ONE thing we can do; instead it is building off all we experience to discover the best thing we can do. Destiny is much more about being who God has created us to be, than doing something God has called us to do.

Destiny is something we actually know deep down. Most of us really do know our destiny. We typically are too frightened to share it, or face it. Most leaders have a level of “destiny drive” that motivates them. It seems we all hear, in our own version, the words of Mordecai to Esther, “…who can say but that you have been elevated to the palace for just such a time as this?” (Esther 5:14, NLT).

Movements don’t simply happen. Movements are lead, inspired, encouraged and motivated by persons of call and destiny. Who is to say that person is not you?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Miss California was the runner up in this week-end's Miss USA Pageant. It seems she caused quite a stir with her response to the question provided her by one of the judges. This judge wanted to know her stance on gay marriage. She clearly stated that she felt marriage was between a man and a woman.

Many felt this cost her the crown. It was felt if she had made a more palatable (which is code for saying absolutely nothing so your opinion is that you have no opinion) response she might have won. It seems we want our Miss USA to be middle of the road and wishy-washy. After all, what would America do with a beautiful woman who also had substance? We like our "Barbie's" plastic not plausible.

The judge felt she should have kept her beliefs (Christian) out of her response. Miss USA needs to represent all America not just "Christian" America, according to this judge. This would include Jewish-Americans, Gay-Americans and Atheist-Americans as examples. And who is to say that her statement didn't represent those outside the Christian arena? Truth be told, her statement didn't represent all who share her foundational belief in Jesus and his salvation.

This judge even went so far as to say that if she had won (I guess we know which way he voted) he would have went up on the platform and taken her crown. Now that is what I would call a tolerate inclusive action! So what part of America would he have represented if it had come to that?

Here is what this judge and many others do not understand: When you make a statement, when you have an opinion there will be somebodies out there who you do not represent! This is why it is an opinion. It would have been impossible to make a statement that would have pleased everyone. It seems to me the judge was saying, by his actions, I want a Miss USA who represents me. And if that is what was desired then those rules ought to be made clear upfront.

The question was framed with what she thought. This being the case how can she be criticized for giving a personal response to the question? Few, if any, have to agree with her. The judgement should not have been on the agreeableness of the response, but how well it was articulated and thoughtfully given.

Next time just instruct the Miss' to provide an answer that people want to hear...then, again, would that not offend deaf people?

Sunday, April 19, 2009


E-mail is wonderful. Twittering is fun. Facebook is...well I really have no idea I have never been in that world. But regardless of the written medium we use and pictures we share there is still much to be said for chatting face to face.

This past week I had some e-mail back and fourths with a friend. I was told that an e-mailed comment I had made was "catty." I did not see it that way. And after a few back and fourths via the "e" I felt the conversation needed to be done. I am not sure it needed to be over, but it did need to be done. It was clear any further conversation via that media stream would do nothing for our relationship except deepen a potential rift.

It reminded me again how volatile these symbols on a page can be. Words communicate much, but nothing can take the place of sitting across from someone sharing thoughts, expressing feelings and showing emotion. This is where real communication takes place. This is where relationships are strengthened. This is where the stuff of life and friendships are forged. And all of this is built on trust. No trust no honesty!

Saturday, April 18, 2009


I am an official twit! That's right I am twittering. I love it. Short comments. They can be meaningful, radom, insightful or...well they can be whatever you want. It is a great way to keep in touch with family and friends. I like it.

I check it periodically each day. Fun to see my boys version of life. My daughter does a nice job of keeping info flowing concerning Brody my first grandson. In fact Brody is twittering. He is only two months old. Goes to show you anyone can indeed do the twit. Daughter-in-laws also twit.

I can't seem to get Joni to be a twitter bird. She prefers old fashion conversation. What is up with that? I think I will give that a twit.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Tony Dungy in his most recent book, Uncommon, shares the following story:

Matt Emmons is a world-champion marksman. In the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece, he had a significant lead when he entered the final round of the 50-meter, three position rifle competition. He hit the bull’s-eye on his three shots, then looked on, puzzled, as the automatic scoring system did not credit his shots. He called the judge over, and the target was pulled in to ascertain just what had occurred. It was untouched. No holes.

The target in the next lane, however, had three extra holes—holes made by Matt’s shots. His mistake cost him in the standings, and he finished eighth (p125).

This illustrates a mistake many leaders make: We are making bull’s-eyes, but are hitting the wrong target. What leaders neglect to see is that hitting the bull’s-eye on the wrong target is still a miss. A bull’s-eye is only part of the effectiveness equation, right targets are the other part. What might leaders do to ensure their bull’s-eye is on the correct target?

Clarify the target you want to hit: It is easy to assume the target you are taking aim is correct. Often this is a result of it being the target others have taken aim. Someone else’s target may not be yours. Simply because another organization or church is aiming at a target does not mean you should. Try to avoid getting so focused on hitting the center that you neglect to notice if it is the right center. Could it have been that if Matt had taken an extra moment he might have noticed the target he was aiming already had holes? I don’t know, but I do know that if we take time to consider the targets we are aiming, will help us in determining if it is right for us.

Consider the ramifications of hitting the wrong target: The wrong target cost Matt first pace. Those of us who are engaged in ministry it could cost much more. Hitting the wrong target could result in people not being engaged for the gospel. Hitting the wrong target could mean ineffectiveness in helping people experience life change. We can get so focused on the target of appeasing members and developing internalized programs that we neglect the target of community engagement and contextualizing the gospel.

Confirm the target once you have hit it: I understand in military planning that once the first bullet flies all things change. This can happen in ministry. We focus on the correct target and then shoot. Could be that once the first shot is fired, things change. We need to step back and confirm what we are doing. It is easy to experience missional drift. We can quickly get off task. If the ministry being implementing is not achieving its intended purpose, stop!

Change aim when necessary: Why is it when the church makes necessary changes we view it as failure? This viewpoint often keeps us from making the changes. When we change our aim, or how we are doing ministry, this is not a failure. It could be just the opposite. It could be the first step toward greater effectiveness.

Celebrate the wins: When the right target is hit…CELEBRATE! A few days ago the NCAA Champion celebrated at center court. They did it unabashedly and full throttle. Why not do the same when we are hitting the bull’s-eye on the right target.

Are you making bull’s-eyes? Is the bull’s-eye on the correct target? If so…keeping practicing your aim. If not…adjust!

Friday, April 10, 2009


It is not uncommon to see people running in the rain. I never quite understood this. Why do this? Why run in the rain? So you skip one day, or you simply run on a treadmill. Yes, I know from experience that treadmill running is not much fun, and boring, but better that than getting soaked, or sick. Then where would their running schedules be? I have often commented to my wife, when seeing a person running in the rain, "Those people are idiots!"

My wonderful wife is a optimist and very practical. She would say to me, "Maybe when they started running it wasn't raining and they just decided to keep running after the rain began." Logically, this makes perfect sense. But I never brought it...until today!

Today changed everything. I went out on my run this morning. I started later in the morning as it was raining. And since I am no idiot I felt it best to wait a bit and probably take the day off. But the rain stopped and the forecast was for partially cloudy skies, with rain decreasing. I discovered "decreasing," not ceasing, being the optimum word.

I started my run under cloudy skies. Roughly a mile or so in it began to drizzle. I kept running because drizzle really isn't rain, and only idiots run in the rain. Another half-mile or so, the drizzle turned to a spring-like rain. And I continued to run as spring-like is not a genuine rain, and only idiots run in the rain. Heading into my third mile the spring-like became RAIN.

Now I kept running because I was into this now, and there was no way I was going to stop. Not to mention I would have to get home and running would get me there faster than walking. I thought to myself, "I should have suggested to Joni she come look for me if it started to rain."

I arrived close to home soaking wet. Fortunately I wear a hat when running so the hat's brim provided some protection. But shirt, shoes, socks, hat, shorts...all very wet. Joni drove up. She had seen the rain begin and decided to come and try to find me. I loved her thoughtfulness. I told her how much I appreciated her thinking of it. She said, "I know you say only idiots run in the rain, so I thought I should come get you."

I think it was her nice way of letting me know she doesn't think I'm an idiot, even though I ran in the rain. My attitude has changed. Now I feel sorry for all those runners who get caught in unexpected rain.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


I had a friend who use to say, “Don’t just stand there, do something…even if it’s wrong!” I am not in agreement with the latter part of this statement, but I would agree that doing something is better than doing nothing.

Most leaders want to involve their churches in doing something. They want to move their people from where they are to where they need to be. They have a deep hunger to motivate their congregations in an “outside the building walls” mentality. In most cases leaders do not desire to do ministry as usual. They don’t want to just stand there!

This passion for effectiveness burning within leaders often results in moving too quickly. The thought is that the needed change must be done all at once. The congregation is challenged and expected to go into territory that is so foreign to them they collectively pull back. They view this BIG change as averse to their congregational well being. All too often adversity causes retrenching into old patterns. So what might be done to move a congregation from standing there to doing something?

1. Scale down the goal. Robert Maurer of UCLA’s School of Medicine in his book, One Small Step Can Change Your Life, delineates between stretch goals and whisker goals. Stretch goals are ambition teasers. They are the BHAG’s (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) Collins refers to in Good to Great. A whisker goal is an achievement that is a tiny step from the existing reality. An example would be the person who has seldom, if ever, exercised choosing to walk five minutes a day. Whisker goals help congregations get over the initial fear that can keep them from moving. It is better to achieve something small than nothing at all.

2. Improve what you do with the resources you have. During WWII the government needed to increase industrial production as some of the most talented industrial minds were being called away to fight. People were trained to “Look for improvements on existing jobs with your present equipment” (Fast Company, March 2009, Time to Aim Lower, p46). What resources do you have at your disposal? What are you currently doing? Present productivity can be leveraged for future potential.

3. Focus on your strengths. Change is not always doing something different. Change can be simply recommitting to what is done well. Change can be finding different ways of delivering what is done well. “Southwest [airline] officials admit they’ll never win over business travels who value first-class seating and other high-end services many large airlines offer” (USA Today, Southwest amps up its strategy, 12.26.08, 2B). This being the case they simply continue to offer what they do better and better. What does the congregation do well? How can this be improved? Do what you do very well and build off of it.

4. Start now. When you set a timer you have to begin the work. Set your congregational timer. Have some whisker goals. Begin to implement the small steps. Use the resources available. Improve on your strengths.

A snowball is simply an accumulation of tiny snowflakes. When small steps are implemented a large amount of progress is made. Gather the snowflakes. In the end you will have a snowball.

Monday, April 6, 2009


Brody, or Bro-frog, as we like to refer to him is my eldest grandson. He is only two months old, but his cousin, Eli, is not due until May so this makes him the old guy. We celebrated his two month B-day at Lucille's BBQ. They have the best beef ribs since my mother-in-laws. And this is high praise. Brody actually slept the whole time, but me, grandma, mom, dad, Uncle Ryan and Aunt Des all enjoyed the food. He was simply the excuse we used to gather for the excellent feast.

Last night Joni (grandma) and I (Pappy) got to babysit. Brody's parents went out to eat with friends. I had my knees bent and was helping him stand on them. He was up very high. He was looking down on the world has he knew it. He looked down at me and flashed me the biggest smile. It was if he was saying, "Pappy I am king of the world!" And he was.

He has a great smile. He is learning to communicate through coos and and grunts. He is awesome! If you want to follow little Bro-frog he is currently starring on twitter.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


My dad was a roofing contractor. Growing up he use to say, "A hammer fixes everything." And in his profession he was more often right than wrong. In the environment of laptops, blackberries, iPods and other such tools...a hammer is not as useful, that is if you think of hammer in the traditional sense.

What I have come to realize is that every generation has its hammer. With computers it is "ctrl-alt-delete." Or if it gets really frustrating you pull out the sledgehammer of our age...unplug, yank the battery and reboot. This almost always "fixes everything."

The same 'hammer' concept seems to work in the making of movies. I viewed Knowing this week-end. It was an excellent movie. Kept me on the edge of my seat. But then came the ending. It was a movie that had one of the weakest endings I have ever seen. It seemed that they weren't sure what to do, so they pulled out the "hammer." I don' want to give the movie away, but suffice it to say when you don't know how to end a movie it seems you throw in a UFO or catastrophic event...or both! If I would have had a hammer I would have thrown it at the screen.

Friday, March 27, 2009


The past two days I have been in Bartlesville, Oklahoma at Oklahoma Wesleyan University (OWU). I was asked to participate on a Presidential Advisory Board. It was a privilege. We all learned a great deal about the campus, student body and key educational and philosophical initiatives. But more than any of this we caught the heart of the President...Everett Piper.

Everett is passionate about Christ. He is passionate about academia. And he is highly desirous of producing committed Christ followers who have a biblical worldview. I was reminded once again how leadership at the top makes all the difference throughout an organization.

Larry Orr participated in this as well. Larry is Lead Pastor of a Wesleyan congregation in Moreno Valley, CA. This is located in Riverside County. He spoke in chapel. He concluded his sermon with these three declarations:
  • Jesus is the Christ...He is my God
  • Jesus is the Light...I will walk in his Truth
  • Jesus is Lord...I do life his way

These three simple declarative statements are valuable. They affirm our faith. They confirm our belief. The encourage our commitment.

Friday, March 20, 2009


The panel discussion was on Meet the Press. They were offering opinions on the economic plan being lead by President Obama. A key element of their conversation revolved around many who seem to distrust the plan’s reliability and long term effectiveness. The underlying question was, “How can a President be so popular, yet have such a challenging time getting larger buy-in on his economic plan?”

One of the panelists, Mort Zuckerman the current Editor-in-Chief of U.S. News and World Report, made the following statement: “He [President Obama] has popularity without credibility” (NBC Meet the Press, 4.8.09). I was intrigued by this statement. The interest was not in how it may or may not apply to the President, but how it might apply to leadership in general.

It seems that pursuing popularity is a common temptation of all leaders. Leaders want to be liked. And there is an element of popularity demanded by all leadership situations. After all, those who are followed must be liked on some level by those who choose to follow. Yet, when the rubber meets the road, popularity can carry a leader only so far. Sooner or later they have to show themselves credible.

Credibility is a result of both trustworthiness and expertise. A leader who earns trust through their reliability and develops a level of expertise through effectiveness will see their credibility increase. It would seem that a credible leader can overcome a run of unpopularity, but a popular leader may not weather a storm of non-credibility.

The challenge is that many leaders tend to defer to popularity. They prefer the applause of people at the expense of making difficult leadership choices. They refuse to pursue credibility in order to appease those who could make their lives miserable. They want calm instead of confrontation, they want appreciation at the expense of ability and they want that pat on the back instead of providing hard solutions.

The two are not mutually exclusive. But if one must be chosen, choose credibility! A credible leader will gain popularity over time, but a popular leader who does not display credibility will soon lose any popularity gained. When both are in play the result is greater effectiveness.

It must also be noted that credibility is not a popularity contest. Credibility is earned through proven effectiveness not polling. A credible leader has shown their mettle in difficult situations. They have made more correct decisions than wrong. They have shown insight, intuition and innovation. They have credibility due to their competencies. And competency is not always greeted by thunderous applause.

Popularity – Credibility = Shallow leadership
Credibility – Popularity = Slowed progress
Credibility + Popularity = Increased effectiveness

What leadership pursuit do you choose: Popularity or credibility? The choice you make will determine the character you reveal.

Friday, March 13, 2009


About one month ago the Pittsburg Steelers won one of the best played Super Bowls in its forty-three year history. Mike Tomlin, the head coach of the winning Steelers, is an outstanding leader. And, at thirty-six, he is the youngest coach to win a Super Bowl. Coach Tomlin, with his approach to the game and the players he leads, has much to teach us as we lead our churches and organizations. The following observations are garnered from the article: Tomlin stresses renewal rather than repeat (USA Today 2.3.09).

Focus on renewal not repeating. One of the first post-game questions a winning Super Bowl Coach typically will hear concerns repeating the feat. Tomlin refuses to go there. “…we are not attempting to repeat…nothing stays the same in this game.” Repeating is simply doing the same thing, again. In the changing climate of the NFL if a team focuses on just `doing it again’ they will not evaluate or adjust. A franchise targeting a repeat will place their emphasis on holding what they have, while other teams change. Churches tend to slip into this. They spend too much time repeating what they have done and what once worked. What we need to do is focus on renewing ourselves. Renewal brings life, refreshment and revitalization. We must resist holding onto what we have gained and move toward what we can do.

Function in the new reality. In the past NFL teams were able to build continuity. But free agency and salary caps have changed all of this. In reviewing Steelers’ history Tomlin observes, “…look at the championship teams of the `70s, it’s the same pictures and the same positions….That’s not the reality of today’s NFL.” The Steelers Coach may prefer those days, but this is not his reality. A key role of leadership is to define reality. The reality of church ministry has changed. People are not naturally drawn to church. North America is diverse religiously, secular in perspective and multi-cultural. Church leaders who refuse to function in this new reality will miss the tremendous opportunities available to them.

Allow for taking corporate breathes. Leaders like to push. They want to get things moving. We tend to forget that people need recovery time. “Players need recuperative time,” Tomlin says. NFL Coaches understand the fruitlessness of getting back at it right after the Super Bowl game. When I was in local church ministry I misunderstood the importance of pacing. I always wanted our church body to go to the next thing. When we daughtered a church I was ready to move on to the next daughtering opportunity. It wasn’t until my District Superintendent, Steve Babby, said “Phil, your people are tired. Let them rest.” It was then I learned the significance of allowing time for the body to take a ‘corporate breathe.’ Physically we know how good it feels to fully inhale. Corporately we need to allow for the same. Leaders that understand this, and incorporate it will be better leveraged to have long lasting effectiveness.

Be optimistic. “I’m an unrealistic dreamer sometimes,” Tomlin observes about himself. We need to be the same. There is enough pessimism, enough negative input, enough doom-saying; we need to swim upstream with optimism and encouragement. When we dream big and dare to believe we model opportunistic faith. This is in needed to restore hope, strength and perseverance into our people.

Tap into your journey. “Mike appreciates his heritage. “I’ve been around some great people—coaches, players, owners—and I’m a product of that.” We, too, are products of our experiences, mentors, and environments. We should take stock of such and leverage them in our present. The journey we have traveled has brought us to this point for a reason. Appreciate it! Apply it!

Invest in people. Leadership is foremost about people. “I probably get more enjoyment out of watching people grow than I do preparing and winning football games.” It is interesting to note that the more people grow, the more games are won. However, we need to help people grow regardless of the outcome of games. Who are we really investing? And to what end?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Just returned from spending four days with my grandson Brody (oh, yeah, his parents were there too). He is going on five weeks old and I am discovering he is very mature for his age. He smiles a little bit, moves his head with great strength and agility. His fingers are long. They are perfect for palming a basketball or swatting down opposing quarterback pass attempts. Training on these two skills will begin in the next month or two.

We, along with his mom (Megan, my daughter) and grandma (Joni, my wife), visited Old Sacramento. This is primarily a tourist place, but nice to stroll around. I got to push him in the stroller and carrying him in a contraption that hangs off my chest. Kind of like a reverse back pack. There is a neat name for it, I just have forgotten. He sits in it facing forward so he can view all the sites. He loves being outside! I know he will thoroughly enjoy it when I push him in his first 5K. I have found one that we can do when I am on vacation out his way in August.
It will be close to three weeks before I see him again, in person. I will get lots of pictures, but nothing compares to personal eye to eye contact. I actually will arrive on his two month birthday. He will get to pick where we go to celebrate. I hope I like his taste.

He has gained two lbs since his arrival. He is beefing up. At this rate he will be growing a beard when I return.

His cousin, Eli, is due on the scene the first of May. They will be fun to watch together. I got to see a 3-D color picture of Eli on this trip. Incredible! He is good looking. His leg was up on his shoulder. So he will either be a gymnast, contortionist, or very sore from all those weird positions. I can hardly wait to meet him.

Monday, March 9, 2009


I am a huge fan of the TV show Lost. I am not sure those of us who follow Lost are as rabid about our show as those who religious view “24” (those show watchers are nuts), but we do love our twists and turns.

In a somewhat recent episode two of the primary characters (Ben & Jack) are in a church. They are looking at a painting of “doubting” Thomas reaching to touch the spear wound of the risen Christ. The two had a conversation that went something like this:

Ben: “Thomas was the one who said to his fellow-disciples, let us go with him (Jesus)
they we might die with him. But he was not known for that. Instead he was
known for doubting the resurrection of Christ unless he could see his wounds.”

Jack: “Was he convinced?”

Ben: “Yes, Jack. Sooner or later we are all convinced.”

It was a great scene! And I was taken by that phrase, “sooner or later we are all convinced.” I thought of it in terms of all kinds of situations, but the one I wish to apply it for the purpose of churches starting new churches. I choose to think that sooner or later every local church leader will be convinced of helping start new churches.

I was meeting with some Pastors regarding church planting. One of them asked, “What if I don’t have a passion to plant churches? Do I help plant a church just to be a team player?” (Great question by the way).

I responded, “It is not about having a passion for church planting, but a passion for seeing people come to Christ. Church planting is one of the most effective methods of evangelism. This being the case, and we are an evangelistic folk, why would we not add planting to our toolbox for connecting people to Christ?”

The number one reason to plant a new church is for evangelism. An existing church with an evangelistic fervor ought to consider the starting of a new church. Is your interested peaked?

So what does a church planting (multiplying) church value? Ed Stetzer in his article, Church Squared (Outreach Magazine, Jan. 2007), discovered six:

Reaching un-churched people: They view themselves as missionaries to their community, state and world.

Staff and membership involvement: Everyone buys in via actions and attitude.

Kingdom-growth focus: The dream of becoming a larger church is less important that the dream to multiply Gospel influence to a larger and more diverse audience.

Ongoing relationships: The churches started are connected through the relationships of those in leadership.

Selfless giving: Sacrifice and money does not intimidate a multiplying church. They do this with open-eyes and an open-heart.

No stalling: Lack of size or staff, or poor timing are not acceptable excuses for delay. They get it done.

Are you convinced? Maybe not, but sooner or later you will be. There will come a time when God will use someone or something to convince you that the Kingdom is best expanded through the multiplication of more missional outposts. Until then, keep working to engage the culture for Christ.

Friday, March 6, 2009


I heard that Barbie...the turning fifty years of age. On a CNN broadcast I caught that some group is up in arms about Barbie and her maker (Mattel, not God). It seems that they see her as putting beauty over brains. They think Mattel should stop marketing her as she says all the wrong things to young girls. Barbie communicates that young women have to pursue beauty. And it is only the beautiful girls that get noticed.

First, let me say, she is a DOLL!! Now that I have this off my mind I have a few more comments.

It seems to me the Barbie critics have it all wrong. Can't a woman be both attractive and smart? I know lots of women who have both outer beauty and a highly developed intellect. They are not mutually exclusive. Would they not be the ones belittling women?

How do you make an intelligent looking doll? Do you have them wearing glasses? Then might you be stating that only smart people wear glasses (which I personally agree with, as I wear glasses). Or do you dress them conservatively? So people with a developed intellect are not suppose to be casual in dress or demeanor? Or would an unattractive doll be a better indicator of insightful people? I don't even want to go there.

I did not catch what group this was who is dismayed a Barbie. Whoever they are I am sure they will find another doll to criticize. I suggest Betsy Wetsy...can't believe we would tolerate a doll that lacks bladder control. What is that commuicating to the youth of America on discipline.

Why don't we just assume Barbie is both attractive and smart. After all she has survived fifty years. Got to know something to do that and look as good as she does.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


A friend asked me last week, “Did you give up anything for lent?” I told them I had not. In fact I have only done this once in my life. I didn’t even know when lent was. It began last week, the day my friend asked the question.

When it comes to this kind of thing I always feel a bit irreligious…kind of like I am a secular believer. I was not raised with this kind of spiritual emphasis. The churches I attended as a kid did not place a priority on this…okay they might have and I just didn’t pay attention. Then, again, in those days anything that smacked of High Church or Catholicism was dismissed. The churches I Pastored I did not provide this kind of thing. I seldom provide for Ash Wednesday, Mandy-Thursday, Good Friday Services, or…well it just didn’t happen often.

There was one year at Arcade Wesleyan Church where a staff member asked to conduct an Ash Wednesday service. I let him. It was then I learned that typically the ashes used for this were the burnt remains of the palm branches from the preceding year’s Palm Sunday Service. I think we had used plastic and even if we had used the real thing, I am pretty sure they ended up in the dumpster located at the back of the property.

We did have ashes. Not sure where they came from; possibly Jim Slutzi’s pipe? We did the cross on the forehead and everything. I didn’t like it. I had no desire to have an ash cross on my forehead. Fortunately, the ashes did not adhere well. It was mostly gone by the time I arrived home that night. I am sure hanging my head out the car window driving home had little to do with it.

I have never been one for public displays of religiosity. Religious bummer stickers, Christian fish, WWJD wrist bands, Christian-oriented jewelry (actually any jewelry beyond a wedding ring), and cross ash embossed foreheads hold little appeal for me. I always thought it was my rebellion against outward displays of surface spirituality. But could it be I am not bold in my faith? I like to think it is the former, but there might be an argument made for the latter.

In any case, in this Lenten season, I am deeply grateful to Jesus. He loved me enough to go to the cross for my sins. He loved me enough to accept me where I was. He loved me enough not to leave me where he found me. He loved me enough to wrap his life intimately around mine. He loves me enough to accept me with all of my warts…and there are plenty.

I like to believe that how I conduct my life and relate to others is a visible display of this. I like to believe the things I value, what I think on, and my “try my best” responsiveness to his Spirit reflects this. I like to believe THAT I believe indicates my loyalty pledge.

Frankly, I am not sure that an ash cross, washing feet or a contrite spirit is a valid display of anything. I guess that is where grace enters in. Whatever we may do, however we may choose to display our faith we are desperately dependent on God’s grace. Therein lays the message of the cross and the validation of the resurrection. Even broken people can live in wholeness. And as, one broken person to another, I am deeply grateful for this reality of Easter.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


The church I attend is sixteen months old. We continue to meet in a school gym, so set-up and tear down is a part of our current reality. A few weeks ago I was helping disassemble the church facility. I reached down to pick up a plastic container. This was a container I had often lifted, carried and moved. It is not all too heavy. Reaching down I mentally told myself, `lift with your legs.’ Evidently my body chose to ignore the mental prompting. Straightening up my back pulled! I knew it immediately. This was a bad one.

I managed to walk across the room and place the container on a speaker box. I attempted to “work out” the tightness. It was a slow walk to my car. I painfully and gingerly got myself behind the wheel. I decided the next best stop for me would be the local CVS Drug store. I would get myself some physical aid: Doan’s pills and one of those little heat packs.

Getting out of the car was extraordinarily painful. Any twist, slight turn, any hint of bending, movement of my legs resulted in a vivid reminder my back hurt. I literally shuffled into the store. Locating the correct aisle I slowly moved down the row scanning the shelves for the desired product.

I found the location for the back medication and I could hardly believe it. It was housed on the second shelf from the floor! I stood there both amused and amazed. What idiot would put those products there? Did it not occur to somebody, anybody, this might be a bit difficult for those in need?

I know there is a whole science of product placement. Evidently those “people” felt these did not warrant a higher shelf. Instead of thinking of the end users and their needs to dictate location they placed them either unthinkingly or with incorrect thinking. I guess they assumed if someone REALLY wanted it, they would figure a way to get it. IF it was easy, might not be worth it.

Sadly, this is how many churches approach those interested in spiritual things. They place stuff in places where those who need it might have difficulty reaching it. What shelf is your spiritual helped placed? Can those in pain get at it? Here are some considerations.

Do you translate, or do you expect them to interrupt? Is the gospel contextualized in such a way that today’s spiritually curious are given handles to grasp? Or do we expect them to figure it out? It is true the gospel carries a sense of mystery and not all things can be explained adequately, but most churches can do better.

Do you clarify, or do you cloud? This has to do with the activities of the church. It is an epidemic in churches that when you read their worship folder and/or bulletin you have no idea what they are communicating. Initials of programs are used, locations of events are given with no directions and people to be contacted are expected to be known. Over clarify, don’t overly cloud.

What are your expectations? Do you expect new people to show up? Too many churches approach all they do as if no one new will be present. Our expectations will dictate our approach. Expecting people in need will help us address those needs.

Whose eyes do you view the church? Walk your property, watch your worship service, and view your facility as a first time guest. Ask yourself what you see if you were new? This is difficult, but not impossible. What might have happened if someone had walked the aisle of CVS and noted that it might be a challenge for people in back pain to reach the lower shelf?

What are the voices you hear? Do you listen to long time attendees alone? Or do you factor in those newer? We all listen to others? The question is who are the others? How much weight do we lend to whose comments?

People are interested in spiritual stuff. People enter our churches in search of help. When they come to find what we have, will they be able to get to it?

Saturday, February 21, 2009


I am currently sitting in the coffee shop, "It's a Grind." Many who know me are right now picking themselves up off the ground (or a coffee pun...grounds) mumbling, "Phil is not at Starbucks? Duck and cover the world as we know it is coming to an end!" Relax...I am still a Starbucks person, but I am also practical. This is close to where I live and it offers free Internet, not to mention a better working environment than the Starbucks (and I have tried them all) in this area. The world is NOT ending (as far as I know), but if you think it is and you would like to gift me any of your worldly items...I am thinking my friend Bob's MGM Sports car...please do not hesitate to contact me.

Prior to coming to "The Grind" I completed teaching a two and one-half day class on Evangelism and Church Health. It was a wonderful class. Great interaction. And I got a great one liner. A new friend, Jaime Perez (if I misplaced his first name and he reads this I know I will hear from him) said, "I don't want to reinvent the wheel I just want you to tell me how to roll it." I loved the line. He said he is looking forward to seeing it in print and getting credit. Well here it is, but after this it is mine. Unless when I use it it does not go over well, then it is all his!

I also brought my yearly Girl Scout cookies. The young ladies have a table outside, so I stopped and purchased one box of Thin Mints and one of Caramel Delights (aka Samoa's). Don't know the whys of the name change, they appear to be the same. Could be part of something Obama promised in his campaign to bring clarity and openess to stuff. I am only going to share the cookies with my Grandson Brody. And since he has no teeth and, at a bit over two weeks old, does not eat solid food, I will have them all to myself. But I did want to share.

Will be leaving in a bit to pick up Joni from work than off to Brody's house. I need to get as much Brody time as possible as leave tomorrow and won't see him for ten days. By that time he probably will have teeth, which means I will have to take my Girl Scout cookies with me.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Do you remember the rubber stamp? Those wooden-handled utensils with a rubber pad affixed to its underside. Etched on the rubber, backwards, were words or symbols. This stamp was then thumped onto an ink pad and the inked stamp was then pressed onto a document or package. I remember using these. I also remember when they introduced the pre-inked stamp. This was big time. No ink pad…the ink was magically pre-fixed on the stamp. No back and forth from item to be stamped and ink was self-contained. Talk about modern marvels!

When the PC was introduced many thought the rubber stamp, pre-inked or not, would be doomed. If the production of such archaic items was your livelihood you would need to find something else to do. It was over. Or was it?

It seems the concern over the death of the rubber stamp was pre-mature. The manufacturing and use of the rubber stamp continues strong. There are “…about 1700 stamp shops nationwide” (USA Today, 1.26.09, 8A). Who would have thought it? In an age of hyper-technology how in the world can the simplistic, basic rubber stamp continue to find a place? I think the church can gain some interesting insights from this dynamic. The church that many believe is archaic, church that many believe no longer has a place and church that many believe will not survive the shift in culture…could it be its demise might be pre-mature.

A USA Today article, Rubber Stamps Continue to Leave Mark in Computer Age
(1.26.09, by Barry M. Horstman), provides potential insights to how the church can continue to thrive. I refer to this as the “Rubber Stamp Effect.” It is the ability to keep the core of tradition while embracing the continuation of transition.

Connect old tradition with new technology. Rubber stamps are still produced, but not in the same way. “Virtually all of our members (International Marking and Identification Association) operate with lasers and computer software.” They actual enhance what they do with the use of new techniques. The church often views new technology as SATAN! This is why we are late adopters. The problem is not in the technology, but for what and how it is used. Any technology that can enhance the mission should be used. “Where the old things are good, we should keep them going. And, alongside the old, let’s develop something new. In this way, tradition can lead us into the future” (Jonny Baker, Leadership Journal, Something Old, Something New, winter 2009).

Clarify how what we have meets needs. The paperless society may be nearer, but it is here not yet. “People and businesses need confirmation of things and hard copies on file.” The rubber stamp helps with this confirmation. Clarifying this keeps the rubber stamp as a needed resource. What we have does indeed meet the needs of people. It is our job to clarify this, not expect others to figure it out.

Core needs. People are drawn to stability. “Some people just like the feel of that old-time stamp.” It is not, necessarily, they want to return to what once was, but there is a sense to live out what once was in a new way. Spirituality is desired. It is critical that the church help folks apply the foundations of the scripture to their deep-seeded sense of spirituality.

Change will happen. What works today, may not work tomorrow. This is reality. The idea is to change intelligently. “Long-term, there may be a high-tech solution…, but for the foreseeable future, the stamps do exactly what we need.” Current ministry and programs may be what is needed, but this will change. Change with it. Adjust to keep the gospel as the essential.

The rubber stamp is an old reliable tool for present effectiveness. The church does not have to be outdated. We have a message that transcends cultures, philosophies and change. Let’s boldly adjust it to the needs of today to better communicate it.

Monday, February 16, 2009


Reggie McNeal in his book The Present Future contrasts the questions we tend to ask with the questions we should be asking.

1. Wrong question: How do we do church better?
Right question: How do we deconvert from churchianity to Christianity?

2. Wrong question: How do we grow this church?
Right question: How do we transform this community?

3. Wrong question: How do we turn members into ministers?
Right question: How do we turn members into missionaries?

4. Wrong question: How do we develop church members?
Right question: How do we develop followers of Jesus?

5. Wrong question: How do we plan for the future?
Right question: How do we prepare for the future?

6. Wrong question: How do we develop leaders for church work?
Right question: How do we develop leaders for the Christian movement?

What questions are you asking?

Saturday, February 14, 2009


I lived in Rocklin, CA for several years. This is a bedroom community of 70,000 northeast of Sacramento. Roughly half-way between my community and an adjacent city an Indian Casino was built. During the construction phase I commented to a friend, “I didn’t know that was Native American Land.” In response to my rhetorical inquiry, my friend said, “It wasn’t…until the tribe purchased it.”

Non-Native land became Native land because the tribe made the decision to purchase it. The tribe made it theirs by establishing a presence on the property. What a great analogy for church planting!

We may see a community, or an ethnic group and think, “God does not possess that place or those people. It is not His.” But it could be! If we were willing to establish His presence; if we were willing to possess a community, or people, in His name…through the starting of new missional outposts such soil could be claimed for God. This being the case, why don’t more existing churches consider the starting of new congregations? Often it has to do with existing churches and leader’s perception of the impact church planting might have on them.

Tom Rainer in his book, Effective Evangelistic Churches, identified “Ten “Missions Myths.’” Of the ten, five have to do with the starting of new churches. Let’s take a look at these “five myths.” A willingness to address them may contribute to our willingness to take new ground.

Starting New Churches Hurts the Mother Church: It does take sacrifice for an existing church to mother or parent a new church. It demands an investment of people, finances, time and energy. Viewing this from a purely human perspective, it might be seen as only an outflow of resources. However, seeing it from God’s viewpoint it is an expression of generosity. And generosity is rewarded.

Now is Not a Good Time: Is it ever a good time to do anything in ministry? It is true there are better times than others, but no time is the optimum time. Plan the best you can, but make your decision to parent on the Spirit’s prompting, not human timing.

We Are Not Large Enough to Start a New Church: One attitude I have noted in working with church leaders is that regardless of the size of their attendance they are one size too small to help start a new church. A church of 100 feels it needs to be, at least, a 150; a church of 200 believes it ought to be 225 or larger and so the argument goes. Truth be told, churches of any size can parent, if they so choose. Rainer discovered that more churches were started by those averaging less than 500 than any other sized church (Effective Evangelistic Churches, p162, Exhibit 9-5).

A New Church Will Hurt Other Churches in the Area: This rarely happens. “Usually the new church will reach people whom the existing church has not and will not be able to reach” (Rainer, p165). Church planting is about taking new ground geographically or demographically. It is not about attracting existing members of established churches. If the latter happens it is church pretending, not planting.

The Community is Fully Churched: This may be a dilemma somewhere, but not in North America. Instead we are a relatively un-churched society. “We need tens of thousands of new churches to reach people who have not responded to existing churches” (Rainer, p66).

What ground needs to be taken for Christ? Where does a new missional community need to be established? Be a myth-buster and pursue the birthing of a new congregation out of your church.