Saturday, January 31, 2009


I have been reading a book entitled Twelve Mighty Orphans. It is the true and inspiring story of a High School football team. A team that was comprised of young men who had lost one, or both, of their parents. They played for the Masonic Home located in Fort Worth, Texas. They dominated their sport in the 1930s and 40s. They were the human version of Seabiscuit.

They engaged a nation in the midst of the Great Depression. They represented the underdog that overcame great odds to defeat those bigger, faster and stronger. It was their grit and determination that overcame their appearance as a rag tag collection of misfits to combine into a force to be reckoned with. To see them as twelve (that is all they ever suited up for games...just enough to have a team) individuals elicited chuckles and catcalls, but as an unit of twelve they were formidable. And the opponents who took them lightly one time, would seldom do so again.

Rusty Russell was the coach of this team. He was considered an up and coming coaching talent in Texas football. He could have had much more prestigious positions. But he chose to take on the challenge of the Mighty Mites of the Masonic Home.

When he arrived they didn't even have a football. The players often had to share shoes and leather helmets. But he came nonetheless. Why? He had vision. He never saw what he had, he envisioned what he could have. It was said his gut told him "...there was magic inside this godforsaken place."

His gut was correct! Well his gut, a willingness to believe in a group of kids no one else would and a football mind that was way ahead of his time. In fact, many credit Coach Russell with laying the groundwork for what today is know as the spread offensive. He didn't have a name for it, he simply implemented an array of plays, formations and shifts that had the mindset of 30s and 40s football "experts" scratching their heads.

Russell is a great example of a culture changing leader: Vision, belief in those he leads and a willingness to design outside the box strategies. I want to be more of a "Russell" leader. How about you?

Friday, January 30, 2009


Emily Post wrote “Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics, and at Home” in 1922. This has been the Bible of Manners for generations of people. But, as many have discovered, some of the politeness policies no longer apply. For example it used to be considered impolite to congratulate a woman who had just gotten engaged. Instead, good etiquette recommended, “Best Wishes.” This, according to Anna Post, Emily’s great-great-granddaughter and full time worker at the Emily Post Institute is a “…rule [that] doesn’t really apply anymore” (SWA Spirit Magazine, Dec. 2008, p20).

This doesn’t mean politeness is no longer in vogue it’s the simple reality that times change.

“True etiquette is not really about rules. It’s about courtesy….(Ibid, p20). It’s about adaptation to any environment” (Ibid, p102).

The same could be said of churches. They need to learn to adapt to the environmental culture in which they choose to minister. The more fit a church the more agile she is in adapting.

Dissatisfaction often results in motivation. Once there is motivation than choices and change can occur. And change must happen as yesterday’s rules don’t, necessarily, continue to apply.

Following are some observations on choices and change.

Fitness is a daily choice not a one-time decision. A church decides to be fit then the leadership takes daily choices to ensure it continues on the correct path.

Fitness begins where you are. Tailor the fitness program to your current fitness level and unique life-situation. Often people who begin to exercise quit simply because they do too much too fast. The same with churches. They tend to want to be a 10K runner before they ever jog down the driveway. Quit looking at the other church, begin where you are!

Exercise is not always enjoyable; but results are. A person was asked. “What percentage of the time did they look forward to exercise?” Their response, “10% of the time, but I am glad I did it 100% of the time.” Know moving toward church fitness will be work. Focus on the results not the exercise.

Results will come in cycles, or seasons. A friend lost 60lbs over a three year span. When he began tracking his weight he actually gained a pound at the beginning, but he refused to quit. You are not looking for instant results, but consistent results. Be patient in the cycles when things don’t change as quickly as you would prefer.

Choose the key measurements of effectiveness. Know what you want to measure. In fitness it is not necessarily weight loss. It can be body toning or adding muscle. What you are after will determine the program you choose. Where do you want to see change? Evangelism? Discipleship? Maturity? Train accordingly.

Invest time in culture change. It is one thing to go on a diet and another to change eating habits. A diet may get results in the short haul, but eating habits will change everything. A program may help a church quickly, but changing the habits of the church is what you are after. Don’t short change the process.

Find what you can do when you are injure. There may be a preferred method of exercise, but what do you do when something (e.g. injury) precludes your participating? Well if you are determined to stay fit you find something else to help. A runner may swim, or a swimmer may use the elliptical. The idea is to get a workout. Churches too often forget the end result and focus on some program that has worked in the past. When that is no longer effective instead of finding another delivery system they stop doing anything.

This can be the year your church gets fit. Make right choices and see what changes God will bring.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


It began yesterday afternoon...snow! It fell through the night and has continued this morning and is still falling. I think it is around ten inches and still accumulating. The office has been closed for the day. This was an excellent call as the roads are snowy, icy and dangerous. And, I get to work from home, which I really like. I have Internet, a cell phone, coffee pot (and Starbucks coffee) and privacy. What more could a person ask for?

I really don't mind the snow. It is beautiful! I just don't like to travel in it. I was out of town until Monday night of this week. I got in just before all this mess hit. And I am not scheduled to travel again until this coming Monday and it should all be gone by then...perfect :)

Probably the biggest benefit of all this snow is that I get to use my snow blower! I love using my snow blower. It is exhilarating to sprew snow. It is exciting to see a snow covered driveway and sidewalk clean and neat looking. It is just fun to start a project and finish it in a timely fashion. Later today I will take on this project. I will enjoy every minute of it. Snow that falls is snow that is meant to be removed.

Today will be a good day! Inside, warm, productive and, later, the opportunity to throw snow. Now this is the high life. And I don't even need a Miller to savor it!

Friday, January 23, 2009


This week I officially completed the residency portion of my DMin. Thinking back to January 2007, when I began this residency process, I thought it would never be here. But here it is! Now, the real work begins...the Thesis-Project.

A Thesis-Project is much like a dissertation, except practical. It is to go beyond mere theory into something that is applied and tested for results. Not that dissertations aren't practical, but for sure this must be something I can use in my ministry. I both look forward to and dread it at the same time. It will be a great deal of work. It will be time intensive. I trust I am up for the task. My goal is to walk in graduation May 2011. This is the goal of each of my cohort buddies. It would be a kick to walk with them.

If all goes well, in just a few short months, I will be able to claim the Dr. Phil title. Some have assumed I have had this. Therefore, in some introductions or program listings they have bestowed this on me. If it were only that easy! Soon my work will catch up with the assumptions of others.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


This time of year is typically a boom for gym membership. Thousands of people pumped full of good intentions and extra pounds from the holidays join a gym with visions of weight loss and body tone dancing in their heads. With gusto they shout “On treadmill, on elliptical, on stair stepper, on ab crunch, on cycle class, on aerobics, on diet…melt away, melt away, melt away pounds!” In the majority of cases New Year’s good intentions (resolutions) quickly are overcome by lack of results, time demands, and rationalizations (even the doctors don’t agree on the best weight). Needless to say, as the year goes on, gyms become less full.

Why does this annual cycle happen? In many cases it is a simple matter of a “binge” mentality. People “binge” on exercise, Spartan diets and behavior so diverse than what they are familiar. This “binge” response to a long-held lifestyle is not sustainable. Often, one of two things can happen: 1) Results are not immediate. This lack of real time reinforcement de-motivates the individual so they revert back to the previous lifestyle; 2) Results are immediate. The individual quickly reaches their pre-determine goal. Mission accomplished! They revert back to the previous lifestyle and are soon back where they were prior to the “binge.”

What is needed is “behavior” adjustment, not “binge” activity. The people who determine to make adjustments to their behavior that can be sustained over the course of their life will be the people who see real results. People who make the choice to be “fit for life” will be the people who have a lifestyle that reflects their choice.

Churches can get involved in “binge” activity. They are spiritually stuffed, evangelistically exhausted and discipleship depleted. This has resulted in them having an unhealthy church with a low corporate self-esteem. They seldom venture out into their community as they are ashamed of their appearance. They know this. They need to do something. So what do they do? They “binge!” It is typically on a program (diet & exercise) that did miracles for another church. They get all excited. They buy in fully (get the gym membership). They have visions of church growth and health dancing in their head. But…as with an individual who is unwilling to make the necessary behavior adjustments, the church soon reverts back to their previous corporate lifestyle.

Churches need to make the choice to be “fit for life.” This will demand behavior adjustment, not binge activity. There is a four-fold cycle that churches must engage in to transition into fitness: 1) Dissatisfaction results in 2) Motivation; motivation results in 3) Choices; and the choices manifest themselves in 4) Changes. At any point of the cycle the transition can be derailed.

Dissatisfaction is a one word definition for motivation. If a church is satisfied with itself, if the leadership is content with how it is impacting the community, if the church is complacent with business as usual than nothing will change. Satisfaction is the enemy of change. I had a friend say to me one time, “I am fat. I have always been fat and will always be fat, so I might as well enjoy it.” If this is the attitude of the church nothing will be altered. However, if there is a genuine dissatisfaction transition can happen.

Dissatisfied churches have motivation. They have gotten to a point where they realize something has to give. Change needs to occur. What they have been doing is no longer providing the Kingdom results they desire. Motivation moves a church from sensing change may be good to a desperate realization change must happen. This deep seeded motivation will result in the church making the necessary choices that will manifest themselves in desired change.

What might drive dissatisfaction in a church? Gene Wood in his book, “Leading Turnaround Churches” suggests three factors: 1) Extreme and continued member dissatisfaction; 2) Low corporate morale; 3) Declining or negative bottom lines (e.g. salvations, baptisms, worship attendance).

What is your dissatisfaction factor? New week in the Wave we will explore the choices and changes of the transition cycle.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Three words that inspired a nation. Three words that rallied people to care. Three words that called people to action. Three words that framed a campaign. Three words that motivated a man to an improbable election.

Yes we can! Was the clear, consice message of, now, President Barack Obama. He kept it simple. He kept it clear. He kept it believable. He got people to buy in because they could understand his message. Leaders need to learn from this.

Inspiration comes before implementation. Uninspired people will not implement a plan. Uninspired people will not pay the price change demands. Uninspired people will not believe, act, trust, innovate, persist or hope.

The things needed for us, as a country, to overcome our present challenges needs inspiration. Our new President understands this. He has given us a sense of hope! He has given us the feeling we can win! We can overcome! We can achieve! We can make a difference!

The critics say it is hype. The critics say he lacks substance. The critics say he will never deliver! I am going to choose to believe the critics are wrong.

I like his inspiration. I like his clarity of vision. I like that he stays on message. I like that he refuses to believe that it can't be done. I like his optimism. I like he has seemed to rally the world. I like he knows WE have to do this together.

Might we fulfill the "Yes we can" message? I don't know. But lets give it a go! Why not? Something special has happened today at this inaugation. We best not miss it. Change is coming. We might as well particiapte.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


Tim Tebow is the quarterback of the National Champion Florida Gators. This, however, is not who he is. Who he is is a Christ-follower. And as a Christ-follower he uses opportunities God provides to be his representative. He just happens to have a larger public platform than many.

He, as many players, wears a black strip under his eyes. He, as many players, uses them as a mini billboard. I have seen players use these strips to give props to their home town through the writing of their area code. Some greet their moms with the ever present "Hi Mom."

Tebow chooses to use his a bit differently. During the regular season he emblazoned Phil 4:13 on those black strips. But for the largest of college platforms he wrote John 3:16. According to USA Today (1.15.09) "...for a time that evening, it was the most popularly searched item on Google." Imagine, thousands were discovering how much God loved them as they watched college football.

This is an example of living missionally. Living missionally is our willingness, as Christ-followers, to simply represent Jesus where we are. It is true, most of us won't have the platform of a BCS Championship Game (well, I have many times in my mind), but each of us has places we do have the opportunity to represent him.

II Cor. 5:17ff tells us we are his ambassadors. We have a ministry of reconciliation. We have the wonderful opportunity to be Jesus in our worlds...whatever and wherever those worlds might be. So what will you write on your black eye strip?

Thursday, January 15, 2009


David is giving over the task of building the temple to his son Solomon…the next generation of leader. The temple was David’s dream, but it would not be for him to fulfill. The important thing is that the temple be built (dream fulfilled). What is not important is the one who builds it. It is about the dream not the dreamer.

We need to keep this in mind as we strive to fulfill our God given dream of fulfilling the Great Commission contextualized for our generation. It is the dream of missional churches invading their communities as incarnational representatives of Christ. It is the dream of churches committed to the multiplication of disciples, raising up of leaders and starting missional churches. It is a dream of denominations that that are not centered on corporate survival, but the radical engagement of the culture God has given them responsibility.

How is such a movement driven? How is the core of a movement released to emerging leaders? David’s words to his son Solomon may give some insight to this (I Chronicles 28:9-10, 20).

Leader must get to know God (v9). David challenges Solomon, “…get to know the God of your ancestors…” The movement begins with God. Regardless of generational differences, cultures shifts and leadership paradigms utilized an emphasis on the leader’s relationship with the God of eternity will drive and sustain a movement.

Out of a relationship with God flows worship (v9). David combines both worship and service. “…Worship and serve him….” Worship is not sanitized, it can be very dirty. By this I mean, when we serve in God’s name we worship more fully. Mission is serving in and for the community. We often worship best when we get our hands dirty. Mission is having dirty hands (service), but clean hearts (sanctified).

Leaders must know that God has chosen them (v10). David reminds Solomon, “…The Lord has chosen you….” A movement must be lead by those who know that they know, that they know, that they know God has called them. It is out of a deep sense of “chosen-ness” a leader can be strong in difficult times and do the work regardless of the cost.

A leader’s strength and courage is deep awareness that God is with them (v20). “…the Lord God, my God, is with you…” This is essential to know as often we can be fearful and discouraged by the “…size of the task….”

David spoke into Solomon’s life out of relationship. This is how the leaders of today will best past the missional baton to emerging leaders…in relationship.

Let us re-engage the mission and vision God has given us. Let us continue to give the clarion call of that mission. We must keep things simple. We must challenge ourselves and others to ask how does what they do relate to fulfilling the Great Commission.

I leave you with a Franciscan Blessing shared by Craig Groeschel at the 2008 Leadership Summit:

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.
May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain in to joy.
And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Tony Dungy retired as the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. This guy was quality. What made him that way? Was it his relationship with his players? His ability to connect with the young men he lead into to football combat? His uncanny skill in bringing out the best in his teams without profanity, screaming and over the top emotion? Was it the many current head football coaches (Herm Edwards, Lovie Smith, Mike Tomilson) he mentored? Or was it his commitment to his family?

NO! These were observable evidence of that which made him quality. It was his relationship with Jesus. Not just a verbalized religion, but a genuine deep abiding connection with God through Jesus. He shared this. But more than that he lived it. Bob Kravitz, sports writer for the Indianapolis Star, said it best: "There are people you meet in life who profess great religious faith and then live a hypocritical lie of an existence. And then there is Tony Dungy...."

Yes, then there is Tony Dungy. His quiet strength. His deep reservoir of confidence. His simple trust in God. A trust that carried him through the loss of his son. A trust that kept him steady in the typically ups and downs of a NFL season.

The NFL will go on. The Colts had pre-planned for this day having Associate Head Coach, Jim Caldwell, ready to go. But it will have lost an inspiration in Tony Dungy.

He, too, will go on. He could walk away even though he still could have coached effectively for many more years. But football never defined him, his faith did. And whatever he chooses to do this same faith will define him in that as well.

Monday, January 12, 2009


Today I began my third residency for my DMin. Unfortunately this demands that I spend two weeks in Southern California. So here I am in 80 degree weather, while back home in is, well it is not 80 degrees.

This weather does take some getting use to. When I ran this AM I came across some water on the sidewalk. Seeing it, my initial response was, "I hope this is not slippery. Could be icy." Then I remembered I was in So Cal; and water on sidewalks, in January, does not get icy. WOW! What a thrill to run through standing water with confidence.

I get to wear short sleeves and flip-flops. I would wear shorts too, but my legs...I don't think so! People in Indiana think I have white legs. Those in Southern Cal would have to add another shade to their sunglasses to keep from being completely blinded.

You gotta love it!

Friday, January 9, 2009


Tis the season to begin the play-offs…fa, la, la, la, la, la, la…football! This may not be the best known Holiday song…okay, it is not a holiday song at all, but I really like it. I am a football fan. I have my favorite teams. But I am pretty much about all things football. For me, the Holiday Season does not officially end until the last tick of the Super Bowl clock. To borrow a phrase from George Costanza’s (Seinfeld Show) father, this is my “festivus for the rest of us.”

Football has its own terminology. Commentators and coaches employ phrases that communicate key ideas. One such phrase is “catching the ball in space.” This refers to the receiver getting the ball with room to run and maneuver. The quarterback’s ability to do this allows the receiver to increase their YAC (yards after catch). The offensive team will design plays that will result in this hoped for space.

How do we get the church into space? Is there a way for a church to carve out room to maneuver in culture? Can the church find room to advance the ball (gospel)? In the twenty-first century there are many dynamics crushing in on the church much like defenders crash in our a receiver once the catch is made. What might we do to create space for the church?

Know the primary purpose. The primary purpose of passing the ball is to advance it closer to the goal line. The catch contributes to this but it does not end it. This drives the offensive coordinator to devise plans that will not only get the receiver in position to catch the ball, but also to advance it. The primary purpose for the church is not to have received the gospel message passed through generations, but to advance the cause of the gospel. The mandate is to “go and make” (Matt. 28:19). We receive power not for ourselves, but to tell people everywhere the good news (Acts 1:8).

Understand the environment in which the game is played. The environment of the defensive will dictate the plays that are run. An offensive coordinator may not like the defensive that is being run, but he will do all that is necessary to exploit what is there. The culture in which the church currently resides is not all that church friendly. It is, however, open to spirituality. Church leaders can invest their time complaining how much things have changed. We can bemoan that people don’t seem to be all that interested in Christianity. We can rail against the tolerance so many have for a diversity of religions. Or we can do a better job of understanding the current climate and leverage the heightened interest in spirituality for the Kingdom.

Prepare correctly. It has been said that the will to prepare is more important than the will to win. Preparation is difficult. We need to put in the time to prepare ourselves, our people and our hearts for effective ministry.

Take advantage of unexpected changes. Things change in the course of a game. A defensive back slips; a linebacker gets pitted against a speedier receiver, the weather conditions change. Offensive coordinators are willing to adjust plans to maximize the changes. Churches quickly settle in. They continue to try something that worked previously, but don’t notice the unexpected changes. A church organizational structure becomes more important than the mission. Concentrating on not losing ground takes precedent over gaining ground. Church leaders must pay attention to changes. They must be willing to adjust. They need to overcome the mentality that perceives an adjustment in methods is a compromise of the message.

The church can create space for itself in culture. It will take effort, energy, enthusiasm and engagement. But as we create space the advancement of the ball (gospel) will be increased. We can then track our own stat of TIC (transformation in Christ).

Thursday, January 8, 2009


I am going to have two grandsons in the next five months. Brody is first to arrive in early February with Eli emerging on the scene in early May. I am very excited. I am excited for several reasons: 1) They will be cousins close in age and proximity; 2) Being the same gender they may share a great deal in common; 3) Since they are close in age they will be able to enjoy many of their new experiences together; 4) I get to hang out with them.

I plan to do pretty much whatever I choose as their Pappy. I will, indeed, spoil them. I will give them mostly what they want and give them a bit of wink when they are a bit mischievous. These are all part of the "Pappy Bill of Rights."

Here are few other things I plan on doing:
  • Make them Notre Dame fans. I have already given their parents, for them, Notre Dame baseball hats that match mine. I have had our names stitched on the back of our hats. I also have given then ND booties. My plan is to get them to be committed to ND and trusting that when they are old enough to care...the Fighting Irish will be good at football again.
  • I will take them on a 5k run. First in one of those running strollers. Then, when they are about 5 or 6, have them actually run with me. Way down the road they can push me.
  • I will take them on "Pappy Days" (kind of like Happy Days) at least once per month. These will be days where we will do really fun stuff that their parents may not be real thrilled about (like ice cream for lunch) and I would have never done with their parents...but, again, "Pappy Bill of Rights."
  • We will take slow walks. Exam bugs. Collect stuff. Be silly. Tickle. Roll down hills. Watch clouds. Enjoy cartoons. Do the simple things at a slow pace.
  • I will introduce them to Starbucks, Drive-thrus, movie theaters and shopping malls.
  • We will attend church, see God in everyday things, pray and help them know God loves them even more than Pappy.
  • I will do all I can to teach them tolerance, calmness in crisis, humor in most things, honesty and integrity.

This is not everything we will do, but it is a beginning. And we all have to begin somewhere. Being a Pappy makes sense at this time in my life. Which is it is happening ready or not. But I AM READY!

Oh, yeah, and I like their parents too.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Here it is 2009 and I have not blogged in many a day. But with the New Year comes a new set of “try-solutions.” These are things I am going to, at least, try to do in 2009. One of those is to blog more consistently. So here is my first installment.

I recently read the book Tangible Kingdom. It is written by two guys Hugh and Matt. One of them makes this statement: “If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a trainer and consultant, no one trusts you unless you share your wounds….”

This brought to mind the times I teach, train and consult. In these times I seldom share…my ministry history. Not sure all of them would qualify as wounds, but I did learn some stuff.
When I look back on my ministry assignments I realized how much I learned and how what I learned has impacted how I do what I do, why I do what I do and attitudes I carry.
Here are some quick hits on things I learned. Doesn’t cover everything, but who has the time?

· My ministry journey took me to churches outside my Wesleyan tradition. Lutheran, Presbyterian and others. I discovered that there are genuine Kingdom followers who are not Wesleyan. Many could not become Covenant members in my tradition, but we will see them in Heaven and they genuinely love God.
· I interned @ large church called Skyline. I discovered that most real learning happens informally. Pastor Orville Butcher was the Senior Pastor. He was an icon in his denomination. One evening I was standing chatting with one of the Associate Pastors. Pastor Butcher came up and said, “You two looked like you could use some coffee and a donut. We walked across the street to “Yum, Yum” donut shop. In that informal conversation I received some great ministry insight.
· I ministered in a holiness church in the South in the early eighties. I was the youth pastor. In those days, in the South, we could not go to movie theaters. Many of the kids I worked with kept that “guideline,” but rented all kinds of inappropriate videos (this was way before the DVD). I tried to communicate they were missing the point. It seems Holiness in appearance tends to trump holiness in actuality.
· In my first Solo Pastorate I found enthusiasm helps overcome a lack of experience. Good thing! I had an ample amount of both.
· My first Lead Pastor role was at a church I had been an Associate three years prior. Many people say you can’t go home again. I found you can go home again if everyone knows things have changed.
· In my movement we have District Superintendents. These leaders are key players in all that happens. They oversee anywhere between 25 to 100 churches. I served in this role for a very short time. I found out that the denomination expects way too much from one person and those who function in the role are studs.
· I currently work in a denominational setting. I am finding one of the greatest challenges we have is mistaking the structure for the mission. This can be overcome and we are working to make sure we don’t make this mistake, but it is good for me to remind myself of this battle.

What have you learned? At the beginning of something new is an excellent time to review.