guest blogging

This entry is part 6 of 11 in the series 2011: A look back A look forward

Let’s keep going on this series shall we?  Here’s what I wrote around this time last year:

On that note, it’d be an awesome honor to be invited to be a guest blogger on one of the blogs I read. Dunno if I have anything to offer, but still it’d be cool.

What happened

I still think it’d be an honor to be invited but it didn’t happen.  Well, that’s not entirely correct.  I didn’t get a specific invitation – they have given a general invitation to all their readers to contribute (and get paid too!) – I just haven’t taken them up on it (yet).

What I learned:

Aside from the fact that I’m obviously not as in demand as a writer as I thought I was (sic), this is a good example of waiting for something to happen that needs your involvement to happen.  In other words, there are some things in life that won’t happen until you take steps towards it happening.  Honestly, when I wrote about becoming a guest blogger last year I wasn’t really expecting that I would get invited, it was more of a “it would be cool if..” kind of a statement.  Realistically, if I really wanted to be a guest writer on ChurchCrunch I would have wrote an article and submitted it to them.  They had already extended the invitation.

This made me think, “this is like our relationship with God sometimes”  We pray things like, “Hey God, you know it would be really cool if you took care of my debt and blessed me with wealth” and do nothing.  Sure, God could do amazing things like that, but more often than not he’s waiting for us to act on things he’s already told us to do. In other words,

  • you’re asking for financial blessing – how are you spending and stewarding what you have?
  • you’re asking for a better marriage relationship – what are you contributing to the relationship?
  • you’re asking for increased influence – what are you doing with the influence you already have?
  • you’re asking for a raise – have you been faithfully working in the job you’re doing now?

God parted the Red Sea, but Moses had to lift up the staff first.  God stopped the flow of the Jordan River, but the priests had to walk into it with the Ark of Covenant first.  God knocked down the walls of Jericho, but the worship team had to lead a parade around it first.  God will give you a new nature, and an incredible relationship with him past the end of time, but you have to receive the gift of salvation through Christ first.

What are YOU doing with what you have?

(incidentally, today I read this article by Stephen Furtick that approached this idea from another angle,  he knocks it out of the park!)

being entrepreneurish…

This entry is part 2 of 11 in the series 2011: A look back A look forward

Is that even a word?  If it isn’t, you read it hear first!  Let’s continue the series I started yesterday:

What I wrote last year: As part of paying down our debt I’m going to start trying out different ways of monetizing some of the things I do on the internets.  I’ve already started somewhat by doing some custom work related to my Organize Series Plugin for WordPress but I’m planning on expanding on that by releasing some custom add-on plugins for Organize Series that will not be free.  Along that lines, I’ve been following this discussion on Weblog Tools Collection because it helps me consider how I might go about doing this.  Been thinking about bringing classy ads to my blog too.

What happened:

After a LOT of hard work (much more than I anticipated) and frequent long nights,  OrganizeSeries.com went live in early October.  So far things are going well, not as well as I hoped but nevertheless I’m at least paying for the costs of hosting my websites.  Another great thing that happened along with Organize Series this past year is that I gained some extra freelance work and supplemented my income that way (many thanks to the clients who contacted me and gave me the work!).  Finally, as you’ve noticed probably already – there’s no ads to my blog (yet).

What I learned: Here’s the cool thing.  Organize Series is something I’ve been developing for nearly four years now (before WordPress it was actually a PHPNuke module!!) and I’ve basically honed my skills through working on it.  I love the fact that what had been just a hobby is now turning into a great little business on the side that’s helping my family with some of the financial goals we have.  Organize Series also lead to some great freelance work that I never advertised for or went looking for.  All I had (and still have) is a little option on my contact form for people to express interest in hiring me for development work.

The lesson for me this year is that with a little creativity it is possible to turn a hobby you love doing into something that can bring in an income too.  The bonus, because I love doing web development I VALUE EXCELLENCE in whatever I do, so my clients and Organize Series users can trust that I will work hard for them.

The difficulty of course has been struggling to balance my time with my full-time job (pastoring at a great church in Waterloo), my family, and now my part-time freelancing business and OrganizeSeries.com on the side.  This is something I’ll be continuing to work on in the coming year.

The other lesson is that getting to this level in my development skills and to the point of making money with it did NOT happen over night.  It happened through hard work and learning through lot’s of reading, lot’s of experimenting, and lots of DOING (or in the words of Seth Godin, “shipping it“).  The hard work is WORTH it because it’s something I love to do.  Also, these skills are granting me the ability to do some work for two organizations I really love supporting (more about that in a future post).

So, what hobbies do you have that are making you better at doing something?  Is it something that you can make a little bit of money off of?  Are you doing that now?

The deeper question for my spiritual readers, could it be possible God has given you the love for this activity/hobby because He has something in mind He wants you to use it for?  What are you doing with it?

which has the greater impact?

A while ago I read an interesting article by Miles McPherson on the Catalyst Blog that begins with a great question,

If your church closed down tomorrow, would anyone notice? Would there be a negative impact on your community?

I think every church has a desire to have an impact in their community.  Even the church I work at, has this desire written into our purpose statement.  But it is important to evaluate what kind of impact we are really having. A good start is Mile’s question.

Then, in the article Miles goes on to say the following:

Imagine if people in your congregation were initiating contact with community agencies, building positive relationships, and securing partnerships for the ministry.

He describes how his church has intentionally encouraged their people to volunteer in various community organizations in their city, outside the church walls.  He describes the impact they are making as a result.

Included in the article is a marketing pitch for a resource they are releasing,  but the question Miles asked is the same question I’ve often grappled with.  Is our impact more measurable by the things we do outside the walls of the church or inside the church?  Certainly, we need volunteers to implement all the activities in the church:

  • musicians, singers, sound tech, media operators etc. for worship services
  • ushers, greeters.
  • children’s workers
  • class teachers

I don’t discount their value.  But I wonder, would it be worthwhile to keep things in the church as simple as possible so we can encourage people to have more impact outside the church in the time they have available to give?

Let’s flip this around a bit.  How often does the church berate or complain about people not attending and showing their commitment to church activity and programming when some of those same people are volunteering in the midst of the community we’re called to reach by:

  • serving as coaches, helpers, fundraisers in their sports organizations
  • volunteering at their local schools
  • participating in organizations like, Heart and Stroke foundation, Red Cross etc.
  • participating in a neighborhood association…
  • involved in organizations like the Rotary Club, or other clubs like it…
  • helping out with soup kitchens, homeless shelters

What do you think? How do you see the church of Christ making the biggest impact? How do we get there?

a perspective on the church

About a month ago I read a great post by my friend John Pellowe touching on the whole subject of competition between Christian Ministries.  You should go read it then come back here.  It prompted a comment from me as follows:

I love the position you outline here about competition among ministries and it’s a great suggestion that leaders take the time and make the effort to align their own thoughts on competition.

I echo your thoughts on this. From a church perspective I’ve always thought of things from concentric ‘circles of participation’ perspective using the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 12.

In other words (much better via diagram!):

The first circle: the believers in a local church all each have individual “parts” to play as a part of their local church body.

The second circle: the local churches in a community are all called to their community and have unique role as a part of the Christian church body within that community.

The third circle: The denominations at the national level each have unique roles within the body of the national church of Jesus Christ.

The fourth circle: The national church’s each have unique roles and callings as a part of the worldwide Christian church.

Bottom line: It’s about advancing Kingdom of God business, not a “I’m better than you” mentality.

Ministries, and churches, and Christian charities should always be working to discover, “What is the unique role or calling that God has given us as a part of His body and how can we do the best we can at that WHILE contributing to the work of His kingdom at large in the world?”

As I was writing this comment, I actually had an image of my mind that I was trying to describe.  Recently I came across a great tool that helps communicate that image.  And here it is:

Have you ever given thought to “competition” among Christian churches/ministries? Have you formulated a position about it? Please, share your thoughts as well!

Seth’s Blog: The lesson from two lemonade stands

Some time ago I read this article by Seth Godin,  “ The lesson from two lemonade stands“.  Go read it, then come back here.

For the church – what lemonade stand are we?

  • Are we passing out tracts and telling people the “bridge” story or are we loving people and walking with them to the bridge.?
  • Is it more important to us that people attend or that people encounter?
  • Are people an audience or are they participators?
  • Does tradition trump God’s leading?
  • Does playing it safe to protect what we have trump taking a risk in faith to go where God is?
  • Are we known more for what we take than what we give?
  • Or put another, way – for what we are against than what we are for?

I’ve purposely left the “in between” unfilled in this post.  Hopefully these questions get you thinking as much as they have me and I’d love to hear what you have to say in the comments!  So, what lemonade stand is the church?

Something I’ve been struggling with

Is there ever a good time to lie?  If you ever want to spark an interesting conversation, this is the question to ask.  If I’m honest with you, it’s a question I struggle with and if you’re honest, I think its something you struggle with too.

I always thought the 10 commandments had a “Do not lie” somewhere in there and it does BUT it only says something about not bearing false witness against your neighbor.  In other words, “Don’t lie about something you witnessed your neighbor doing or not doing”.  Kind of narrowing the context in which you must not lie.  But then, lying is listed as one of the six things God HATES in Proverbs 6:16-18. If you lie, you are putting yourself in opposition to God. Ouch.

So I struggle.  I struggle because there are some times where its really easy to be a truth teller. There are other times where its not that difficult to recognize the temptation to lie and resist it.  But then there are the the times…

  • when my wife has come through a grueling day of looking after the kids, doing laundry, cleaning the house AND has supper ready when I come home.  It tastes awful.  She asks me, “Do you like it?” I’m tempted to say, “Delicious”
  • Someone asks me how I’m doing and although I feel cruddy and overextended I’m tempted to say “I’m fine”
  • Or how about all the “polite” things we’ve been trained to say, things like “I’ll/We’ll miss you” when in reality we can’t wait for them to go;  or “Sorry, I’m busy right now” when in reality you’ve got all the time in the world but just don’t want that person to know because you don’t want to help that person; or “I’m looking forward to meeting you” when the truth is you couldn’t care less if you meet them or not.
  • What about answering the question, “so what’s new?”, “uhh, nothing”
  • Oh and what about the message we leave on our answering machines, “Sorry I missed your call…”  Really?

Are there any other lies that you think could be added to that list?  If you were to count how many times you succumb to the temptation of one of these situations, how many times a day would you say you lie?  I’m afraid to count.

But then, acknowledging this is a struggle helps me realize that it’s something that matters to me.  It matters to me that I strive for honesty.  It matters to me, that I recognize the temptation to be less than honest.  It matters to me, that there are times where it would almost seem justifiable to tell one. little. white. lie.

It matters to me, because God matters to me.

And honesty matters to Him.

That’s why I’m grateful for His grace.

At the focal point of history…

I read an interesting article a couple weeks ago about a little known guy named Ron Wayne who is actually one of the founders of Apple Computers.   You can read the article for the details on his story but it was fascinating to read some of the comments from this guy who sold away his 10% Apple Stock back in 1976 for $800.  That same stock would be worth about $22 billion today.  Yeah, that’s what I thought, wow.  But notice what the guy has to say,

  • “Well, I’m one of the founders of Apple Computer”
  • “I’m living off my Social Security and I do a modest trade in collectors’ stamps and coins”
  • “What can I say? You make a decision based on your understanding of the circumstances, and you live with it”
  • “We did get fairly chummy, had lunch together, dinner together and had conversations,” (about his relationship with Steve Jobs back then).
  • “What Jobs had in mind was that he and Woz [as Wozniak is sometimes called] should each have 45 percent and I would have 10 percent as mediator in any dispute that would come up,”
  • In talking about the growth of the company and the risks Steve and Woz were taking, “I could see myself getting into this situation again, and I was really getting too old for that kind of thing,…” (Ron had been unsuccessful at a slot-machine manufacturing business around this time)
  • “The way these guys were going, they were going to bulldoze through anything to make this company succeed. But it was going to be very rough ride, and if I wasn’t careful, I was going to be the richest man in the cemetery.”
  • [I’m] “…enamored with money as anybody else.”
  • “But when you’re at a focal point of history, you don’t realize you’re at a focal point of history,”
  • “I never had a real use for computers,”

Some interesting statements from a guy who because of  decision missed on a huge payoff.  All in all it looks like he’s not dwelling on it too much (although I wonder how much of his gambling is driven by a sense of loss for what could have been). In hindsight, it’s always easy to say “If I only knew then what I know now…”  How often do you find yourself saying that statement?  That’s why the blurb spoken by Ron that I bolded above really stood out to me.  The big moments in life – the crucial junctures, the “focal moments in history” where a decision could have a huge impact are not always so obvious.

Too often people avoid risk because they are focusing only on what they might lose.  Maybe justifiably.  After all, Ron already had the experience of failing in business and didn’t want to experience it again.

People avoid risk because they want to protect themselves from loss.  The risk takers, those who jump, are those who have focused on what can be gained, not lost.  That’s not to say they don’t consider what might be lost.  But what convinces them to GO is the crazy idea that it might actually work, that something might happen, that change will result.  Previous failures don’t intimidate them, they just learn from them and take what they learned in the next venture.

Here’s the thing, we will never know that we were at the “focal point of history” until after the fact.  The question then is this.  Is it possible that that decision you are facing personally, that decision you are facing as a leader, or as a church or other organization is one of those HISTORY making moments?

Is quitting, or cashing out because of the potential loss going to cost you more than the potential gain?

(Anything else that you want to add after reading this article? Feel free to comment below!)

(Oh, and by the way the picture with this post is a representation of the story of the apostle Peter stepping out of his boat to walk on water to Jesus.  You can read the story in Matthew 14:22-33. For some reason its a biblical story that came to mind when I was writing this post – I wonder why….)