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….)

#PAOCGENCONF2010 – Thoughts and Review

This entry is part 7 of 7 in the series PAOC General Conference 2010

As promised here are some wrap-up thoughts (albeit I got this published a bit later than I originally intended!) on the 2010 PAOC General Conference that I had the privilege of attending this year.  I’m so grateful for the opportunity granted to me by my church family that made it possible for my wife and I to go – it was our first ever General Conference in the 14 years that I’ve been a PAOC Pastor.

Overall, there are really two “themes” that kind of impacted me the most in all the things I heard and experienced at this conference.  There was nothing really groundbreaking or life-changing for me but it was more of a reinforcement of the things I’ve learned in ministry and a reminder of the importance of them.

1. The importance of working together in relationship in the Kingdom

The message was loud and clear this conference – what we accomplish together is far greater than what we’d accomplish individually.  Whether that is on the denominational level (i.e. supporting national initiatives or missions internationally), or the local level (working with others in our cities) there was a renewed emphasis on keeping the relationship strong in everything we do.

Another aspect of this is recognizing that a large part of who we are is made up by the people that God has put into our life that we have cultivated relationships with.  There was a great reminder (especially by Gordon Franklin) to remember to thank those who invested into our lives.  I’ve had time to reflect on that and I would have to say five of the individuals that had the greatest impact on me in terms of how they intentionally invested in me as a person are:

  • My Mom:  She showed the power of believing in you as a person.  She never stopped believing in what was possible for my sister and I and demonstrated that by her willingness to take the time necessary to take us and get us wherever we needed to go in all the different things we were involved in growing up.  Mom always had this to say to my sister and I, “You CAN do it”.
  • My Dad:  My Dad instilled me the value of hard work and doing things right the first time.  I’ll always remember the times (now fondly but then I hated it) when Dad would make me do something over again because I didn’t give it my best and cut corners to get it over with.
  • My Grade 7 and 8 English Teacher Mrs. Mclean:  Under her tutelage I gained an even greater love for books and creative writing.  She challenged me and gave me freedom to think creatively, write and speak creatively.  I remember being able to choose my homework rather than having to stick to the curriculum because she believed I would do greater things with that freedom.  And I did.
  • My Youth Pastor, “Barry Risto”.  At a difficult time of my life, Barry was one of the first people to show me I had leadership potential and I attribute much of my being in full-time ministry to his encouraging words and Godly example.
  • My friend and mentor, Merv Brockwell: Merv was the second Senior Pastor I worked with and under him I grew incredibly as a leader.  He also imparted to me the confidence to eventually lead a church.  Further, without Merv’s influence in my life there was a time when I might have left full-time minsitry.

There are many others, friends, and people who God used in particular moments. To many to list here.  But those five I’ve listed above are the first that come to mind when I think of who has had the most impact in my life.

2. The importance of investing in and releasing the next generation.

As leaders it is always important to be thinking not only of who you are leading but also who you are releasing to lead.  This means that leaders need to be intentional about investing in the next generation.  As Wayne Cordeiro put it, “What cage are you tapping on?” – a very powerful image (follow link to get context).  This investment must be intentional and will require time to be of greatest effectiveness.

Ed Stetzer also reinforced this theme when he drove home the importance of the church equipping people for ministry.

Personally I was really challenged as a leader to think about who I am investing in, and who I am actively equipping to be a future leader.

The questions for you are, “Who has impacted you by virtue of your relationship to them?” and second, “Do you have someone from a generation after you that you are investing in?”

#PAOCGENCONF2010 – Ed Stetzer

This entry is part 6 of 7 in the series PAOC General Conference 2010

Sorry for the delay in making these posts folks.  Here’s my notes from the final session at the 2010 PAOC General Conference.  Ed Stetzer was the speaker and I was really looking forward to hearing him speak because I’ve been a reader of his blog for quite a while.  Sometime this week I’ll write the final post in this series where I’ll sum up my thoughts and observations from my experience at this years General Conference.  Remember the notes below may or may not be verbatim.

The title of Ed’s message was, “Mobilizing all God’s people on Mission” (1 Peter 4:10-11)

1. All have gifts…

  • Everyone should use it to serve others
  • we need to teach people that the gospel involves knowledge AND ACTION
  • church is more than a theatrical show it is a team sport
  • 1 Cor. 12:7 “7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”
  • God gives gifts for the common good
  • we need to lead more differently so people can engage God’s mission more faithfully

#PAOCGENCONF2010 – Wayne Cordeiro (Mini-Plenary)

This entry is part 5 of 7 in the series PAOC General Conference 2010

I attended the breakout session with my lead pastor (Marshall Eizenga) to hear Wayne Cordeiro again.  Wayne expanded further on what he had talked about the previous evening in the general session.  Really. Good. Stuff.   Here are the notes I took:

Whose cage are you tapping and who is pacing you right now?

  • you will never have wholeness in a church with broken relationships.
  • if staff or volunteers come into your office and they don’t make your heart leap ask why!
  • make sure relationships are good and healthy.
  • if you don’t have healthy relationships no program will work because everyone will sabotage it.
  • if you are a repenting man you will be a healthy man
  • healthy churches still have problems but they deal with them quickly.
  • Luke 1 when you have healthy relationships the Holy Spirit can move. And He doesn’t need you!
  • healing requires health – if you tolerate brokenness forget about the healing!
  • God’s word says without knowledge my people perish.
  • We always want to make sure what we do is biblical

#PAOCGENCONF2010 – Wayne Cordeiro

This entry is part 3 of 7 in the series PAOC General Conference 2010
Dr. Wayne Cordeiro is senior pastor of New Hope Christian Fellowship in Honolulu, Hawaii.  I was really looking forward to hearing his message – and I was not disappointed!   Remember,  for the first few posts in this series I’m just posting the raw notes – in the last post of this series I will summarize my thoughts on everything I heard/experienced at the General Conference this year. Here are the notes I took from that night.

  • “There is something about vibrant Christians when they are brand new.”
  • 1500 ministers are leaving ministry every month.  What is being to replace those who leave?
  • the whole story of the Old Testament is passing the baton of faith contextually from one generation to the next.
  • remember God has chosen people and placed them in the times where they live.
  • races (relay) are won or lost in the passing of the baton.
  • when you are passing the baton – for a season you need to run together.
  • It just takes a moment to pass the baton but it takes 5 to 7 years to pass the heart of that baton

Going Beyond

I was just reading about American Shaun White’s gold medal run on the halfpipe on Monday and there’s one thing that stands out to me about his performance:  after securing a gold medal with his first run he went all out in his second.

He didn’t have to.

He could’ve just walked down the pipe for his second run and still would’ve won.

He could’ve sat on his snowboard and whooped it down the course, and still would’ve got the gold.

His coach even suggested to him to take it easy on the second run. Sound advice, after all there’s no sense in risking any injury.

But Shaun decided to go beyond that.  Not only that, Shaun performed the most difficult trick ever invented for the pipe (even the name of the trick is intimidating – Tomahawk).

This got me thinking.  How often do we settle for a win and glory in the win and even celebrate the win in our own lives and then decide that’s all we need to do?

When we:

  • get saved (a HUGE WIN) and stop growing.
  • go on a missions trip and help a bunch of people and then just show pictures when we get home.
  • give money to Haiti and then forget about it.
  • participate and serve in an event that helps all kinds of people and then don’t follow up with those helped people after the event (someone else will do it)
  • successfully complete a goal we’ve been aiming for and then fail to aim for something higher/better.

What could you add to the list in your life?  Shaun gives us a great challenge to go beyond.

[image from flickr user: TylerIngram]

Raising the Value of Volunteers

One of the things I’ve chosen to work on as part of the staff at my church is raising the profile of volunteers and developing ways for people to find on-ramps to serving in our church.  Any person doing this will tell you that it’s not an easy task.  Still it’s one I relish in tackling because I love seeing people discover their “fit” and living in it.

Some time ago I came across an interview Tony Morgan conducted with Ritchie Miller, the senior pastor of Avalon Church in McDonough, Georgia.  Tony writes that,

Of all the churches I’ve worked with in the last number of months, Avalon has the highest percentage of people serving in volunteer roles.

A little bit later, Ritchie gave the stats that show this:  Their weekly attendance average for 2009 is 1,419 and of that attendance they have 602 active adult volunteers (which does not include the middle and high school volunteers). So of course, I wanted to read what Ritchie had to say about volunteers.  Here’s some takeaways from this interview as Ritchie discussed what he believes are the reasons for such a high volunteer rate (Ritchie’s points are italic – the rest are my thought’s):

  • It’s a part of their discipleship strategy:  They “simply expect people to serve as a volunteer in ministry”.  In other words, being a disciple isn’t just about sitting and learning facts about the Bible.  I agree here.  Making disciples has to have a big emphasis on the growth that comes from doing ministry (not just participating).  One way I hope to implement this is by providing opportunities for people to be matched up with a “coach” who will work with them in discovering areas that they could serve and then trying it out. The coach would solicit feedback on the experience and help people discover a better fit if the first didn’t work out.
  • We talk about it a lot – If it’s not communicated (and frequently at that) then people aren’t going to get that you volunteers are valued.  One of the ways I hope to ramp up communication about volunteers at my church is by highlighting stories of volunteers who are in ministry.  These stories will be told via web, via print and video –  but more importantly from the pulpit as well.
  • We keep it simple – That’s a challenge in a established and bigger church. However, one of the activities our staff are currently engaged in is evaluating the effectiveness and necessity of our existing ministries.  This is because we want to focus our energies on the things that we know God has called us to do as a church and are proving effective in fulfilling His vision for us.  Ultimately,  we want to offer opportunities to volunteer with things that matter.
  • We try to keep easy entry points into ministries – This year we made the effort to have a clear job description for every ministry position in the church highlighting all the kinds of things that would help people better match to a position (spiritual gifts, talents, abilities that would make a good fit etc.).  All these ministry descriptions will be made accessible to those looking for a place to serve using a online matching tool as well as by coaches that will be trained to help people find an area to serve.  I also want to develop a “open opportunities” page of some sort on our website that people can see some of the available ministries they can volunteer in.
  • We emphasize the recruitment process  –  Everyone needs to be involved in the recruitment of volunteers.  In my opinion, some of the best recruitment potential can come from among the volunteers themselves.  If volunteers love what they are doing and have opportunity to share their story, others will want to be involved.
  • We try to keep it fun – Every year we hold a volunteer appreciation dinner where we celebrate the volunteers at our church.  Another thing that makes volunteering fun is making sure to celebrate the AWESOME things God does through the volunteers.  This is something I hope to do more of.

Finally, it’s worth repeating what Ritchie says will motivate people to give their time:

  1. …when it is clear how they can get involved
  2. …when it is clear what the value is.
  3. …when they feel like they are making a difference.
  4. …when you celebrate with them.

I learned some great things about valuing volunteers from this interview.  Go ahead and read the whole thing -> and let me know what you think here.

A Powerful Leader’s Four…

Four Fingers

[credit: Looking Glass]

A great leader does four things and does four things well (by the way, I’m not saying this is all that a great leader does!).

Inspire

For some this comes naturally – the ability to inspire others by what is said but even more by what that leader does.  For other leaders it comes with HARD work (and I think I would fall in that category!!).  A great leader inspires people to do great things.  Of course, I happen to believe that for Christian leaders, what makes us inspiring is the work of  the Holy Spirit in our lives.  It is Jesus, who inspires us and through us inspires others.  When as a leader you are passionately following Jesus and His word then in turn there will be others inspired to do the same.

This reminds me of something else, as a leader, it matters who you follow.  Number two,

Invite

Great leaders don’t just share a vision, or promote a cause, or work in a vacuum.  They invite people to the journey.  They invite people to be a part of the movement.  They invite people to the cause.  They invite people to follow where the leader is heading.  They invite people to use their gifts, to use their abilities, to give of themselves.  Great leaders recognize that great things are never going to be accomplished by them alone.

  • Jesus was a great leader because He inspired and then He invited.  He said, “Come, follow me”. (Of course, Jesus didn’t need anybody to accomplish His mission.  God doesn’t require others in order to accomplish His work.  BUT He chooses to involve people in His plan and invites participation!  Incredible!
  • The apostle Paul gave an invitation to the Corinthian church when He wrote, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”  (1 Corinthians 11:1, NIV)
  • John F. Kennedy gave a powerful invitation to the American people in his famous speech, “…ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country” and then to the citizens of the rest of the world, “…ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”
  • What other invitations from great leaders can you think of?

Now its important to realize that not everyone will accept the invitation! But the great leader doesn’t let that stop them from extending it any and every opportunity they get.

Equip

Some leaders invite but then stop there.  They wonder why people get tired, burn out and run out of gas.  Some leaders have trouble understanding why people they’ve invited aren’t sticking it out.  Great leaders know that they it’s not just about inviting, but also equipping people for what they’ve been invited to.  Great leaders say, “come join me on this journey,  here’s what we’re going to do to GROW”  Great leaders identify resources and experiences that will equip the people they’ve invited.

Finally, the one thing that ultimately adds the greatness to powerful leaders is that they always…

Release

Great leaders recognize that they must release people to do what they’ve been inspired from, invited to, and equipped for.  Without this, leaders don’t reproduce, and when there is no reproduction there is no increase, no growth.  Organizations grow when there is a multiplication of leaders.  Organizations die when there is only one “leader”.  Great leaders, powerful leaders know that visions become reality when people are released to accomplish things that the leader could do but won’t do because there’s an opportunity for another leader to be launched.

Four things: Inspire, Invite, Equip, and Release.   In the great leaders that have had influence in my life I have seen these four things at work and am striving to include them in my own leading.  What do you think of this list?  Is there anything you’d modify or add?

ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

Sensitivity masking the real problem

In “Reflections of the Psalms” (chapter 2), C.S. Lewis writes:

Did we pretend to be ‘hurt’ in our sensitive and tender feelings (fine natures like ours are so vulnerable) when envy, ungratified vanity, or thwarted self-will was our real problem? Such tactics often succeed. The other parties give in. They give in not because they don’t know what is really wrong with us, but because they have long known it only too well, and that sleeping dog can be roused, that skeleton brought out of its cupboard, only at the cost of imperilling their whole relationship with us. It needs surgery which they know we will never face. And so we win; by cheating. But the unfairness is very deeply felt. Indeed what is commonly called ‘sensitiveness’ is the most powerful engine of domestic tyranny, sometimes a lifelong tyranny. How we should deal with it in others I am not sure, but we should be merciless to its first appearances in ourselves.

As a leader one of the biggest hurdles I experience is dealing with “sensitive” people.  The kind of people that if you say something that needs to be said in the wrong way, or neglect to say or do something that they feel should be done or said they pull out their “wounded” card and go all “woe is me” on you.  Having these kind of people on your team kills productivity and forward momentum.  But that’s not the topic of this post.  No, what about you?  As a leader, are you this person? How do you know?

  • Are you constantly worried about what people will think about you?
  • Do you get jealous when others you know get the raise or recognition you want?
  • Do you secretly gloat when a well-known leader in that big organization down the road fails in some way?
  • Do you mope and pout a lot when you don’t get your way?
  • Do you find it hard to take criticism?  Do you always have an excuse when someone points out an area you need to improve in?
  • Do you think the world is out to get you?
  • Are you peeved when someone doesn’t give you the recognition you feel you deserve?
  • Do you always have an idea for how a leader in authority over you could do things better (and can’t believe no one else agrees!)?
  • Is there a list of wrongs done to you stored away somewhere in your memory that you pull up when someone does something you don’t like?
  • Do you keep a scorecard on how you compare to others on your team or in your organization?
  • Do you keep a tally of the accolades you receive from others not as a source of encouragement but as a cache of ammo to use against others who would dare to challenge your viewpoint, the way you do something, or the choices you make?
  • Are you rarely wrong?
  • When someone you know walks by you without greeting you or looking at you do you immediately assume they have some problem with you?
  • Do you always have to have the last word?

If you answer yes then as Lewis says, be merciless to it!  Root it out.  Get rid of it.  Stop being so dang sensitive!  Otherwise you will suck the life out of what you lead.

Catalyst Day Two wrapup – Andy Stanley

This entry is part 8 of 9 in the series Catalyst 2009

The last speaker I want to share about from my Catalyst experience was Andy Stanley.  He was the first speaker for Catalyst and the one that wrapped things up.  Andy talked about cultivating a healthy staff culture.  Why?  Because,

Your church and your church culture should be the healthiest organizational culture in your city.

Here’s what Andy said it takes to creat a healthy staff:

Healthy people are attracted to healthy cultures.

Andy talked about the gap between what we expect of people and what they actually do and that ultimately we choose what goes in those gaps.  His emphasis was on the reality that our choice for those gaps will shape the culture of our organization.  The choices?  Assume the worst or believe the best.   Each of those choices have a powerful affect on the direction of organization culture.

According to Andy, there are two things that make it difficult for us to believe the best,  “What I see” and “Who I am”.  If someone consistently brings poor quality stuff to the table then you will always assume the worst.  Also, what you have experienced in terms of personal hurt or betrayal will influence what you choose for the gap.

The thing is, as Andy puts it, developing a culture of trust is critical to the health and success of your organization. Why?

  • Trust fuels Productivity – (the message of trust: I think you are smart enough to know what to do and how to do it).
  • Trust attracts trustworthy people and quickly surfaces those who AREN’T  (You will never know who you can’t trust until you trust them and you will never know who you can trust until you trust them.  Also, I liked this statement: Trusting is risky. Refusing to trust is riskier!
  • Trust enables an organization to move FASTER

Here’s a quote from Reggie McNeal that Andy shared,

Teams use trust as currency. If it is in short supply, then the team is poor. If trust abounds, the members of the team have purchase power with each other to access each other’s gifts, talents, energy, creativity, and love. The development of trust, then, becomes a significant leadership strategy.

The next point Andy made is that, developing a culture of trust BEGINS with the leader.

  • Trust and suspicion are both telegraphed from the leader throughout an entire department or organization.
  • When you can’t choose to trust, you must choose to confront (concealed suspicion poisons the entire relationship – the moment there is suspicion about a person’s motives, everything he does becomes tainted *Mahatma Ghandi)  The consequences of confrontation are far less severe than the consequences of concealment.
  • To develop a culture of trust, leaders must be trustworthy.

To bring it all together Andy wrapped up by saying cultivating healthy organizational culture requires five commitments:

1. When there is a gap between what I expected and what I experienced, I will BELIEVE the best.

2. When other people assume the worst about you, I will come to your DEFENSE

3. If what I experience begins to erode my trust, I will come directly to you about it.

4. When I’m convinced I will not be able to deliver on a promise, I will inform you AHEAD of time.

5. When you confront me about the gaps I’ve created, I will tell you the truth.

Here’s some questions Andy left us with to help evaluate this in our own organization.  What answers would you give?

1. Are there people in your organization you have a difficult time trusting?

2. Is it your issue or theirs?

3. What can you do about your part?

4. What do you need to address with them about their part?

5. Who do you sense has a difficult time trusting you?

6. Why?

7. What can you do about it?

For another great write up of Andy’s talk see Kent Schaffer’s, “Andy Stanley on Creating a Healthy Work Culture“.  I’m coming close to the end of my notes on Catalyst.  There’s one more post I’ll be writing up on some of the fun stuff I saw at Catalyst.  Stay tuned!