Catalyst Day Two – Chuck Swindoll

This entry is part 7 of 9 in the series Catalyst 2009

At Catalyst, Chuck Swindoll received the lifetime achievement award and was well recognized by the nearly 13,000 people in attendance.  It was a treat to get to hear what this Godly man had to share.   First up, he shared the TOP TEN LEADERSHIP LESSONS IN 50 YEARS OF MINISTRY.  The 10 lessons are from Chuck but the stuff in between are what I thought of with each lesson (which may or may not correspond with what Chuck shared. I’ve got to admit – when he mentioned each of these lessons my brain and heart were sparked with all kinds of insights…)

1. It’s lonely to lead

Yes it is. Why is this the case?  Because a true leader will sometimes make decisions that no one else understands but himself.  Also, a leader will often, by virtue of leadership, be out in front of those following.  Out in front is lonely.  However, while this is true – it is also why it is paramount that a leader doesn’t get stuck in his loneliness.  Good leaders will find others to grow with.  Good leaders will find ways to stave off the loneliness – recognizing that it comes but also staying out the the quicksand of its grip.

2. It’s dangerous to succeed

Why?  Because success can get to your head and the ego can become like the Hindenburg disaster.  Success may also prevent a leader from growing if they let it breed arrogance.

3. It’s hardest at home

And so it is.  Yet it is also the most important at home.  If a leader isn’t leading well at home then eventually that will be mirrored in wherever else they lead.  Character may be displayed out in the world but it is nurtured and fed at home.

4. It’s essential to be real.

This is a biggie. I really struggle with this one because if I’m honest I don’t want people to know the “real” me!  I don’t want people to know my failings, my weaknesses, my disabilities, or my inabilities.  Yet, I have found that the more real I am, the more impact I have as a leader.  Realness is not just about transparency but it is also about genuineness.  Do you love as much as you say you love?  Do you really care as much as you claim to care?  Are you really passionate about what you say is important?  Are you a good faker?  Your answers to those questions really indicate how genuine you are.

5. It’s painful to obey

Not only is it painful, but its also transforming.  There is blessing in obedience – but often, as a leader, the blessing isn’t seen before obeying but rather after.  Obedience as a leader is painful because often the leader is being asked to obey in something that other people may not have been asked because the leader must go there first.

6. Brokenness and failure are necessary

Necessary, that is,  for the formation of good leaders.  Good leaders rise out of the ashes of broken dreams and failed plans because they don’t die there.  Good leaders learn and grow from the brokenness, and the failure.  Brokenness also applies to the passion which calls a leader to leadership.  Brokenness is the adjective that describes one’s heart wrench.  It compels the leader to be the agent of change for that which is broken.  Read carefully, a leader that isn’t broken or hasn’t failed is just a seed that’s still in the package.

7. My attitude is more important than my actions.

Oh yes.  Really, it’s attitude that directs actions.  You can go and stick 40 sticks in the ground to replace a bunch of logs that were cut down or you can plant 40 saplings to replenish a forest.  It’s attitude that makes the difference.  Is what I’m doing a job or a calling?

8. Integrity eclipses image.

This lesson seems a lot like lesson number four but really it deserves being emphasized.  Integrity is something that is invested in for the long haul for the prize of character.  Image is something that is invested in for the short trip of fame.  The thing about image is its like sand.  It gets blown away easily.  Integrity on the other hand is like rock – it’s solid.  However, it’s not indestructible.  Without care integrity can be blown up just as easily as dynamite blows up rock.  But if you recognize the dynamite before the fuse is lit then it can be preserved.  Image? The fuse is already lit the moment you play with it.  The thing is, you can’t escape image.  But the image integrity builds MATTERS and LASTS, and MAKES A DIFFERENCE.

9. God’s way is better than my way

If only I would never forget this.  But sadly I do.  I suspect its a lesson that a lot of us have to relearn at times.  If this statement is true (and I believe it is) then it might be a good idea to always, always, always seek out God’s way wouldn’t it?

10. Christ-likeness begins and ends with humility

Why is this so?  I’m not going to start on a lesson about humility there – it’s been covered pretty well.   Humility is (are? that’s a tricky grammar construct) the bookends for Christ-likeness because you can’t be full of Christ if you are full of yourself.  Humility in a leader is the open door to Christ’s work in the leaders life.  Humility opens the valve of a leader’s heart to the flowing work of the Holy Spirit in his life.  Humility is the lightning rod that collects the transforming power of God’s Word in what the leader does.  Yes, humility is important!  How apt that Chuck would reference the following scripture,

You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.  – 2 Corinthians 4:5-7 (NLT)

Chuck had a few other things he shared as well, a foundational principle (we must be willing to leave the familiar methods without disturbing the biblical message) and a bonus “Three important observations” about ministry.   Then he ended with “five statements worth remembering during your next 50 years in leadership which are worth recording so I’ve included them here:

1. WHATEVER you do, do more with others and less alone.

2. WHENEVER you do it, emphasize quality not quantity.

3. WHEREVER you go, do it the same as if you were among those who know you best.

4. WHOEVER may respond, keep a level head.

5. HOWEVER long you lead, keep on dripping with gratitude and grace.

There was a lot of leadership juice that got poured into my life in the 50 minutes or so Chuck spoke!  If you want to read what others had to write about this session check out:

Catalyst Day One – Rob Bell

This entry is part 4 of 9 in the series Catalyst 2009

Rob Bell was the first catalyst speaker to begin his session by opening in prayer.  I’m not saying that is necessarily a fault of all the other speakers but it WAS something that stood out for me.  It was an invitation for the Holy Spirit to be at work in and through him as he spoke to us and I do believe God answered his prayer.

Here’s a few things that stood out for me:

I was recently talking to a pastor who said he wanted to quit…. So I asked him to draw a pie chart of what he does every week. He had been a pastor for a year and wanted to quit every day…. So I asked if he practiced Sabbath.

Umm  yeah, there was silence in the auditorium after that statement.  Funny thing is, this isn’t the first time it’s been said or asked.  There’s gounds of speakers and writers that have promoted the teaching of the sabbath and yet when Rob asked that question you could still feel the conviction in the room.  I know I make my best effort to take my day off as my day off but lately I’ve been slipping on that.  When you skip the sabbath, then motivation and energy skips you.  Sabbath is important.

Is bigger better?

Another simple question that really we all know the answer to (well at least we know what the answer should be!) but once again by posing this simple question Rob unveiled an attitude that still needs dealt with.  Rob shared from John 6 where Jesus gave some expectations and some people chose to leave; he shared from Luke 21 about the story of the widow who gave all she had vs. the rich people who gave much but really were giving little.  What a paradox that in the eyes of Jesus what was more really wasn’t more and what was less was actually more.  The way God measures things isn’t the way we measure things!

Something else that stood up for me was when Rob started sharing about the 10 commandments (Exodus 20).  He highlighted that the first 9 commandments all deal with external things.  Things that if not followed provide ample easy evidence of them not being followed.  However, the 10th commandment is internal – there’s really no way for anybody to know whether someone has broken that commandment (outside of God that is!).  Here was Rob’s point, the 10th commandment is a “reward” – what that means is that if you follow the first 9 rules then you won’t have a problem with the 10th because you won’t want anyone else’s life!  You will be completely enthralled with the life God has given you in Him.

Another statement that really impacted me:

If you have a burden of feeling like you have not accomplished enough, God wants to set you free from that. Jesus wants you to simply enjoy the place that you are at and the work that is in front of you.

If I’m honest with myself this is one area that I really need to be set free from.  I’m a perfectionist.  I’m the kind of guy that when I get started on something important (or at least what I think is important) I tackle it like a bulldog and won’t let go.  Part of the reason I’m that way is because I have always had this niggling little thought in the back of my mind that I haven’t accomplished enough.  There’s always something else I need to do.  When Rob said this I almost started bawling.  The Holy Spirit did something significant in my life through that statement as I released that burden.  It’s a statement that’s going to stick with me for a long time and I’m sure something that I’ll be reminding myself in the days ahead as I’m tempted to take up that thought again.

Another area that really hit home was this statement:

Our children pick up on what really matters to us without us saying a word.

To really grasp the significance of what that means Rob set it up by asking the following questions,

Does your spouse get your very best, or does your spouse get what is left over from the church? Do your kids get your very best, or do they get the scraps?

Ouch!  Again, you could feel the conviction in the air and once again I felt the lock fall off the gate between what I knew in my mind and what I felt in my heart.  It forced me to recognize the scraps I’ve been feeding my family.  And it created a determination in me for that to stop.  It forced me to shudder at what my kids think what really matters to me.  And it challenged me to change that.

There has been much controversy over some of the things Rob Bell has said and written, but in this session God spoke through him and hit me to the core.  Do any of these statements or questions impact you?

For more perspectives on Rob Bell’s session you can check out:

Catalyst Day One – Malcolm Gladwell

This entry is part 3 of 9 in the series Catalyst 2009

Malcolm Gladwell is the author of The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers, talked about the danger of overconfidence at his catalyst session.  I found it hard to hear most of his session but there were a few things that stood out for me:

Incompetence irritates me, but overconfidence scares me. Incompetent people rarely have the opportunities to make mistakes that greatly affect things. But overconfident leaders and experts have the dangerous ability to create disaster.

How much disaster could be averted if leader’s didn’t get so overconfident?  A scriptural parallel to this might be King Saul, or even King David and his decision to conduct a census of the number of men able to fight in Israel (disobeying God in the process).

In times of crisis we don’t need bold and daring decision making from our leaders we need bold humility!

Reggie Joiner joined the stage and had two questions for Malcolm.   In his answers, Malcolm revealed that the primary warning sign of overconfidence is when you stop listening to others (incidentally, this reminded me very much of a chapter I read in Andy Stanley’s book, “Principle of the Path” a really good read).  Malcolm also made the statement that when a leader can no longer do everything all by himself, he has to change.  When a leader’s growth reaches a certain point, he has to change. He presented the idea (probably not a new idea but nevertheless) that leadership has to become more collective.

For more on what others have said on this session see:

Catalyst Day One – Getting Things Started and Andy Stanley

This entry is part 1 of 9 in the series Catalyst 2009


Well today was the first day of Catalyst.  Since this is my first year there everything is new to me.  And everything was WOW for me.  They really don’t spare any change in making this an unforgettable event.  At least I know now why the tickets are so much…

Anyway, today was a day full of incredible stuff that challenged, some stuff that was controversial and some holy moments too.  When trying to think, of a way to describe what Catalyst has been for me so far this is what I’ve come up with

What catalyst does is mix your mind and your heart together and adds a good helping of holy getupanddosomething

Yeah, that good.

One disappointment with catalyst was the unreliability of the wifi – I was really hoping to blog during the day so I wouldn’t have these late night posting sessions but it looks like I wasn’t alone in this.  Many of the official bloggers of catalyst were unable to get any kind of wifi connection either with both the in house arena wifi and at&t not playing nicely.  Still, blogs are getting written!  If I come across any I’ll post them at the end of each post I make on Catalyst.

What I’ve decided to do is write each post in a series so that they’re all linked together.  For each speaker I’m just going to write about the one (or maybe two) things that impacted me the most out of what they spoke.  I’ll also post links that I’m aware of at the time of posting to other coverage about that speaker. I’m not going to be writing a post on every speaker, partly because there are some that I just didn’t listen to (because I skipped out early to check out booths without the crowd swarm) and some I just didn’t hear (because I wear hearing aids and have tinnitus and my prayer for close captioning doesn’t get answered…one day! One day.)  Oh, and I should mention, if you’re following Catalyst you really need to bookmark Visit it and you’ll know why

A few remarks I’d like to make about the beginning of the event.  A woman (sorry, my recognizant abilities are not great) opened up catalyst with an amazing Hallelujah moment and of course FEEBAND came out ROCKING the house with some awesome worship.  I’ve read about this band and now I know why people around here love them.  I’m SOOOO glad the Catalyst package included some free downloads of their music!

Andy Stanley was the first speaker.  He shared from Joshua 5:13-15 and here was the biggest takeaway for me.

It’s really not about who’s for you or against you – it’s really about who you are for.

In other words, are you, am I willing to submit my skills, abilities, opportunities, my person to God and His bigger story?  God was in effect saying to Joshua, “I have not come to be a part of what YOU are doing.  I want YOU to become a part of MY story!”

When Joshua was near the town of Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and demanded, “Are you friend or foe?”
“Neither one,” he replied. “I am the commander of the Lord ‘s army.”

Joshua 5:13-14

The commander of the Lord’s army answered, “Neither”.  Why?  Because it’s not about who’s your friend or who’s your foe.  It’s about who you are for.  Are you for God and His plan?  Is He Lord over your life?  Are you wanting His mark to be made through you or are you just wanting to make your piddly little mark?

Andy said that there is a statement on his Dad’s wall that has always stuck out with him – “God takes full responsibility for the life wholly devoted to Him”

Andy really hit home as he finished with this:

You need to settle once and for all why you do what you do and who your doing it for…Living to make my mark is to small a thing to give my life to…so, let’s give our lives to leaving His mark!

What a challenge!  And how liberating!  You don’t have to concern yourself with who’s for you or who’s against you – concern yourself with who YOU are FOR!!  And it better be Jesus.

(check out what Kevin, Brad, Jason, and  Kent,  have to say about Andy if you want to read more)

Keeping Momentum

Momentum is a tricky thing.  It can be positive or negative.  Positive momentum is movement forward in the right direction, negative momentum is moving in the wrong direction.  Positive momentum leads to growth, negative momentum leads to death.  The more momentum there is the quicker either will happen.

Every organization has momentum – I really don’t believe there is any such thing as the “status quo”.  When you are maintaining the “status quo” all you’re really doing is slowing negative momentum.  Here’s the thing – negative momentum happens when you do nothing.  Positive momentum takes a lot of energy to get going and a constant addition of energy to keep it going.  The key to keeping positive momentum is to focus your energy on the right things:

  • Identify the momentum killers in your organization and deal with them. Quickly.  The sooner you do so, the longer the positive momentum will continue and the less energy you’ll expend to keep it going.  This requires the ability to see down the road and anticipate the things that might slow your positive momentum.
  • Identify the momentum builders and release them.  Ask the question, “What is keeping my momentum builders from building?”
  • Don’t get caught in the trap of “maintaining” the momentum.  That is the biggest killer of positive momentum.
  • Do “maximize” the momentum – what is the momentum enabling you to do?  If it enables something that builds on where the momentum has brought you then go for it.

Leaders are followers…

This is some thinking I had on leadership recently…

A key to great leaders is that they are discerning followers. Why is that?

Everyone follows something/someone.

The claim, “I don’t follow anything” is groundless. From the moment of birth our lives are impacted by external stimuli bombarding our senses. Some of these things we have no choice over initially (the environment we start out life in, our parents/guardians, where we live etc.) but as we grow the amount of choice we have with the influences in our lives increases exponentially. With these increased choices comes the opportunity for us to choose what we follow.
This is where the difference between the average person and great leaders has a stark contrast. Great leaders are careful in choosing (where they have control over) what they will follow, the average person is more indiscriminate.

The evidence isn’t discovered until after the fact…

Great leaders aren’t always observed until sufficient time has passed that filters the great things they have been involved in. In hindsight, studying a great leader will reveal that their discernment in what they followed had bearing on what they accomplished. Whether it was a school of thought, influential individuals, certain habits or practices – these followings had a definite role in the outcome of the leader and thus contributed to what made them “great”.


While not all of us will be great leaders, we can still become better leaders by being more discerning in what we follow. What does this mean practically?

1. Be aware of what you follow.
Start with the recognition that we all follow something and then start to consciously think about what it is that you follow in your life? What people have played/are playing a significant role in your life? What kinds of things do you keep up on? What influences affect your decisions? What do you like to check with before going ahead with something? These questions and more will help you become aware of what it is you follow.

2. Determine what you are leading.
This is an exercise that is far too complex to reiterate in a single paragraph or two. However, to outline, before you can choose what you follow you have to know what you are leading (or want to lead). If you can’t figure this out then you aren’t really leading anything.

3. Choose what to follow according to your strengths.
Time is a precious commodity. Don’t follow things or people that have no relevance to what you are good (or better) at. The way you become a great leader in a certain area is by following people who are great leaders in that area. Become students of them. Read what they write, listen to what they say, observe what they do. The purpose of doing so is not so that you become a clone but so that you can grow in your ability. If you choose to follow things that you are weak in you’ll be wasting time.

[Disclaimer: This does not necessarily mean that you don’t follow what you don’t like…]

4. Reevaluate regularly.
At some point, you are going to have to reconsider the people and things you follow. The world changes and so do you. If you don’t re-evaluate what it is you follow on a regular basis then you run the risk of becoming stagnant in your growth as a leader.

5. Don’t expect greatness over night…in fact don’t expect it at all.
The thing about great leaders is that greatness isn’t what they aim for. They aim for greatness at what they do. If you aim to be a great leader for the simple reason that you want to be great – you’re not going to get there – especially if that’s something you think will happen quickly! Great leaders are consistent at their discernment in following great people and great things and eventually they become recognized as great leaders in their own right. Often, that “great leader” label comes years after the person has died because history recognizes their great accomplishments.

So instead of aiming to be a great leader, aim at being a great follower and work on doing great things.

Book Review- Chasing Francis

Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim’s Tale

Rating: 3 out of 5

Author: Ian Morgan Cron

Year: 2006

Publisher: Navpress

ISBN: 1576838129

“Chasing Francis” is the story of a pastor in a large church struggling with his faith in the light of different personal tragedies encountered in the first few pages of the book. After being forced to take time away from being a pastor Chase Falson embarks on a pilgrimage led by his Uncle (a friar in the Franciscan order) in which he learns about Saint Francis. In the course of this pilgrimage, Chase is forced to rethink some of his faith-positions in the past and his relationship with God. If you think I’m going to tell you everything that happens think again :lol:!

Ian Morgan Cron introduces in the preface of this book that the reasons for writing this book arose out of a discussion he was having with NavPress about how Francis’s,

…unique spin on ministry and the spiritual life might add something to the conversation about church in these postmodern days.

In the course of their discussion they came to the conclusion that such a analysis would best be told in story form rather than adding to the already prolific amount of biographical work on Saint Francis.

The result is what Cron terms, “wisdom literature” – a balance of fiction and nonfiction as he wrote a fictional story (Chase Falson and Putnam Hill Community church) pulling from the non-fictional history (Saint Francis). In the synthesis of the two Cron is adding his understanding of how looking at the life of Saint Francis has much to reveal about the way church is done as it transitions from a modern world to a post-modern world (catching up so to speak).

I thought the story was a good read, not spectacular but good nevertheless. It would definitely have more relevance to those involved in any form of ministry in the church but certainly others will appreciate the freshness in learning about Saint Francis. I must admit I didn’t know too much about Saint Francis prior to reading this book and his life is intriguing. However, in light of the fact that this is not a full biography of his life but rather a synopsis (which Cron readily admits) I’d be best to read more about him before drawing any firm conclusions.

With that said, however, through this book there are some interesting parallels made between the way the world and the church was in the time of Francis (transitioning from medieval to industrial) and what the church (western church specifically) and the world are going through right now as we transition from modern to post-modern. I especially identified with the exposing of the rampant consumerism the church has bought into that results in the church losing the ability to make an impact in culture.

Even though I enjoyed reading this book there were a couple things that bothered me.

1. Much emphasis was spent on the character and life of Francis to the detriment of emphasis on the life of Christ.
Of course Cron is quite clear that this book is an attempt at sharing about Saint Francis in story form but I find it ironic that Chase Falson finds his way back to God primarily through the influence of studying the life of Saint Francis without any supplementation through scripture and study of the life of Christ. I couldn’t help shaking the feeling as I was reading that in the course of his pilgrimage Chase Falson is being “converted” to the ways of Saint Francis rather than the ways of Christ.

Now, I’m not saying that Francis has nothing to teach us – far from it. But I do believe that somehow Cron could have weaven into his story a bit more by way of example in what Christ did that inspired Francis so much (or even shared specific scriptures or two). Even in Falson’s impassioned plea to his congregation at the end of the story, very little (too little IMHO) is mentioned about Jesus Christ.

Note that the accompanying study that the author included in the end of the book also carries little reference to scripture or the life of Christ. It would have been of more benefit to me if some time had been taken to highlight the influence the life of Christ had on Francis (paying attention to any particular scripture texts etc.)

2. The conclusion felt rushed.
I’m sure this had more to do with limits imposed by publishers rather than the will of the author but it seemed that the conclusion of the book was put together rather quickly.

I guess the major concern for me in reading this book is simply the fact that taken alone it seems to suggest that if we live as Saint Francis did we’ll be better (or at least more authentic) followers of Christ. But therein is the oxymoron. Would we really be followers of Christ – or followers of Francis?

Five non-religious arguments for marriage over living together

I’ve always been against the practice of living together before marriage and for the wonderful commitment between a couple in getting married. However, even though I disagree with a guy and gal living together before marriage I still understand why some people think it’s okay. There are many reasons why I disagree and of course among them is the Biblical teaching on the sanctity of marriage. However, I must admit (to my chagrin) that the Bible just doesn’t carry the initial influence that it once had in society (gasp!) and frankly a “religious” argument just doesn’t have any impact on “reasoning” with people that it once had. That doesn’t make the Biblical teaching invalid or worthless – it just means that I can’t make the assumption that quoting scripture is going to convince people that living together is not a good idea or is even living in… (whispers conspiratorily) sin!

Another problem with talking about living together before marriage is that (for the most part) we preachers (and many others who disagree with it!) approach the whole subject from a negative direction rather than positive. In other words, we spend more time talking about why living together before marriage is bad instead of emphasizing why getting married first is good. Anyway, I said all that to introduce this article I came across in my reading that is a good approach on the subject. In it Dennis Prager briefly outlines five good non-religious arguments for why marriage is better than living together. Some very wise words are written in this article and I’ll definitely add this to my file of articles I’ll give couples that I counsel in the future!

Article Find – Preaching – Give the text out ahead of time…Invite participation

This article presents a great idea that I think I’ll try out in the near future (as soon as I get “organized” enough where I know the text for next weeks message a week ahead). I especially like how can help prepare people for hearing me preach on a particular text and invite their participation. Gives me one more reason to try accelerating the development of the new HPC Online site so I can incorporate this in the site somehow! See the full article here: Layers of Bible Study: Reinforced, Concrete –