Monday, December 9, 2013

Complaining is not a Strategy

I was watching the 60 Minutes interview with Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon. I was interested in the segment because of the possibility of "drone delivery" in about 30 minutes. After watching the segment I am convinced they can deliver books in 30 minutes better than Dominos used to deliver a pizza.

While watching the interview something Jeff Bezos said caught my attention. Charlie Rose was talking to him about the ability for Amazon to disrupt the old way of buying books because their margins are so small they could drive people out of business. Bezos said this, "You know, people can complain about that, but complaining is not a strategy."

Immediately I looked for something to write that quote down: "Complaining is not a strategy."

The first thing I thought of were all the complaints I hear from people in "the church world." Most people who complain offer no alternative, they use the power of the complaint to get their way. When you give in, guess what they do next? They find something else to complain about until they get their way. Complaining can be a strategy, if leaders give into the complaint.

Next I thought about myself. How often do I complain about something? More often than I would like to admit. But Bezos challenged me in that one statement, because he is right, "Complaining is not a strategy." When he said that I thought of Amazon's competitors. His statement was either going to make them mad so they complain harder or it was going to challenge them to get better. It was almost like he was saying, "Come on, don't complain, compete. Because healthy competition brings out the best in people."

So, I should not complain about things not going my way. I should see it as a challenge to do things better. I should see it as an opportunity to plan a strategy to get better and create a movement that makes a higher impact in the world.

For those who always complain let this be a challenge to you "STOP IT!"  (I need to hear this as much as anybody. Just ask Rhonda. She says something to me all the time when I say something to a ref at a basketball game.)

For those who lead others, here is you challenge "STOP IT!" Stop letting people who complain change the direction of your God given vision and values. A lot of great movements have come to a halt because a leader let complaining become a strategy in their organization.

Disclaimer: It is not complaining when you stand up for something that is right. The difference is when you look at your motivation. Is it motivated by narrowly focusing on one's self or is it motivated by pointing out something that could be destructive to the culture? Constructive criticism is not complaining.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Resurrection God! Restoring God!

Man, I hate when God keeps trying to get your attention and teach you something that really messes with you. Maybe this is why I have not written a blog in such a long time. Maybe he is trying to focus me on something I need to deal with in order to serve Him better rather than just trying to come up with the next blog.

Here is the deal. I want to make sure the next half of my life ends well and contributes to the kingdom. I believe God has given me experiences in the first half of my life in order to prepare me for the last half. I just have to discern where it is he is leading me.

Well over the last several months something is becoming more clear to me. He is teaching me something I believe is not only life transformational for me, but can transform the church in which I serve. I also believe it has the potential to impact other places in the world.

A few years back I listened to a podcast from a church in Portland, Oregon called Imago Dei. The teaching from Rick McKinley that day was called, "Mustard Seed Kingdom." In it he taught the concept that God is a resurrection God, that he could bring life to that which is dead. He is a restoring God who wants to bring hope to the lives of those who have no hope. He also taught it starts out small and God makes it grow to make a bigger impact than what we could dream.

Recently I have not been able to get this out of my mind especially in some of the things and people I am involved with in Tallmadge, Cleveland, Zimbawe and more recently Puerto Rico. Then I go to the ReChurch conference at The Creek in Indianapolis and there is a clearer confirmation toward some of my thinking. I get a book they suggest and it gives more confirmation.

Here is the short version of what God is teaching me. In order to bring resurrection, restoration and change we have to support those who need new life both in their ministry and in their individual lives. And here is the kicker to my thought process-just sending money is not the support that gives life. It may help temporarily, but support requires that we are present in the lives of people.

Real restoration and resurrection occur only when we are able to speak into the hearts of people or a ministry. Spending time to understand where they are coming from and discipling them to follow Jesus. Giving them lasting hope through development not dependence. I am starting to think that through some of our generosity we are teaching people to be dependent on monetary gifts from others rather than being dependent on God.

I know it takes money to bring change in some circumstances. But money has somewhat become an easy fix for those who have the resources to be generous. I am just saying your presence in the life of that person relationally is probably more important than just sending a check. Sometimes generosity requires a person to be generous by being present.

The most generous person I know gave up everything so we could have a restored life and resurrection. So we could have hope. And the Bible says this about Him: "The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us." (John 1:14)

He was present. He came in the flesh which means he came physically. And then He dwelt among us, living as we live, experiencing the culture we live in and serving us while serving with us. He taught us how to live in such a way that through Him we could bring hope, life and encouragement to people and places that need resurrection and restoration.

Where do you need to be present today to bring a little resurrection and hope?

Friday, September 13, 2013

What about the future?

I am sitting in a coffee house in my home town of Salem, Va. I am here for my high school reunion. I had a cousin ask me last night what number this was so I told him, "30." Another cousin said, "Wow!" That didn't make me feel old.

As I drive around Salem I have noticed it has changed a lot, but so have I. I have a little gray hair. I am a little heavier (which I am working on doing something about). Although those are visible changes I have changed spiritually as well.

I am looking at the church a lot differently these days.

While I can't wait to see some of my high school friends, I don't want to relive my high school days. They were great days, but there comes a time when we have to mature into someone that makes a difference in the world.

I think that is true of the church as well. Through the church growth movement we have seen some great days. People were filling church buildings as the church became more seeker sensitive and attractional. Church was fun and exciting much like my high school days.

But something has happened over the last 10-15 years. While many churches and church leaders continue to live in the days of success, the culture around us has changed. I hear people say we need to go back and do the things we did when we were successful (when the church was exciting and full).

The answer is not about looking back. The answer comes in looking ahead or at the very least looking to the present.

As I sit here in this coffee house I am thinking about the future. Realizing I am getting older, I am starting to ask myself the question how can God use me to impact the kingdom in the second half of life.

It is great remembering the past, but we have no control of that. What we do have control of is the future. So the question is what are we going to do with the future? Are we going to make a difference in the short time we have here on this earth? Or are we going to dwell on the past while the world around us changes and passes us by?

How are you going to be a little more like Jesus tomorrow than you were today?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Great Sunday!

This past Sunday I was still on vacation. I took the opportunity to go to Velocity Christian Church where Scott Pugh is the lead minister. Velocity is a church we partnered with several other churches and Stadia to help launch about 5 years ago. 

I was truly blessed being there Sunday and seeing how from nothing God led some guys and churches who were new to the church planting world to create from nothing a great church. God is so awesome when we allow him to lead. It is amazing how he allows us to participate in his greatness. 

The energy at Velocity and the passion everyone has for people far from God is the reason God has blessed them so much. Experiencing the culture of the church planting world is something every follower needs to experience. 

Here is what I learned that day:

1) Everyone there is on the same mission. They have a passion for people far from God and that is at the center of everything they do. While there is a team of people who welcome you to Velocity, there is a lot of spontaneous connecting with people that is more effective than any welcoming team. Worship ended around 11 and we left a little before or after noon. Time didn't seem to matter.

2) There was a a lot of kingdom talk. It was not just about Velocity, it was about what God is doing in Cleveland and how everyone can participate. Scott even prayed for the other chruches in South Euclid. 

3) It was authentic. No flashy show, just real people who know they are loved by God. No image management, no masks-just people saved by grace.

4) Similar to the first thing I learned, but it needs to be said, everyone seemed to be focused on God and HIS church rather than themselves. It was not about what they personally wanted, it was all about where God was leading them both as individuals and as a church. 

5) Humility. It existed from the leadership down. Everyone willing to get up when worship is done and take the chairs over to the rack or wall, working together to tear down and set up every week.

6) The importance of kids and teaching them how to be lovers of God and lovers of people. The importance of adults being willing to sacrifice their own worship time to make sure kids know and experience God.

These attitudes described above are the difference between a movement of God and a building with people who go to church.

Sunday was a very refreshing experience. Thank you God!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Let the Holy Spirit Lead

I was just reading Seth Godin's blog (here). The title of today's blog was "The River Guide and the Rapids." He talked about how the river always changes so the pilot sometimes has to change how he maneuvers. Then he said this, "the practice of being great at shooting the rapids is a softness in choosing the right tactic, the ability to hold the tiller with confidence but not locking into it."

I had several thoughts about the life of a follower of Jesus when I read that statement. First, life as a follower of Jesus is like maneuvering the rapids of a river. Sometimes there are pockets where the river is moving, but it is moving peaceful and quietly. Other times we see the approaching rapids wondering how we will ever make it through. Life is just like this isn't it?

Second, the thing about a river is we may take a journey down a familiar stretch, but it will most likely be different from the last time. This means we have to change the way we approach it. We can't complain about it because that is the way life is--always changing and giving us new challenges even though we may be going down a familiar path.

Finally, and this is so important for a follower of Jesus--our confidence does not come from us being in control of the tiller. The one who should be steering the raft is the Holy Spirit. He is the one in control. He is the one who gives us the direction, maneuvering us through places that are rocky or have a big drop-off.

When we try to be the pilot, we have a habit of locking into the same pattern. When we do we run the risk of flipping the boat, running into a rock or going off a cliff.

Stop fighting the Spirit. Let Him be the River Guide.

Friday, March 1, 2013

No! Accountability.

In order to be good at something and get better at something a person needs some kind of accountability. I have a leader in my life that each month holds me accountable to goals I have established for myself and the church through the year. At first I did not like the idea, but I have realized how important it is to keep me focused.

The problem is most of us say "No!" to accountability. We want to live by our own rules while trying to find a quick and easy path to success. Or we want to do it our way with no one trying to help us find a better way. And when things don't go our way we wonder why, as if the world is against us, never realizing we have brought chaos upon ourselves.


"No! Accountability."

For some reason the culture has made "accountability" out to be an unnecessary and bad thing. The attitude is one of entitlement. The goal is that we believe our lives should be perfect and we should pursue things that make us happy (at the moment).  When the truth is without accountability there is chaos.

The saddest thing is this attitude has infected the church. Most Christians would not hang with Jesus long if he were here today. He was high on the accountability end of discipleship while giving high support to those he was trying to lead. Whenever the church begins to hold people accountable to living like Jesus one of two things happen:

1) They begin to have a heart change, their lives begin to change and they begin to reflect more of the image of Jesus.

Or . . .

2) They go to a church where there is no accountability and no challenge to live more like Jesus.

I just want to thank the people in my life who hold me accountable, who are honest with me and challenge me to live a little more like Jesus everyday, even when there are times I don't want to hear it or don't like it.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

It is all about Making Disciples

I have taken a break from my blog not because I have nothing to say, but because I did not know how to put it into words. I have put together a list of things that I think are wrong with Christians and the church. The thing that bothers me is that I do some of these things from time to time.

I want to publicly tell God that I am sorry about those times I have lived in the ways described below.

Here is my list of things wrong with Christians and the church:

1) Very few are on mission. Over the last several decades the mission of the church has been to see how big it can become. The mission has been about people, but not with the same mindset of Jesus. People became the product, the way to measure success. The bigger the church the more successful the church. This can be true, however in many cases the size of the church made little impact on the individual who comes occasionally to Sunday morning worship. The mission moved from disciple-making to attracting a crowd.

2) Most have lost their focus. Bigger crowds meant that the focus began to shift. Bigger crowds meant that churches needed to build bigger buildings, have bigger budgets and have bigger debt. I read the novel "The Pillars of the Earth" by Ken Follett and discovered that churches today are no different than churches in the middle ages. The focus was on building big cathedrals with an institutionalized structure that supported the need for a big cathedral. The focus moved from disciple-making to building buildings and maintaining those buildings.

3) A lot are self-absorbed. Both churches and the people who fill churches have become selfish. They live within their own little kingdoms (they call church) and never talk about the kingdom as a whole. Their service is less about kingdom building and more about what they will get out of the service they provide. Self-promotion has become prominent within the church world. You don't believe me, ask someone how their church is going whether it is a minister or someone who goes and listen to the answer. Many times how well the church is going will be based on how many people are going, a new building project or how the church is not meeting their specific need. Very seldom is there a mention of how God is changing the lives of people in the church, those the church may be ministering to throughout the world or how many lost people came to know Jesus. We have become so self-absorbed we think less about disciple-making and more about what keeps us going to a specific church. If our wants aren't met we will find a place we are served better.

4) Most don't grasp the concept of costly grace. “Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession.... Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost Of Discipleship

Not much more to say here accept when a church or Christian teaches costly grace--a grace with accountability. The self-absorbed can always find a place to worship that costs them nothing. Instead of disciple-making we have moved toward an attitude that being a part of a church is good enough.

5) Most don't care about lost people. We don't have the time or energy. We are trying to manage all the other things we want the church and Christianity be we can't possibly focus on the mission Jesus has given his followers to proclaim to the world the grace God wants to give them--a costly grace that cost Him the gift of His son. He did this because He loves us and wants us to know Him. While people wander aimlessly without God, we have a responsibility to reflect His image to a world that needs Him.

This all boils down to one thing--Making Disciples--People who strive to live a little more like Jesus everyday. (Matthew 28:18-20)