Monday, January 11, 2010

Never Assume Anything

A story is told of a young soldier's unfortunate experience where he learned a valuable lesson about assumptions.

A young enlisted Marine was leaving the base headquarters' office at 15:45 when he found the Colonel-in-charge standing in front of a shredder with a piece of paper in his hand.

"Listen," said the Colonel, "this is a very sensitive and important document, and my secretary is not here. Can you make this thing work?"

"Certainly," said the young Marine. He turned the machine on, inserted the paper, and pressed the start button.

"Excellent, excellent!" said the Colonel as his paper disappeared inside the machine, "I just need one copy."

Lesson to be learned here: Never, ever assume that your leader knows what he's doing.

Unfortunately, that is true in the civilian world. It is true in the business world. And it is true in the church world. Don't assume your pastor automatically knows what to do in every situation. He gave you a brain and you are a leader as well. Exercise your brain, arms, hands and feet and help out. Don't stand by and assume that he knows what he is doing.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Sometimes your ministry is to go and get the pizza

Sometimes ministry isn't what we think it is.  And sometimes I need to be reminded of that.

I heard a great message the other morning from a great pastor.  He isn't the pastor of my home church.  But he once was.  It was all about the phrase, "Don't Go to Church.  Be the Church."

We were exhorted to be Jesus Christ's feet and hands extended to a lost and hurting world.  We were told that everyone is needed.  Everyone is wanted.  Everyone has abilities that God wants us to use for His glory.  We were told that everyone has value.

Then I remembered something that happened many years ago.  I remember showing up one evening after work to work with the pastor and one of his biggest helpers at the church.  We were going to begin work on refurbishing the nursery.  It was a small but growing church.  (There is always something to be done in a growing church.)  The pastor gave me the job of removing the baseboard trim so that we could put a new floor down and repaint the room.  I had no tools, so I walked over to the toolbox in the corner.  I grabbed the largest hammer that I could find.  It turned out to be a framing hammer.

Well, I took that hammer and began wailing away on the baseboard trim.  I managed to bust up about 6 or 8 feet of trim before the pastor came over and grabbed my arm in mid swing.  He asked me what I was doing.  I said that I was removing the trim.  He said, "You know, we had hoped to re-use that trim after we paint it." -- Oooops.

I was willing.  But I really wasn't equipped for the job.

It was at that point that experienced a feeling that I did not have the skills and abilities that God could use in His Kingdom.  You see, I really have no real skills when it comes to carpentry or building skills.  And that was what was needed at the moment.  I was given a new assignment by the pastor that evening.  One that didn't involve the destruction of the materials that we would need later in the project.

I was told to go and drive over to the local pizza joint and get some pizza for the three of us that were working.  I suggested that we just call the pizza place and have it delivered.  I could then get back to the work of "removing" the baseboard trim.  The pastor said, that what I really needed to do was to go and get the pizza.  I knew that it would take 45 minutes to an hour to go and get the pizza.  How demoralizing. 

Did I mention that the pastor was my brother?

Fast forward to this recent service that I attended.  We were told this that we all had skills and talents that God can use.  Rewind to that night so many years ago.  Instead of working on the project, I was sent to go fetch the pizza.

Why can't I be the one to work with the tools and "build" the Kingdom like my brother and Gary?

Then I heard the unmistakable voice of God.  "You don't choose the job.  You just answer the call."  I wanted to be a builder.  Because I thought that was the right call.  But God's call is a personal call.  I am called to obedience just like you are.  But the form that obedience takes is often times different for me than you.

And it dawned on me.  Sometimes you are called to go get the pizza.

So I echo the words of the pastor that I heard recently.  Don't let your own self-doubts or feelings that you don't have the right skills for the Kingdom.  Just answer the call.

Oh, and did I mention, the pastor that spoke that morning was that same brother?

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Climbing the Ladder

There is nothing worse than reaching the top of the ladder and discovering you are on the wrong wall!

Every time I try to climb a ladder of my own making, I discover that I am on the wrong wall. You and I are bombarded day in and day out with messages that tell us to try and climb the ladder of success. And that message is not just a secular message. It is also a message that seductively calls out to those of us who are involved in ministry.


Reach for the top!

Just make sure you are on the right ladder and the right wall. Otherwise, all you will do is block your own view or another persons view of Jesus Christ, the one we are reaching for in the first place.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Change Begins with Me

Change. It is everywhere around us.

Our former pastor and his wife used to sing a song every once in a while back when we lived in the Washington, DC area. That song was “Change My Heart O God” and it was written by Eddie Espinosa. Here are some of the lyrics in case you don't know this praise chorus.

Change my heart oh God
Make it ever true
Change my heart oh God
May I be like You

You are the potter
I am the clay
Mold me and make me
This is what I pray

Change my heart oh God
Make it ever true
Change my heart oh God
May I be like You

That song did not mean as much to me back then as it does today. Today, my life is all about change. There are changes at work. There are changes at church. There are changes at home. Change is everywhere.

Benjamin Franklin said, “There is nothing certain in this world but death and taxes.” And I would add one more thing to that list; Change!

But let me split a few hairs with the beloved Benjamin Franklin. I would suggest that external change is in fact inevitable. While internal change is not inevitable. So, while the world around me is rapidly changing, it is up to me do determine if I will accept those changes or reject them.

We recently elected a president in the United States who ran on a platform of “Hope and Change”. Not all change is good. Not all change is bad. But this much I know. God wants to deal with changes in me at a heart level. While I may want to make cosmetic changes on the outside. God wants to change me from the inside.

So, those lyrics that Pastor John and Amy used to sing are ringing in my ears today. And I say with them, “Change my heart, oh God.” Then and only then will I be able to be effective in ministry and demonstrate life-altering change the way that Jesus Christ intended.

What about you? Are there any big changes going on in your life? Are there big changes going on in your heart?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

"Communication is a wonderful thing"

My wife tells me that all the time. She tells our kids that all the time. And they are all grown up! But she keeps telling me that, so I must still need to learn it!

She reminds me that communication is a two-way street. Many times I forget that.

That little reminder is especially true in a church situation when it is about to embark on a major ministry or make a change to an existing ministry. As leaders, it is our responsibility to clearly and effectively communicate not only what we are doing, but also why we are doing it.

Although there may be plenty of printed materials, posters and other collateral material regarding the big change, that alone may not be clear and compelling communication as to “Why?” you are making this change or embarking on this journey. As a Mass Communications major in college, one of the things stressed to us was the importance of the feedback loop in any communication process.

So how do you have clear and effective communication that includes feedback? Well, you have to plan feedback into the process.

This is “Transilient Communication”. Transilient communication occurs when ideas, thoughts, feelings, learnings, knowledge, insights, and wisdom that might otherwise have remained dormant are allowed to emerge in an evocative but safe way. Transilient communication obliterates the barriers and puts everyone in touch with what is going on. And it connects them with others because they trust one another to hear what they say and listen to their heart. Imagine people deeply connecting with each other in this way.

This whole new level of communicating is a place where active listening to each other, (including those outside the tight circle of folks who are involved in planning the change) reflecting on our experiences, and synthesizing new insights from each others experiences are commonplace. And that brings about a fuller understanding of whether or not the intended message is being received by the target audience in the way that you intended it when you first planned the message.

But transilient communication takes courage. It takes time. It takes trust. It takes someone who is listening for the feedback.

Hey! Does anyone out there hear me???

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Is it time for a change?

That is one of the questions that face ministry leaders all of the time. Perhaps things are not progressing the way that you want them to. Or, perhaps your area of ministry is not as effective as you feel God would have it be. So, what do you do?

One of the things that will come to your mind will be the idea of trying something new or integrate something that the big Baptist down the street is doing. But is that the right thing to do? Well, only God knows for sure. And He will reveal it to you as you earnestly seek His face.

But here is the point that I would have you consider. Is change the right idea? Or is it better to evaluate and analyze what you are currently doing and seek to improve on the way that you are doing that ministry. Or, more succinctly put, is it a problem of design or a problem of execution?

Consider taking a prayerful and analytical view of your ministry before scrapping it in favor of something new and drastically different.

Check back here in the coming days for some more thoughts and ideas on this topic.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

How to Build a Great Team

The pastor who assembles a great leadership team around him shows confidence and enables the whole organization to be all that God has called them to be.

Here are a few ideas that you may want to consider:

  • Select Quality Members -- If you can choose your leadership team, do so wisely and with much prayerful consideration. If your local church or denominational polity requires a nomination and election process, then put a tremendous effort and prayerful consideration around who you select to be the nominating committee.
  • Clearly Define Roles and Responsibilities -- Being a leader means more than just sitting down once a month and listening to reports. It means being actively engaged in the life of the church for the 30 or 31 days between each monthly meeting.
  • Mentor Your Team -- Continue to build and mentor your team throughout the year. Spend quality time each and every board meeting on leadership development.
  • Build Esprit De Corps -- Make being a member of the team a worthwhile, caring and nurturing experience. Consider establish Prayer Partners among your board and encourage them to meet together outside of the regular meeting schedule.

There are many other things to consider when looking toward your new church year. These are just a few quick items to consider.