Monday, August 30, 2010

The Body Stuff (1 Corinthians 12:12-26)

I was at a gathering of pastors years ago. We were going around the circle sharing our stories and current prayer concerns. At one point, the conversation turned to a young pastor brand new in his first church. Almost immediately, as if popping a balloon under pressure, this young pastor poured out utterly heart-breaking struggles in his life and his church, culminating in his own growing, increasingly tearful conviction he was wrong in ever becoming a pastor.

Do you know how almost every pastor in the room responded? Seminary trained, most all of us with at least 10 years of ministry experience or more – sensitive, caring professionals?

We laughed. We laughed just a little at first, and very soon we laughed a lot. We all laughed right out loud! And then we went around the circle, one by one, tenderly explaining to this precious, struggling young pastor that every single one of us lived almost constantly in exactly the same “what in the world have I gotten myself into” place he now found himself.

Leading a church is hard – leading a church is almost impossible. But not for reasons many cynical, bitter, church-hating people are trying to argue. It isn’t because church people are so much worse these days and it certainly isn’t because pastors are so terrible. The church has better trained and resourced clergy and leadership available these days than ever before.

Leading a church is hard because life is hard. Leading a church is hard because being the Church is hard – being the Church is almost impossible. Life together is difficult business.

I was signing my monthly stack of birthday cards on Monday afternoon. As I was trying to think of some little encouragement for each person, I was struck by the profound challenges in the lives of this church. Every single card has a story – every single card has some pain and prayer attached to it. There are people here in agony – huge emotional loss, financial struggle, wayward children, sickness, hurt, loneliness so profound it suffocates. There are utterly brilliant people in our church family and then there are some people who have never read a book in their entire lives, some who struggle to read at all. There are happy marriages and then there are marriages so precarious the slightest puff of conflict in the wrong direction threatens to turn them to dust. There is wild success here and there is enormous failure. There are addiction and sin struggles in every pew of this place. And this is the mess God is bringing together…

But to keep things in perspective, has it ever occurred to us that becoming true Church would be hard even if we miraculously removed all the pain and problems from our lives? Even if we had perfectly problem free, smiling, fully focused and energized people; gathering any group of people together as the Body of Christ is powerfully difficult. We are all unique.

And yet in spite of all this crazy difficulty and hardship, I am more convinced than ever, more excited than ever, that the attempt is worth it – I am more convinced than ever that the Church matters; that I desperately need my Church family. I suspect we may all very soon discover a truly “double stuff” experience of Church more valuable than we ever imagined.

So how can we become the kind of Church we need to become? Let’s explore perhaps the most important, most familiar description of the Church given to us in the Bible. In 1 Corinthians 12:12-26, we read...

The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free--and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined [notice God is doing it!] the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 

If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

If we were allowed to use only one passage in the Bible to understand this Body stuff, this is the place I would turn. There are four great components of a truly “double stuff” church life in this passage – four huge commonalities coming together to form the miracle of the Body. If we explore, understand and embrace these commonalities, we will experience true Church as God intended. We will know Church fellowship beyond our wildest dreams.

A Common Spirit

The first component is found in verses 12-13 – we are a body and this complex body shares a common Spirit. We were all baptized by one Spirit into one body – Jews, Greeks, slaves or free – we were all given of one Spirit to drink. The single most important unifying factor that not only forms us as a Body but holds us together is the Spirit filling/sustaining each one of us. If we are not drinking deeply of the Spirit individually, if we are not allowing the Holy Spirit to lead us as individuals, we will never be drawn together as a group. The Spirit blows as it wills; we must all be fully in tune with the Spirit. We must be seeking Jesus, burying ourselves in His Word and constant in prayer – without Spirit, we are not the Body of Christ.

If you’re living in flagrant, rebellious sin, if you’re swimming against the stream of the Holy Spirit, if you’re only interested in going your own way and getting your own way, you will never experience the full joys of the Body of Christ. I promise you a very frustrating life in the Church. But the reverse is also gloriously true – as more and more of us fully submit our will to the Spirit, we will enjoy a level of unity and fellowship nothing else in the world could give us.

How many of us have ever tried to paddle a canoe up a swift current? How far did you get? How enjoyable was the trip? I’m no great outdoorsman, but even I know that paddling a canoe up a class five rapids is just not something smart people often do. Unless you’re some sort of human salmon returning home to spawn, the idea would be simply goofy. The same is true of the Church – we share a common Spirit. This common Spirit drives and sustains all we do. Only those in sync with the Spirit will ever fully experience the joys of the Body of Christ.

A Common Confidence

We also share a common confidence. This component is fascinating and huge – I’m convinced this commonality might well be the least understood of all. Verses 14-20 clearly teach us that the Body of Christ functions because everyone participating in Body life is utterly, joyously confident of their own importance to the enterprise. The Body functions beautifully and joyously because each part understands its own importance. The toes are not jealous of the eyes. The fingers are not mad because the eyes and arms are getting all the attention. The dear Body of Christ functions best only when every part is utterly confident of its value.

So if you’re feeling hurt and waiting for others in the Church to properly value you, if you’re withholding service in the Church and the world around you because you feel worthless or inferior in some way, here’s a very blunt word especially for you from the Apostle Paul: stop whining and repent of your sinful, selfish attitude! You aren’t valuable here because the Pastor or other very human beings say you are. You’re valuable here; you’re valuable to the planet, because Almighty God says you are! Your Father created you with a unique mix of abilities, talents, spiritual gifts and life experiences and, whether any other person ever recognizes it or not, you matter. To believe otherwise is to selfishly and sinfully slander God and how He has shaped you. I wonder - can any of us even begin to imagine what would happen in the Church if every single one of us understood our own importance and influence in the world? Wow!

A Common Need

The third component goes hand in glove with the second. We must share not only a very common confidence; we must share an equally common need. The Church functions only to the degree we recognize not only our own importance, but also the importance of others. Verses 21-25 make it clear we are Church only to the degree we genuinely need each other.

We aren’t interested in just tolerating others. Toleration is what arrogant people, who think entirely too much of themselves, spend all their time worrying about. Toleration is a word we should find utterly offensive; inappropriate in the Body. We aren’t even remotely interested in becoming tolerant of others – we in the Body long to fully and completely need each other. To seek simply toleration is to settle for trite and superficial instead of a joyous union of soul.

I am not interested in tolerating people older than me. I need them, and particularly their knowledge of history, to help guide us through all the challenges we face. We need their foundation and maturity desperately – I need older people in my life more than I ever have. I need people around me better at remembering names, birthdays and details than I am. I need good people who care about boilers, table decorations, paint colors and room décor. We need stingy bean counters and the radically generous. We need droves of young people able to help us consider new ways to connect to a culture changing at a dizzying pace. We need teachers and good techies. We need people every bit as much to make pancakes and sort clothes as we need people to help us shape a meaningful church vision for the next twenty years. We aren’t learning to just tolerate others – we are learning to genuinely need each other.

A couple Sundays ago after worship, I ran into Pastor Carey in the office as I was leaving. We promised each other months ago we would get together once a month as couples, but we haven’t been very faithful to that promise lately. We’ve both been very busy. And so when I saw him in the office, without even realizing it, I stopped him and said, “Hey man, I really need some Carey time soon!” And as he agreed, I realized something precious. I have genuinely missed spending time with my friend. I need that guy – he isn’t somebody I tolerate.

The church must share a common sense of need. We know who our real brothers and sisters are not by who will help us, but by who we’re willing to ask for help. We know who the family is by whom we’re willing to allow ourselves to need. The church needs all people.

A Common Heart

The Church becomes a gorgeous, precious and powerful thing when, drawn together and sustained by the Spirit, we begin to more fully see not only our own value, but the value of others and our genuine need of them in becoming what we ourselves long to become. When all this begins to happen, we are all in for a wonderful, exciting ride. Only when these three other components come together do we finally move on to the fourth and final component Paul briefly mentioned in verse 21. Only when our common Spirit, confidence and heartfelt need of each other fully come together do we begin to experience the lovely common heart Paul finally mentions in verse 21. Eventually, we come to the place where “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” That sort of gorgeous, truly organic, life-giving, almost symbiotic Church experience doesn’t just come to us by accident. This sort of Acts 2, double stuff, exhilarating, hearts beating together as one experience of the Body of Christ is a miracle we need God’s daily help and our faithfulness to discover.

Does that sound attractive? Do we want that? Do we value this Body of Christ?

Missionary James King told the true story many years ago of an African woman in one of his churches who attended every service accompanied by an old, mongrel dog. He would enter with the lady and sit beside her during the service. She always sat on an outside seat beside the aisle. At the conclusion of the service, when the invitation was given, the woman would always come and kneel at the altar for prayer, and the dog would faithfully take his place beside her. The woman’s husband was a cruel man who deeply resented her devotion to Christ, and one day he beat her so severely she died. After the woman’s death, the man noticed the old mongrel dog still disappeared on Wednesday evening about 7:00 and didn’t reappear for two hours. On Sunday mornings, the same thing happened. One Sunday the cranky, bitter man decided to follow and see where the dog went. Hurrying to keep up, the man followed the dog to the little church and watched as the dog took his seat on the aisle while the service went on. At the close of the service, the dog went to the altar and took his place where the wife had prayed. The man was so touched in his spirit that he, too, went forward and gave his life to Christ. And now the dog comes to church with a new master.

Even a dog knows the value of the Body of Christ! Even a dog knows there is always something special and miraculous going on in the Body of Christ. This Body stuff is special! If we will truly allow the Spirit to unite, inspire and lead us, if we will honestly value ourselves and others around us, we will experience the shared heart miracles God intends for us to know.

May God help us experience all this here!


Monday, August 23, 2010

The Prayer Stuff (Hebrews 4:12-16)

I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s. I grew up with Flower Power, bell bottom pants, acid rock and thundering roll, then sweaty polyester and nauseating disco drivel. I listened to the Bee Gees stayin’ alive and wondered why in the world we should if all we had to listen to was disco! Eew! As a culture, we made deities out of self esteem and self indulgence. And out of this great time of turbulence and uncertain transition, I learned my Christianity is not a religion, it is a relationship. It is not just absolute deity, duty, discipline and obedience; it’s all just about relationship with God and others.

There’s some truth in that thinking; some folks really need to hear that stuff.

But now I’m almost fifty and thinking more about blood pressure, mediocre eyesight and wobbly investments. A scared baby needing rigor in my relationships – I am no longer content with slogans and amoebic, relativistic mush. Reality is attacking all my relationships. And I’m discovering my relationship with Jesus especially needs more religion. Somewhere in my early twenties, I began to discover words like deity, duty, discipline, obedience and even religion aren’t actually such bad words. I began to appreciate not simply the gracious God of the New Testament, but the enormous God of the Old; God the same yesterday, today and forever.

Somewhere along the way, it seems to me many of us have adopted an almost amoebic view of the Christian faith. This amoebic faith is a Christianity utterly without bones, muscles, direction or fixed shape – an aimless, morphing sort of blob that oozes around absorbing all sorts of things, splitting into an almost incomprehensible array of shapes, sizes and creatures.

There was a bad guy in one of the Men in Black movies who didn’t have much respect for the heroes of the story. While fighting them, this nasty character was fond of labeling his enemies “meatsacks.” What a word! Sometimes that’s what I think Satan considers amoebic Christians. We are no threat whatsoever – simply sacks of meat waiting to be consumed.

But that isn’t the Bible’s view of us at all. The Bible says we are a body. We are a powerful, battle machine against which the gates of hell cannot stand! We have hard bones, a strong spine and familiar shape. We have muscles everywhere and purposes for every one of them. And there are loads of good rules and religion governing this body – it must sleep, eat, breathe and exercise. It must reason, learn and interact with others. We are not amoebic!

And yet I still find utterly amoebic views of Christian faith surfacing all around me and within me, especially when it comes to the issue of prayer.

I find myself on my mushy, relativistic, amoebic knees before a verse like Hebrews 4:16, with a genuine “double stuff” longing to approach the throne of grace with confidence, so I might receive mercy and find the grace to help me in my time of need. Yet even my amoebic heart realizes there are staggering, truly bony, brutal and rigorous absolutes I must understand and fully embrace before I will ever confidently approach the throne or value doing so.

This passage is not an amoebic description of prayer.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Holes In My Holiness

“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
~ Matthew 5:48

I really hate that verse!

My LORD Jesus, in his famous Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, after utterly reversing all my earthly definitions of blessing, after telling me insults and angry name-calling are more or less as bad in the eyes of God as murder, after telling me lust is as bad as adultery, after telling me to turn the other cheek when slapped and to love my enemies – then Jesus tosses in this innocent little tidbit about being perfect.


Do you think Jesus meant it? Or was the whole point of his sermon on that hillside simply to help us clearly see the impossibly elevated spiritual grading standards of God – sort of a pop quiz the whole class fails horribly at the beginning of the course just to help us all understand our ignorance and need of help?

Smart people have dedicated their lives to the study of this particular sermon, so I’m not going to even begin to suggest quickie, trite interpretations and applications here today. The only truth I will insist on, the truth I am currently stunned by and struggling with, is that somehow, my true holiness and joyous perfection seem to matter a great deal to Jesus. Jesus seems to believe I can be a much better person.

Jesus seems to have a much higher opinion of my perfection potential than I do.

What am I supposed to do with that?

How does a hypocrite like me even begin to understand holiness, much less become any sort of holy? Strangely, Jesus seemed to get bluntest and crabbiest with the well-meaning people who worked hardest on their holiness and considered themselves holier for doing so. Yet as we study Jesus’ interactions with those same people, it seems blatantly obvious Jesus wasn’t just shouting a better, more demanding list of rules, but challenging us to a completely new reality – a new sort of existence. In the mind of Jesus, it seems that true holiness was almost synonymous with happiness, love, joy and exhilaratingly new life. He wasn’t interested in really good religion – he was interested in really good people. Really new people – really alive people.

While admonitions to perfection leave me in a miserable puddle of defeat and despair, the offer of happiness, joy, love, newness and life makes perfection worth reaching. Maybe perfection isn’t as impossible as I thought. Maybe all I need is a miracle or two several times a day. Maybe the perfection stuff is supposed to just show up in my life sort of by accident once all the newness begins to flower and life starts to happen.

Maybe all this perfection stuff is supposed to be fun! Wouldn’t that be something?

In September, we’re going to talk about these things in our worship time. We’re going to talk about hypocrisy and holiness. We’re going to talk about Sabbath, saints and stumbling blocks. We’re going to ask Almighty God for some miracles in our lives that we might more fully and perfectly come to life!

I don’t know about any of you, but I’ve got some gaping holes in my holiness. In the coming month, I’m really hoping God will help us all slowly begin to realize the exciting potential He’s seen in us all along!

I hope you’ll all make a point of joining me for the conversation.


Monday, August 16, 2010

The Bible Stuff (Psalm 1)

In 1932, a brilliant young theologian named Dietrich Bonhoeffer changed dramatically. He had earned a doctorate in theology at the age of 21 and had already served as a pastor, but then something startling happened. In a very biblically liberal world that viewed the Bible as interesting myth, young Bonhoeffer suddenly lurched the other way. As others were looking for a “positive and less costly Christianity,” Bonhoeffer encountered the Word of God. For reasons still not completely understood by historians and students of Bonhoeffer, his Bible came alive.

Speaking to his friend Hildebrandt, he said: “A truly evangelical sermon must be like offering a child a fine red apple or offering a thirsty man a cool glass of water and then saying, ‘Do you want it?’ … We must be able to speak about our faith so that hands will be stretched out toward us faster than we can fill them…do not try to make the Bible relevant. Its relevance is axiomatic…do not defend God’s Word, but testify to it…trust to the Word. It is a ship loaded to the very limits of its capacity.” Don’t just keep polishing your sword, folks – do something with it! Get into its fight! Let your Bible defend itself against the forces of evil and ignorance! Let the Bible define what is relevant in the world, not the other way around. Let the Bible live! Many would argue it was this unwavering commitment to the Bible causing Dietrich Bonhoeffer to courageously stand up against the Nazi evils of his day and ultimately surrender his life.

As we continue our conversation about living a full, “double stuff” sort of Christian life, as we encounter and hopefully embrace the Son of God, we must also encounter and embrace the Word of God. Yet I am profoundly tempted to defend the Bible. I am saddened to see how the Bible gathers dust these days – considered irrelevant or quaint myth by the world around me. And so I am very tempted to walk us all through the extensive manuscript evidence for the reliability of God’s Word. I’m tempted to talk about the dating and interpretation of prophecy and the fulfillment of prophecy. There are all sorts of scholarly Bible fights I’m tempted to pick. There are all sorts of Bible fights I am fully capable of winning. I’m not bad at Bible fistfights.

But I’ve done all that before. And it never seems to make a difference…I can win all the big debates, but somehow the Word of God still always seems to lose. The delicious double stuff is still rejected. And I can’t have that – I just can’t live with that anymore. The Bible is just too precious for ants like us to argue about. It is just too important to be angrily ignored.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Jesus Stuff (Acts 3:1-4:14)

In 2 Kings 2, the prophet Elijah was about to be dramatically taken up to heaven by God in a whirlwind as his protégé and disciple Elisha refused to leave his side. Eventually, the great prophet Elijah asked Elisha what he could do for him before being taken away. Elisha responded by asking for something utterly amazing – he asked for a “double portion” of Elijah’s spirit. Spiritually speaking, Elisha begged the spiritually enormous prophet Elijah to allow him to become twice the man of God Elijah was.

I’ve always loved the audacity of that request! I don’t want just any skimpy, thin, old original Oreo – I want the Double Stuff! Oh dear LORD, I want the fat cookie! Not only am I truly disinterested in any sort of mediocre spiritual life, I don’t even want to settle for being just another great prophet Elijah, or Billy Graham, Hybels, Bonhoeffer, Swindoll, Stanley, Wiersbe, Billy Sunday or Charlie Spurgeon. I want to have twice the power, wisdom and experience of God that even the most remarkable spiritual giants have ever known. I want the Double Stuff!

God honored Elisha’s good desire. I believe God loves to honor holy desires like that…

For the next several weeks, I want to talk about this “double stuff” life. Inasmuch as we know from scripture that God honored dear Elisha’s request, we also know, according to Jesus in Matthew 13:17, that many prophets longed to see what we have now seen of God. Even the most audacious, double stuff hungry prophets did not get to enjoy what we now enjoy. For the next few weeks, I want to talk about the most important ingredients of this double stuff life.

And the single most important ingredient of that fully lived life is Jesus himself.

Friday, August 6, 2010

T.D. Jakes - Combustible Passion

Named by TIME magazine as one of the "25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America," Bishop Thomas Dexter (T.D.) Jakes is an entrepreneur, global advocate, philanthropist, and pastor of The Potter's House. Located in Dallas, Texas, this multiracial, non-denominational congregation has more than 30,000 members. Known for his service to both the church and the global community, he's led initiatives to combat domestic violence, homelessness, poverty, and AIDS. A prolific writer, Bishop Jakes has authored more than 30 books, including two New York Times best-sellers. A past and popular Summit speaker, he will close our 2010 gathering with a powerful and moving reminder of the greatness of God.

That's about all I'm going to blog about T.D. Jakes. This is one speaker I'm going to listen to without a pen or computer on my lap. Sorry!

Maybe next year you should all go to the conference yourself!


Postscript:  Bishop Jakes was a tremendous blessing to all of us as he closed out the conference.  He talked about how to deal with the reality of people coming to church looking for Jesus and finding people like us standing in front of them instead.   He talked about speaking from a place of divine inspiration - of doing whatever we have to do so that, when we have poured ourselves out to others, we allow God to pour back into us.  He closed our time by gathering us all together and praying for God's blessing on us.  I needed it.  I sensed there were a great many in the room who felt likewise.

Thank you, Bishop Jakes!  Thank you, Bill Hybells and all your thousands of Willow Creek friends for caring about how I'm doing as a leader and a pastor!  Thank you, LORD, for the opportunity to enjoy events like this!  It has been a very good couple of days.

An Interview with Jack Welch

Said to be the most studied CEO of the 20th century, Jack Welch began his 41-year career with the General Electric Company in 1960, and in 1981 became the company's eighth chairman and CEO. Fortune named him "manager of the century," and the Financial Times named him one of the three most admired business leaders in the world. He teaches at MIT's Sloan School of Management and recently launched the Jack Welch Management Institute at Chancellor University, offering advanced management degrees online. A prolific business writer, he authored the internationally best-selling autobiography, Jack: Straight from the Gut and also wrote The Welch Way, a widely read BusinessWeek column.

Authenticity, Energy, Candor and Differentiation.

What does it mean to be authentic? Be comfortable with who you are and be somebody that others can count on. Don't try to be what you aren't.

What is energy? We must use energy in two forms - energy and energize. Be willing to spend 10 hours with the call center people so they will capture the vision. Energizing isn't hyping people, it is about getting people to see and embrace the vision for themselves. Unless the leader feels the fire, there will be no organizational energy. Most meetings are too driven by PowerPoint and agenda - too disinterested in the creative ideas of the group.

What is candor? It is a culture that consistently values the brutal truth.  Not the incessantly negative, cynical perspectives of the perennial underperformers, but the honest voices of "looking for our best" truth in the organization.  Candor gives organizations an enormous advantage - speed. We don't waste time figuring out "the message" we're going to share with the boss or stakeholders - we always simply say what we think.

What is differentiation? Employees at GE were always ranked in three categories - 20% fantastic game changers, 70% good performers and 10% under achievers.   Some called this ranking heartless. But it isn't, according to Welch.  Sports teams differentiate themselves all the time. If we want to win the game, we must clearly differentiate. But differentiation can only happen in an organization full of candor values. People deserve to know exactly where they stand.

Many organizations waste a ridiculous amount of time on underperforming staff members. Don't waste time on them! Get rid of them (graciously of course). It is better for them and for the organization as a whole.

Great people are always interested in the growth and promotion of others. They don't have any envy...

And this is all I remembered to write down....this is where my notes piddled out!  This conversation was too gripping and Welch to animated and thought-provoking to be typing about.  I ended up getting so engrossed in the conversation, I forgot to keep typing.  Sorry!

But what a great conversation!  Welch is a guy I think I would have loved to work for!

Postscript: While Welch was speaking from the (sometimes salty language!) perspective of a high-powered corporate executive, it was thought provoking to consider how his ideas transfer to the local church context. While some ideas translate better than others, the overall message was very powerful and challenging.  His passion for authenticity and candor in particular are critically important values we would do well to consider.

Blake Mycoskie - The TOMS Shoes Story

Acknowledged as one of today's most dynamic serial entrepreneurs, Blake Mycoskie launched five successful companies before the age of 30. He is best known as the founder and "chief shoe giver" of TOMS shoes, a for-profit company with a unique social enterprise model that has drawn tremendous media attention. Providing a new pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair sold, they have distributed more than 400,000 pairs of shoes to children around the world to date. Darren Whitehead, teaching pastor at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois, interviewed Mycoskie on leading organizations with a cause and navigating the start-up phase of an organization.

What an amazing story!

Giving doesn't just feel good, it can also be a great business strategy.  TOMS customers are actually excited about being customers.  It isn't just about selling a product - it is about creating a movement.

The Distinctives of TOMS Culture.  People work at this company because they want to be part of something bigger than themselves.  Giving and service can be incorporated into almost any business culture.  It has a transforming effect.

This company didn't start a non-profit because a profit model is more effective and sustainable.  An investment in a for profit business (with a giving/service mentality) has had a stunningly more important effect - 40,000 vs. 680,000 kids in shoes. 

A Day Without Shoes.  Over 250,000 people took off their shoes for a day to raise awareness of the project.  People all around the country got excited.  And scarcely a cent of company money was spent.  The next day without shoes is April 5th, 2011.  Make the commitment now to do this!

What changed Blake's life was actually going down to a needy country and putting shoes on feet.  Discovering the need was even bigger than imagined made the business even more meaningful.

This product provides an opportunity for even the poorest people to make a difference in the world.

Strategic partnerships have been a key component to growth - look for opportunities for authentic, meaningful partnership.

If you want to make big change in the world, you can't be afraid to make the "big ask."  But the big surprise is that people are looking for an opportunity to do genuinely meaningful things.

Come work with us!  We need fantastic people to help get us from here to there!

Daniel Pink - What Motivates Us?

Best-selling author, business thinker, and former White House speechwriter, Daniel Pink has been credited with defining a new era in the workplace. His book A Whole New Mind examined the kinds of "right brain" skills that will be required as we move from an Information Age to a Conceptual Age. His new book, Drive, looks at the science of motivation, and he'll be revealing key findings about the forces that will drive employees in well-led organizations of the future: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Pink is also the author of Free Agent Nation, and his articles on business and technology have appeared in The New York TimesHarvard Business ReviewFast Company, and Wired.

We are motivated by hunger and reward.  But we are also motivated by meaning.

The science of motivation - we have a two-dimensional perspective on motivation.  He discussed an MIT study which revealed that cognitive skill tasks do not correspond with larger and larger rewards.  Cognitive tasks require a different set of rewards.  If/then rewards don't work well for complex tasks.  Yet we ignore this incontrovertible fact constantly.

What really motivates people?

One company, Redgate Software in England, eliminated commisions for their sales staff.  They proposed raising their base salaries and offered profit sharing - everyone bought in.  Assuming the wrong things about people causes us to fail in motivating them.

False Assumption #1 - Human Beings Are Machines.
False Assumption #2 - Human Beings Are Blobs.

Find a two year old, anywhere in the world, who is not active and engaged.  By default, we are not lazy and disconnected.

What actually motivates people?  There are three key motivators.

1.  Autonomy.  We need to think about management - it is a technology from the 1850's.  Management is technology designed to get compliance.  We don't want compliance, we want engagement.  Management doesn't lead to engagement.  Who is the best boss you've ever had?  Some micromanaging, controlling monster or somebody who trusted you and set you free to become something great?  Time, team, task and technique autonomy provides very good results.
  • An Aussie software company doing "FedEx" days (autonomous projects completed overnight) which lead to all sorts of innovation.
  • Google does "20% Time," allowing people to do whatever they want 20% of the time.  All sorts of great ideas have come out of this 20% time.
We must bring these autonomous experiments in gradually.  Provide scaffolding/training wheels to this thing...

2.  Mastery.  How do we explain a guy who plays a bassoon on his weekend time?  It isn't about hunger or reward.  It is about enjoyment and pleasure.  The single largest motivator at work was the feeling of making progress in a comprehensive study.  The manager must help people see their progress.  We must actively pursue opportunities for "flow" for ourselves and for those in our organization.  We must understand the critical importance of feedback - even as we understand feedback is one of the most neglected areas of management in our organizations.

What sort of tennis player would Venus Williams be if she only got feedback on her skills once a year?  We must be constantly be giving performance reviews.

3.  Purpose.  We are now beginning to see the limits of the profit-motive.  There is a significant rise in the "purpose motive."  When the profit motive comes unmoored from the purpose motive, bad things happen. 
The profit-motive is decreasingly valuable.

A good diagnostic tool - listen to what people say, but also listen to the pronouns they use.  Are people using the "we" or do they use "they?"  We is good, they is not going to motivate.

We can't bring about change in our organizations, but we can change our world as we take one step in the right directions.  We make change together.

Terri Kelly - When Leaders Emerge

Terri Kelly is president and CEO of W.L. Gore & Associates, a 50-year old, multi-billion dollar enterprise that is often profiled as an example of the future of management. A pioneer in lattice-based management structure, Gore's "associates" become leaders based on their ability to gain the respect of their peers and to attract followers. Kelly became president and CEO in 2005, after she was elected by her peers to serve in that role. Employing more than 8,000 associates in 45 plants around the world, Gore produces many unique products, including Gore-Tex® fabric, and is perpetually named on lists of "the best places to work." Kelly explained to us all how this unique culture works on a practical level.

Some takeaways for me were...

This a successful company built on peer-based relationships and small teams. People must be vested in the success or failure of others.

On Demand Hierarchy - This company works hard not to assume that the person in charge is the expert. Decision makers can come from many different levels in the organization.

Ladder vs. Lattice Organization - We all must connect with each other. We must have the freedom to speak to each other directly. We don't tell people what to do - we tell each other what to do.

Leaders must operate through influence. We want everyone to own the mission of the organization.

A common foundation and values drives everything...
• Everyone has value
• Teams work
• We're all in the same boat.
• Take a long term view of everything - not simply short-term financial goals matter.
Everyone must accomplish things/operate through influence. Projects are approved through peer review and evaluation.

Every employee is ranked and compensated according to peer review - according to their contribution to the overall success of the enterprise. Wow!

Coaches vs. Bosses - Traditional views of leadership are very limiting. And so, at Gore, everyone has a "sponsor," whose job is to help that associate grow.

Keep manufacturing plants small - less than 250 people. This allows a very different level of ownership and engagement. Smaller allows deeper relationship and better teamwork.

How do you protect this unique culture? The hiring/interviewing process is critical.

The Waterline Principle - If you're going to consider an action that could be risky, don't drill holes below the waterline of the organization. Drill all the holes in the upper part of the boat all you want, but be careful below the waterline.

Leadership is defined by followership - Leaders are only leaders if people are willing to follow them. I'm only a leader in this organization if I call a meeting and people show up.

Leaders take a lot of time explaining decisions - essential for the team process.

What a fascinating company!

Jeff Manion - The Land Between

The performance bar was high this morning as Jeff Manion, Senior Pastor of Ada Bible Church in Michigan, prepared to speak.  Yesterday was a pretty difficult act to follow here at the Global Leadership Summit.

After a riveting and very creative media/worship intro, we were off to another great start....

Known for his vibrant teaching skills and passion for communicating the Scriptures in a clear and relevant way, Jeff Manion has served as founding and teaching pastor of Ada Bible Church in West Michigan for more than 25 years. His church of 6,000 attendees was named by Outreach magazine as one of America's largest and fastest growing churches in 2009. Using video venues and two offsite campuses, they strive to create a small church feeling within a large church setting. Invited to the Summit after Bill Hybels heard a taped message he gave on "The Land Between," Manion shared biblical insights on how to avoid pitfalls that can easily entrap those who are living in a time of transition.

There comes the inevitable time when we no longer know exactly what we are anymore.  We can't identify ourselves by our college major anymore...our lives are characterized by the phrase "for now."  For now, I'm living with my parents.  For now, I'm working at this job I hate.  For now, we're waiting to see what the doctor says.  For now, we're waiting.  For now is often a painfully difficult phrase.  This is the land between.

The land between is that place between green, fertile Egypt and green, promised Palestine.  The land between is desert.  The land between isn't even mentioned in God's promise to Moses.  The land between is forgotten...

In Numbers 11:4, a riot breaks out over the miserable, boring manna in the land between.  The land between is fertile ground, but it is fertile ground for complaint.  They aren't just complaining about their condition, they are complaining against God.  Complaint can be dangerous rebellion.

How is God going to meet Moses as the leader of the people in this land between?

In Numbers 11:11-14, Moses does his own little whining about the situation.  This burden is too heavy for me.  I'm not their mother!  I can't carry this anymore.  The land between is fertile ground for emotional meltdown.  If this how you're going to treat me, put me to death right now.

Whose voice is Moses going to hear in the midst of his whining meltdown?  Whose voice do we hear in this story?  Do we hear our own voices?

Anyone involved in leadership will find themselves in the land between.  We can be prepared for days of disappointment, but are we ever prepared for years of disappointment?  Are we prepared to be disappointment to others?

How does God move toward Moses?  How does God move toward us?  In Numbers 11:16-17, God tells Moses to get some good help.  Choose 70 good, reliable guys and God will place a portion of the burden on them.  The land between is fertile ground for God's provision.  It is the place where we find friends to help us carry the burden.  While in the land between, leave your hands open to receive from God.  God loves to provide for us in the land between.  When Elijah has his land between meltdown and prays that he might die, God provides for him tenderly.  God gives him rest, water, fresh bread - we are expecting a lecture from God and God gives him lunch.  God loves to tenderly provide.

In Numbers 11:18-20, God answers to the land between with a wonderfully humorous provision of meat.  You want meat?  Okay, I'll give you meat until it comes out your nose!  Moses, is the Lord's arm too short?

The land between is fertile ground of God's discipline.  God inflicts pain for constructive and redemptive purposes.  Why do we have such problems with God's discipline?  We are naive to think we are immune to God's corrective, disciplining hand.

The land between is fertile ground for transformational growth.  This is the place we really learn to trust God.  This is the place where the Israelites are formed into the people of God.  It is the place where we are prepared to enjoy the land of promise.  It is the place where we really learn to trust God.  It is the place where we really learn to pray and depend on Him.

Yet all this transformation will not happen automatically.  Time does not necessarily heal all wounds - sometimes people become bitter, awful and permanently resentful in the land between.  The land between can be a place where faith goes to die!  The land between can lead us in several different directions - it is ours to choose which way we will go.

May God bless you in the land between!


Thursday, August 5, 2010

August 11-12, 2011

I just put next year's Global Leadership Summit on my schedule.  Thought everyone should know...but don't worry if you forget.  If you know me at all, I will be reminding you of these days frequently over the next twelve months.  There will be a Hanson contingent there next year.

What a glorious day!

Andy Stanley - The Upside of Tension

I was at serious risk of information overload by the time Andy Stanley came to the stage.  And yet I was once again pleasantly impressed.  This was a thoroughly practical conversation, useful to anyone in almost any leadership role.

The conversation focused on our opposable thumbs - Stanley marveled at how the same two fingers could delicately place a contact lens in an eye or throw a baseball at 90 miles an hour.  Sometimes opposable things, sometimes tensions aren't bad - they are inevitable.  They are necessary.  They are even helpful if understood and managed properly.

Stanley centered his conversation around three observations:

1.  Every organization has problems that shouldn't be solved and tensions that shouldn't be resolved.  The tensions between work and home, marketing and sales, local and global ministries shouldn't be resolved.  They are proper and important.  If we resolve any of these tensions, we will create new tensions.  If we resolve these tensions, we create a barrier to progress.  Progress depends not on the resolution of those tensions but on the successful management of those tensions.

2.  How do we distinguish between problems to solve and tensions to manage, ask the following:
  • Does this problem or tension keep resurfacing?
  • Are there mature advocates for both sides?
  • Are the two sides really interdependent?
3.  The role of leadership is to leverage the tension to the benefit of the organization.
  • Identify the tensions to be managed in your organization
  • Create terminology - help people understand this third way of seeing issues
  • Inform your core - let your key players understand
  • Continually give value to both sides
  • Don't weigh in too heavily based on your personal biases.  Understand the upside of the opposite side and the downside of your side.  Don't be more hungry to be interesting to others than interested in others and in the perspectives of the people around you.  That may well be my take away today!
  • Don't allow strong personalities to win the day.
  • Don't think in terms of balance.  Think in terms of rhythm!  This thing isn't about fairness, it is about doing what is necessary according to the rhythms of ministry.  As the Preacher in Ecclesiastes said, "For everything there is a season."  A leader understands these seasons.
This was an excellent message to close a thoroughly excellent day!

Peter Zhao Xiao - Beyond Chinese Economics

This was also a fascinating conversation.  This Chinese economics professor, in a study commissioned by the Chinese government, concluded Christian faith was behind U.S. economic strength.  In the process, he became a Christian himself.

In a nod to Hybel's address earlier in the day, Xiao said while it is important that leaders understand how to lead people from "here" to "there," they must also understand the right "there" to pursue.  Moving people along is only valuable if we're moving them in the right direction.

He detailed ways in which China has now finally come back, and yet called on the audience to pray for a continuation of the spiritual growth that has accompanied the economic growth. While the economy is growing faster than any economy in history, the Christian faith is growing even faster than the economy.  But the church is not yet influential in the culture, even though there are an estimated 100 million Chinese Christians today. 

He believes China can become a great city on a hill, a nation of integrity and a blessing to the world.  But it also has potential to become a problem in the world.  The degree to which the Cross penetrates the culture will determine the way China becomes a blessing or curse on the world.

Pray for China!

Adam Hamilton - When Leaders Fall

This was a good, but grim conversation about moral failure, how to deal with it and how to avoid it.

My takeaway from this message is the image of Pastor Hamilton's beagle incessantly eating stink pickles out of their cat litter box.  Until we begin to see the consequences of sin and failure with that sort of shame-faced, disgusted look, we're not going to take the steps necessary to avoid it.

If we're serious about resisting temptation...

1.  Remember who you are - You are a precious child of God and important in what you do

2.  Recognize the consequences of our actions - fantasize the awful, litter around the mouth results of sin.

3.  Rededicate yourself to God - stop, drop and pray!

4.  Reveal your sin/temptation struggles to a trusted friend - power is lost when struggle is revealed.

5.  Remove ourselves from the situation - sometimes the only option is to flee.

We are called both to sanctification and forgiveness.  Even when there is failure, there is still the Father of the Prodigal waiting to welcome us (and others) home.

Tony Dungy - The Mentor Leader

This interview with Tony Dungy was utterly wonderful.  Tony told one story after another of the importance of mentorship in his own life.  From Jesus, to his parents, to a barber who cut his hair on Friday nights in high school, Dungy values his mentors.  The takeaway from this conversation was that we don't need to be superstars to be valuable mentors in the lives of others.

Dungy's story of a vice principal who kept him from quitting football as a 17 year old kid was particularly moving.  Dungy didn't quit and years later, after a successful pro career, hired Mike Tomlin as an assistant coach.  Later, Tomlin hired another young coach who eventually went on to a college coaching position.  And now, as Tony Dungy's son Eric is being recruited for college ball, it is this same assistant coach who will now become his coach.  This same coach is spouting the same lessons he learned from Mike Tomlin, who learned them from Tony Dungy.  All this happened because of an assistant principal who took the time to keep a 17 year old kid playing football instead of quitting.  One mentor who mentored a kid who mentored someone else who mentored someone else who will now end up being an important influence on the child of the kid at the beginning of the whole cycle.  We are truly blessed when we take the time to bless others.  Cast your bread upon the waters - who knows how it might come back to you!

This was a wonderful few moments with a truly wonderful person. 

Thanks Tony!

Christine Caine - Leading From A Place of Hope

I probably should have given a disclaimer prior to blogging anything today.  There is the very distinct probability I'm not doing justice to any of these speakers at the conference today.  Each speaker has shared exponentially more than what I can possibly remember from my notes.

This is particularly true of Christine Caine's message.  It was quite impossible to take notes while gripped by Christine's stories.

Christine Caine, an Australian pastor and ministry leader, began her conversation by telling the gripping story of 60 women struggling to survive in a shipping container on its way to Turkey.  30 died when the ventilation system failed.  20 more died when tossed into the ocean to avoid law enforcement officials.  And when the last few met with Christine, one of these now rescued sex slaves angrily asked, "If all these things you're saying about God's love and hope are true, then why did it take you so long to find us?" 

A very gripping question indeed.

Pastor Caine focused her message on the world's desperate need of the Gospel's message of hope.  We must not be scared away by the enormous numbers of need, we must concentrate on the individual needs.  27 million people is too big a number to consider - but one life is never too big.

Probably the most moving story I'll take away from this message was a story about a Barbie flashlight at Walmart.  Pastor Caine took her daughter to WalMart to buy a Barbie flashlight, but when the harsh lights of the store made the light of the flashlight hard to see, the little girl excitedly begged, "Mommy, after we pay for this, can we go find some dark?"  When we're excited about the light, the darkness becomes an adventure. Even the darkest closet isn't scary any more.

The world needs the light we're holding.  As mentioned by Zechariah, we are truly God's "prisoners of hope."  We must learn to share this hope - the world needs us to.

Jim Collins - Never, Ever Give Up

What began as a somewhat somber chronicle of "how the mighty fall" concluded as a rousing challenge to persevere.  This was a thoroughly exciting presentation.

Collins argued we fail in five stages:

1.  Hubris Borne of Success:  We get so excited about our successes we begin to think we're entitled to them.  Humility is what consistently separates the good from the great leaders.

2.  Undisciplined Pursuit of More:  Our arrogance leads us to over-reach into areas we are not prepared to serve.  We know we have over-reached when we exceed our ability to have Hybel's "fantastic" people in all areas of ministry.  We must resist growth until we have the right people in place to manage growth.

3.  Denial of Risk & Peril:  In spite of ominous signals surfacing all around us, we continue to arrogantly trust in our ability to succeed.  Collins discussed an inspirational meeting with former Vietnam area POW Admiral James Stockdale.  The Admiral, who survived over 20 tortures by never losing faith in the importance of each moment of life, told Collins the prisoners that didn't make survive were the optimists - guys like that died of a broken heart as their optimistic beliefs were perennially crushed.  We must properly and humbly balance faith against the brutal facts. 

4.  Grasping For Salvation:  As things fall apart, we begin to grasp for whatever silver bullets we can find, only to discover greatness is a disciplined process, not last minute miracles.  We realize too late that greatness is a slow and steady process, a cumulative action of the "flywheel" in the right direction.

5.  Capitulation:  Eventually, there is nothing to be done.  And yet, even at this late stage, there is opportunity to begin again.

Great companies, great leaders thrive because they have a transcendent reason to survive.  They are driven by purposes beyond themselves.  They have the ability to preserve their core values while stimulating progress.  They preserve what matters while at the same time establishing BHAGs - Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals. They change practices, not principles.

Collins concluded with a ten point to-do list for all of us...

  • Do your diagnostics (how is your organization doing?  Check out free diagnostics at
  • Count your blessings - this is always a humbling experience
  • What is your question to statements ratio?  Are you trying to be interesting or are you genuinely interested in the people around you?
  • How many seats are on your bus?  Who is in them?
  • With your leadership team, assemble a list of the "brutal facts" of your situation
  • Create a "Stop Doing" list - Sometimes what we stop doing is more important than what we're doing
  • Define your desired results and valuable milestones
  • Set some BHAGs!
Peter Drucker, when asked which of his 26 books was most important to him, immediately responded, "The next one!"  At a celebration of his work, at which all his books were lined up chronologically on a shelf, the room was humbled to learn that two thirds of the books were written after Drucker turned age 65!  

Never, ever give up!  Never settle.

Bill Hybels on Leadership Fundamentals

In the opening session of this years Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit, Bill Hybels once again beautifully set the stage for two days of leadership bliss.  Speaking of a time alone in prayer during a "leadership slump," he was reminded of four leadership fundamentals.  There was nothing particularly novel or profound about them, but they serve as a beautiful opening for the Summit nonetheless.

Leaders Move People from Here to There.  We aren't just responsible for vision.  We are responsible for destroying the acceptability of "here" so that people will be willing to invest in "there."  Just as Dr. Martin Luther King gave hundreds of speeches decrying "here" before we were all ready to consider his dream, we too must make here unacceptable.

Fantastic People Are Essential.  We must truly the fantastic, indispensable people in our organizations.  We must not simply recognize good character, competence, chemistry and culture fit - we must make these precious people know how fantastic they are.

Mile Markers And Celebrations.  Just as the middle miles of a marathon are the most difficult because the end is still far away and the awfulness of the "here" is a fading memory, we too must recognize the dangers of the middle.  We must constantly refill the leaky vision buckets of the people around us.  We must celebrate every mile marker, not simply the final one.

Whispers From God.  We must be attentive and aware of what God is whispering to us all along the way.  Just as Jesus taught us in John 10:27 "My sheep hear my voice and obey it," we must be listening so we might obey.  We must not only be relentless readers/students of the Bible, we must listen for the voice of the God who inspired it.  We must be like the crazy guy in the pickup with the weird antenna sticking out of his truck.  What sort of weird antennas should we accept that we might somehow, some way, hear the whispers of God.

What will we do to hear God?

One of the things I'm going to do is pay close attention to every moment of this years summit!  Thanks Bill!