Thursday, May 29, 2008

Looking Back for the Future

"The further back you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see." - Winston Churchill

Churchill was a big believer in how history can inform current decisions. Nowhere do I believe this is more true than the church. The start of the church is the best place to be informed on the future of her direction.

Unfortunately, it is common (and easy) to read our own traditions into the formation of the church in the early days, and assume we are doing what they did back in the day.

This never hit me until I read Wagner's Acts of the Apostles, and I was blown away by his different perspective. Not that I agree with all of Wagner, but how he saw different and beyond my presuppositions. It opened my eyes.

Here are a few things that are intriguing from then to now.

  • There are no pastors in the book of Acts and yet this is our primary leadership structure.
  • There are no women pastors (no pastors at all), but women play a key role - even as prophets (Acts 21)
  • There is no systematic theology, or exegetical teaching.
  • Miracles are common - even expected as the gospel moves forward in power.
  • God speaks to people directly
  • New believers got baptized fast - when they decided to follow.
  • THE Apostles where not the only apostles (Acts 14).
There is more, but these are a few that I did not see because my tradition blinded me to what was really being said (btw - this is the same type of thing that got our boy Luther to post his 95 burs in the saddle on the door at Wittenburg).

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Einstein on Influence

Setting an example is not the main means of influencing others, it is the only means.
- Albert Einstein (here sporting his 'regular guy at the beach' look).

General George S. Patton gave his version of 'management by walking around by saying - "no good decision was ever made from a swivel chair."

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Listening to God

Sometimes (ok, often) my posts are kind of pointed and overly mission focused. I guess that is why I named this the rant. I wanted to speak freely - but sometimes it may be too much.

So that is to say, that the massive key to this whole thing is transformed lives and listening to Jesus. All the missional goobly garp in the world aint gonna make a hill of beans if this is not happening. This is the essence of discipleship (in my book).

On transformation - unfortunately we (the west) have gotten ourselves into program / attendance bind. We measure spiritual growth by who is showing up and how sweet the event went. I was a church planters conference recently and one of the key questions batted around in the halls was . . . 'how many you running?' They joked about this up front . . . but it is painfully how we have learned to keep score in western Christianity.

On listening to Jesus - there is a subtle but destructive force in the west that says that God ONLY speaks through scripture. What a bummer. Now I agree that he is not going to say anything that contradicts scripture, but to say that he cannot speak to me directly really undermines the whole idea of a relationship with him. What a bummer if my wife wrote me a letter when I married her and it contained all the information I would ever get in regard to her communication with me. No, I believe that it is key that we know, understand and practice listening to his voice. Then he will guide us in real time toward what we need to do.

Can you think of respected person in scripture, major or minor, who did not HEAR from God? . . . . me either. I believe this is key to what it means to be a disciple.

Dangerous and possibly hard to learn and teach . . . but absolutely key. If the young people get a hold of hearing his voice and doing what he says . . . all this talk is pointless and the craziness of a Jesus movement will blow us away.

I had to come back on and add this. If we taught this, we would never have to do placement again. We could allow the HS to place staff simply by telling them where he wanted them to go. You may think this is crazy, or would not work, or that the whole USCM would end up in Ohio . . . but this is exactly what we do internationally. No one gets placed in Kazakstan! You have to hear from Jesus and then you work the system to get there. It would be cool to set that system up for the whole of the US.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Leading My Friends

"Management is about how the job gets done. Leadership is determining what the job is and moving people toward getting it done." - Larry Winget

Larry is a business dude / speaker / consultant who does not mince words. Here I think he is on to something that we should be aware of. It is not about the how.

On DJs blog there is a good discussion of the four laws, but in reality it does not matter what the tool is . . . any tool will do. Invent some more. What matters in leadership is what the job / goal is and then the ability to build systems that unleash and empower people to get it accomplished. Is this the way we handle students on campus? or do we micro them with some 'training' and tools and then program our way forward.

Or, in leading, do we hold high the vision for the campus or city (this equates to the 'job') and then move them toward getting it done by believing in them, serving them and facilitating their dreams for their campus. How do we do it? Let these young inspired leaders figure that out . . that is half the fun of the mission.


On the broader picture . . . is this how we treat our staff organizationally? Of late, I have felt a whole lot of how and not so much what. All to often I think upper management believes the problem is on the local level and then tries to inform solutions (or like me in ESM . . . borrow some solution from another location and feed it to the whole). The reality is, most local leaders are leading bigger on the local level than any of the upper management ever did at the local level. It is, in fact, a different world - larger schools, broader geography and then the crazy ethnic landscape as well.

Crazy as it may seem, I believe the Cru system is built upon a strange unanimity that is debilitating. It is built to have poor leaders consuming coaching energy and forces good leaders to operate below what they could actually produce without having to navigate the system.

It is built to level the playing field and 'train' everyone to do much of the same things in the same ways. Oooops. The world (and the kingdom) simply do not work well that way. This is why DNA discussions and such are kind of boring and pointless.

"Please . . tell me what you are wanting me to accomplish (results), measure and reward me, and then let me make all the primary decisions (with who, where). Then we will see some new and awesome things begin to emerge."

The manager at Mickey Dees gets to hire his own fry cook . . . why cant the local leader put together his own team (without negotiating it with anyone above I might add).

Monday, May 12, 2008


So here are some wakjob ideas:

  • Launch 50 churches out of your current campus ministry (small little viral things with 21 year old elders and you as the master apostle - thats with a little 'a' in apostle btw). Tell the students that you will gather weekly to worship and train, but you want them each to start a simple viral church . . . . and you can show them how.
  • Start teaching students to baptize new believers and each other - push full obedience to Mt 28 baby! Forget decisions . . . measure disciples (those who are taking obedient steps) and baptisms.
  • Never speak at a meeting again - only lets students share what is on their heart in the mission each and every week. Let mission inform theology and worry about the messes as you move ahead.
  • Define the whole ministry in 5 words. Win, Build, Send, Campus, World.
  • Identify 50 clubs on campus and get a rad group of believers to join each one. Use a weekly meeting to 'rush' for each identifiable group. Infiltrate baby!
  • Form a non-profit on your campus and start hiring your own interns and staff. Or, get a local church to hire them for you.
  • Initiate more service projects than any other group on campus . . . and make sure to invite the whole campus to each one.
  • Never meet with someone one on one again. Only in small groups and only with someone besides you leading the discussion.
  • Start a covert underground Xtian sect that does radical stupid things . . . don't let anyone know about it except the first 10 people you invite in. See if you can grow it by adding and multiplying new believers only. Commit to never making a Tshirt.
  • Never get a new believer involved with what is already going on . . . really . . . only help them start something new in their existing community (like Zaccheus or that Ethiopian dude).
Any more? Sure you cannot do them all, and these may all be kind of lame. But if someone does not do something really really different . . . then we will continue with the exact same thing we currently have now.

Change Please

From my demented perch, change and leadership go hand in hand. If you are not leading positive change, then there is another word for what is going on . . . management.

Now, there is nothing wrong with good management, but I am not sure that is what we aspire to in mission. We usually enter a city or campus setting with the desire to render things different that what they currently are. This we understand - we role up our sleeves and tackle what needs to be done. But the rub is that often times we look behind us, or simply put new window dressing on current practices, and we end up with the same things we have gotten in similar locations (again, not bad at all, but not real change). This is ok if you are going from UCLA to UC-Davis, but may prove painful if you are going to Istanbul or Moscow.

Again, nothing wrong with doing what we know works well, but it simply will never get us anything different than what we are currently aware of. And I believe we are desperately in need of something radically different. The books of Acts was not a revamp of the existing synagogue system, but a whole new format for connecting with God. (new wine skins!)

A few weeks ago I was sitting with Alan Hirsch and a few others over dinner. Alan made a side comment (which are always awesome) about the need for some people in the west to simply go uncorked in experimentation. Not with a better band, or more stories in their speaking . . . but some stuff simply not heard of. What should they do? I don't know . . . . that is where the wild experimentation could really take root. This is where I believe the young and the restless of this generation will make their mark (so us old dudes best get out the way).

What are some ideas?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Dan Tocchini on a roll

My good friend Dan Tocchini has cranked up his blog. Worth checking out for sure.

Along with his wife Aileen, they established the Association For Christian Character Development (ACCD), Global Life Works (GLW) and Culture ROI (CROI). All of these organizations are dedicated to the work of transformation in different parts of our world.

For the past 15 years ACCD has been focused on Christian Character Development and has trained over 30,000 individuals around the world. I first encountered Dan in the spring of 2007 at one of these training. He has blessed me every since.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentines Day

Today I kidnapped my daughters for a Daddy lunch date. Taelor is 10 and Addie is 8. We went to Firehouse subs (a favorite for them). What a joy to have wonderful daughters!

Friday, February 08, 2008

Deb Hirsch on Distorted Views

Opening night of the Organic Church Conference, Deb Hirsch (the better looking of the Deb and Alan tandem) gave a great overview of how our distorted views in Western Christianity prevent us from engaging the Kingdom in a powerful way.

She listed seven categories on opening night of the Organic Church Conference. More than one caught me off guard. These bullets do not do it justice.

  1. Distorted view of Jesus - not so meek and mild and patsy, but a confrontational subversive anti-religious radical.
  2. Distorted view of Self - not as the center but as part of the whole
  3. Distorted view of Others - not scum bag sinners but created in the image of God
  4. Distorted view of the World - not expendable but redeemable
  5. Distorted view of Love - not shallow and temporal, but sacrificial and committed
  6. Distorted view of Family - not small and nuclear, but across blood lines and multi-generational
  7. Distorted view of Money and Consumption - basically, we are way to friendly with money and its effect on us.
Deb statement on money really hit me. Especially about money having key qualities of deity (and therefore worshipable). Qualities like offering security, being omnipresent and wielding power. This is definitely the God of the West. Forget the threat of Islam, mammon has us in its grip.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Organic Church Conference - CA Style

Early registration is coming to a close so time to pony up and get out to the Organic Church Conference in beautiful Ontario CA (I am making that last part up). This should be a good time with Neil Cole, Alan & Deb Hirsch, Wolfgang Simson, Tony & Felicity Dale and a few other simple church hoodlums. The dates are February 8-10 . . . a great place to connect, learn and dream. Hope to see you there.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


Last month was quite sad. Linda used to joke with me that I had two sad times a year - sometime in middle spring, and then some point in the NFL playoffs. But of late, I have come into my own with this crazy emotion. December has been a sad month.

So my friend Kathryn Taylor got some good advice from another good friend - David English, on sadness. David wrote:

There are things that cause us to be emotionally sad or feel something like that. Sadness is an emotion we feel when there seems to be no control we can exercise. It also happens when our expectations are not fulfilled. Sadness can control us and sometimes for a lifetime. It can be the predominant emotion that characterizes some people's lives. Sadness is not bad. Jesus was referred to as "a man of many sorrows."
Here is a process to deal with sadness:
Low entitlement High gratitude Don't take failure personally Rest

Thanks David via Kathryn - I needed that.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Moltke the Elder - on Planning

No battle plan survives contact with the enemy - Count Helmut von Moltke the Elder

I was able to spend a couple of hours with Ken Cochrum this past week. Ken is the director of the Global Campus Ministry with Campus Crusade. After serving for a number of years in Asia, he is back in the US hoping to give traction to campus ministry on a global scale. Ken is a good leader who understands movements and what it means to be driven on biblical principles. His passion is spiritual leadership and helping leaders lead well.

It was in this conversation that the Moltke quote came up.

Moltke's phrase (along with War is a matter of expedients) did not mean that he not believe in planning, but more that he saw strategy as a practical art of adapting means to ends - and doing so in a fluid environment forced leaders to act from goals and principles rather than prescribed methods or wishful thinking.

Helmut von Moltke (the Moltkenator to his friends) was the Purssian Army Chief of Staff for 30 years. He also had a mean cross-over dribble.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Blog with Candor

I am perusing Small is the New Big, Seth Godin's offering from 2006, which as some nice nuggets (it is basically a collection of nuggets that you dont want to read all at once).

Seth suggest six things for leaders (CEOs) to make sure they have in order to communicate well via the blog craze.

  • Candor - speak the truth, don't try to snow me or pump sunshine up my . . . trouser leg.
  • Urgency - key to change is the introducing the angst that will help us want change.
  • Timeliness - must talk about something that is happening or needs to happen.
  • Pithiness - make it readable.
  • Controversy - don't embrace timidity and positivity - create some angst and edginess.
Many leaders I know in Christian organizations (including Campus Crusade where most of my leadership experience is from) are not very comfortable with any of these. Not verbally, and definitely not in written form. There is usually an attempt to minimize controversy, smooth over urgency and it is done by avoiding candor and embracing political speak, vision casting and sunshine pumping.

This does not serve us well when we need to embrace reality and move toward radical, substantial and lasting change. A healthy critique from leadership directed at the organization they lead, allows followers the satisfaction of knowing that leadership is aware of what is needed and is engaged in changing that reality.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Kiss the Pig

My neighbor Frank, a all around awesome guy and one of the best neighbors anyone could have, hosts an annual kiss the pig party every Jan 1. You cook a whole pig over a pit and enjoy friends and neighbors while Michigan puts the wallop on Florida.

The theory on kiss the pig is this: If you kiss a pig on the first day of the year, not much worse is going to happen to you the rest of the year - you have already hit bottom.

Good time - thanks Frank and Jenny!

Monday, December 31, 2007

Minneapolis - TCX

Cameron (our 12 year old son) took this picture of me at TCX - a student conference in Minneapolis. He was sitting front row with about 1400 college kids behind him. (If you think I look fat here, you should have seen me on the giant screen! I looked up and lost my train of thought while staring at the huge balding guy!)

The best part about being with these students is the white-hot worship. I feel this generation engages Jesus with a reckless abandonment that is refreshing and fun to be a part of. But it is also a generation of pain, suffering and disillusionment. In general, they are skeptical of religion, shun church as usual, and are moving rapidly away from the faith the way grandma did it. This is an incredible opportunity. From my vantage point, it seems like a major shift unlike anything we have seen in generations. There is a redefinition going on (for good and bad I might add) and it has the potential to reshape our nation and even the world.

I particularly talked to this gang about engaging the culture around them with the gospel. In a nutshell, taking faith on the offensive without being offensive. Taking Jesus to those who need him without carrying the baggage of religiosity and condemnation. I did this by looking at teachings of Christ and having the students interact with each other over situations and groups on their campuses (like - how do you be Jesus to the Gay/Lesbian/Bi-sexual club).

As spirituality and faith increases on campus, we (believers) have a tendency to form 'holy huddles' that cease to engage the culture around us and become a bit sanctimonious and isolated (and, as one non believer stated, 'just plain mean'). None of which reflects how Jesus operated (in fact, he was too busy ticking off the religious by serving and loving those who were deeply trapped by sin and poor choices).

The true beauty of university students is their naiveté and zeal. They really believe God will do what he has done before (and more), and it is not a stretch for them to act on those beliefs. So the day after I spoke, all 1400 hundred of these kids (yes, they are kids now!!) hit the streets of Minneapolis to give food and gifts to those in need and to share the good new with anyone who wanted to hear it. What a great group of young leaders to run with!!

One of the things I asked them was, in teams, to build a simple plan to 'be Jesus' to a group of other students on campus. In a week or so I will email the leaders on those campuses to see if there is any progress, or if students are attempting anything in their communities. I hope so. I pray that my speaking was not just another talking head with some decent jokes, but that some actions will take place that make big difference.