Monthly Archives: August 2009

Leadership Summit Part 3!

Have you ever had that feeling that you just weren’t good enough?  Something inside of you that says you will never succeed.  I have felt that way on different occasions.  Maybe you are working really hard toward a degree and it just doesn’t come as naturally for you as it does for someone else.  Or maybe you are working in a church ministry as a volunteer and you just can’t seem to get your ministry off the ground.  Maybe you are a pastor or church leader and it just seems like everything you try, fails miserably.  Pretty soon you begin to hear that voice inside that says, “You’re just not good enough.”

There was a man by the name of Michael Jordan.  He used to shoot a round ball through a round hoop about 10 feet off the ground.  He soared through the air like a bird.  In fact, his line of shoes are called “Air Jordan.”  Yet as successful as Michael has been on the basketball court, he was cut from his high school basketball team.  I bet that coach hasn’t slept a night since Michael’s days at North Carolina.  Rather than write out for you all of the times Michael has failed just watch this video to hear a few from the man himself.

And these are just to name a few.  Michael failed many times and through his failures he became known as the greatest to ever play the game.  High praise for someone with so many failures.  But now back to your failure.

Ironically, this is the part of your life where you should feel the best about yourself.  Chip and Dan Heath, authors of the book “Made to Stick,” and the soon to be released, “Switch,” call this the “valley of insight.”  I like that terminology much better than failure.  They say that in this “valley of insight,” we learn many valuable lessons.  We have insight that helps us to learn and overcome our mistakes.  As we come up out of this “valley of insight,” we begin to experience confidence.  I guess we can grow confident about things when we learn from our mistakes.

I happen to like this idea very much.  I like the idea that when I feel like I am at my worst or that I am utterly failing at something, that chances are I am also learning.  It is the people who can look at their failures and learn from them who have what is called the “growth mindset.”  This is the mentality of a man like Tiger Woods.  He went on a winning tear early in his career.  At the pinnacle of the game, no one could even come close to him.  It was at that time that he went out and reworked his swing becuase he felt that he could get better.  This is the mentality of people who will grow and succeed.

In the church world we are notorious for certain phrases.  One of the most often quoted is a simple, seven word phrase.  It goes like this, “We’ve never done it that way before.”  This mindset leads to mediocrity in the Kingdom of God.  This is the mindset that prevents the church from keeping up with the current generation.  This is the mindset that says, “Failure isn’t an option,” when in reality failure is the only option.  Because only in our failures are we actually doing anything.

Only in our failures are we trying.

Only in our failures are we learning.

Only in our failures are we growing.

Only in our failures will we ultimately succeed.

How many of you want to be mediocre leaders in the Kingdom of God?  Or in your business?  Or in your school?  Or in your home?  My guess is that there isn’t anyone who wants to be mediocre at anything they try.  I can guarantee you one thing; if you are so afraid of failure that you don’t try, the only thing you will succeed at is failure.  And the church is the last place we can afford to fail.  The church is the hope for mankind, it is the Kingdom of God on earth designed to reach out and share a wonderful message of salvation and grace to a hurting world.  This message and mission have eternal consequences.  In this we can’t afford to fail, therefore we can’t afford to be afraid of failure.  Church leaders have to look failure in the eye and say, “Bring it on.”  If I fail, at least I tried.  But while I’m on earth I’m going to give all I have to share this message with the world around me.

What are you afraid to try because you think it will fail?

What is your church afraid to do because they think it will fail?

What thoughts do you have about this topic?  How can we begin to look at failure as the “valley of insight?”


Leadership Summit Part 2

In 2005 they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility.  They have sold more than 145 million albums worldwide and hold 22 Grammys, more than any other band.  Rolling Stone magazine has listed them at #22 out of the 100 greatest artists of all time.  If you are on top of your music game you would know that we are talking about the band, U2, the world renowned, Irish rock band.


The lead singer of U2, Bono, has made a couple of appearances at the Summit.  He has been a compassionate leader for humantiarian causes through organizations like Amnesty International and the ONE Campaign.  A few years ago he challenged the church in a number of ways.  His basic premise was that the church was doing nothing to help the cause of humanity.  His opinion was that the church had merely gotten in the way of social justice and humanitarian projects.  He has had some sharp and challenging words for the church over the last few years because of this.

This year was slightly different.  Over the last three years he has been amazed at the work the church has done, specifically in regards to the AIDS crisis in Africa.  Substantial ministries have been started and funds raised and he attributes much of it to the awakening of the church to the needs in the world.  Now many people in the church don’t want to take advice from someone who isn’t a “Christian” in the strict sense that they define a Christian as.  So for those of you who think you have nothing to learn from someone who isn’t as traditional as you, the rest of this blog is not for you.

I was encouraged by the church’s ambition in tackling worldwide humanitarian issues.  But there was one quote that Bono gave that stuck with me and I wrote it down in my notes.  I want to challenge the church and all followers of Christ with it.  When Bill Hybels asked him about his church attendance Bono replied with small talk about the churches he has attended.  Different churches all around the world that he has visited or been a part of.  When it comes to church there is one turn off that he mentioned.  Here is his quote, “What I find hard to take is lifeless ceremony.”  Not that any of us have ever seen a church that is simply going through the motions right?

My question is, “What does a church that has ‘lifeless ceremony’ look like?  What exactly does that mean?”  In my mind it is a church service where the motions are there, but the heart part is not.  In a church that is lifeless you will hear many things that are clues to the lifelessness inside.  Things like…

Excuse me, this is our pew.

Who moved the communion table?

Well, that just wasn’t my style of worship.

What happened to the candle I donated?

Look at that shirt.  Doesn’t she know this is church?

When I think of a lifeless ceremony, I think of people who can sit there for years and still never get it.  It is obvious from the second you walk in the door that the people inside are just going through the motions.  They aren’t really connected to each other or anything bigger than themselves, but they have been there for 100 years so they just have to keep it going.  It is an unfortunate fate that many churches experience.

What do you think of when you hear ‘lifeless ceremony?’

So how do we fix it?  How do we change the perception in the world that the church is just lifeless?  The perception that says there is no life-changing message in that place.  Look how ‘lifeless’ they are.  I would challenge every one who considers themselves to be a follower of Christ that the answer is as far away as the bathroom mirror.  Go to your bathroom, look in the mirror and what do you see?  That’s right.  You see, you!  You are the answer.  You don’t have to be paid clergy or seminary graduates; the Apostles weren’t.  Why does the church naturally assume that if it is lifeless then it must be someone else’s fault?

The pastor’s sermon sure was depressing today.

Can you believe what the children’s pastor did?

Look at the way he is dressed.

I can’t believe the elders made that decision.

What were they thinking?

It may just be that the answer to ‘lifeless ceremony’ in the church is for Christians to come back to life.  Our Savior said He came to give us life to the full and we live it half empty.  He came that we could have freedom and we live in the bondage of sacred cows.  He came to restore His relationship with humanity and we keep Him locked away in the church “sanctuary” for Sunday morning.  Is it really any wonder that the church is perceived as ‘lifeless?’  But maybe this time it isn’t the pastor’s fault, the elder’s fault, the staff’s fault or anyone else that we can find to point the finger at.  Maybe it is us, everyday Christians who have simply missed the call to life by Jesus.  Maybe the person staring back at you in the mirror is the reason.

Are you living out a full life with Jesus Christ everyday?

Are you restoring your relationship with Him each morning?

Are you making the most of your freedom in Jesus Christ?

Are you personally doing something as a follower of Christ as opposed to just sitting on a pew, becoming obese on spiritual food?

The answer to ‘lifeless ceremony’ is in the mirror.  If followers of Christ are experiecing Christ to the full all week long, they will bring that with them to a Sunday morning service.  Church on Sunday morning is just a reflection of your relationship with Jesus Christ on Monday to Saturday.  So if your church feels ‘lifeless,’ maybe you need to take a good long look in the mirror.

So, what do you think?  What am I missing?  Do you have another idea of what ‘lifeless’ looks like to you?  What would you do to ‘fix’ it?

Leadership Summit – Part 1

In my humble opinion, the Leadership Summit hosted at Willow Creek Community Church is one of the greatest leadership conferences on the planet.  There is no shortage to the high quality, professional work that is put into this conference.  Willow Creek has gone out of their way to put on a fantastic and very meaningful leadership experience.  For the last 4 years my leadership gifts have been challenged and I have been strengthened and encouraged to grow as a leader.  If you are a leader in the church, business world or other non-profit setting, I would highly recommend and encourage you to get into the Leadership Summit next year.  Most likely there is a site near you where you can participate.  The Summit is broadcast to dozens of countries around the world and reaches more than 100,000 leaders.  It is a truly innovative and amazing opportunity.

I wanted to take a few of the key concepts, practices or quotes that I learned throughout the Summit and share them here.  Over the next few days or weeks I will blog about different things that impacted me at the Summit.  I want to share some of the stories from the amazing people that were there as well.  I think you can be inspired by them also.  I want to start with the man behind it all, Pastor Bill Hybels.

Each year Summit is kicked off and concluded by Mr. Hybels.  There is no shortage to the challenges that he has to offer.  Just when I think I have heard it all and that the Summit can’t possibly offer anymore, he words something in just the right way and I am being impacted all over again.  This year was no different.  I want to begin with the end.  Traditionally, he has concluded with a much longer lesson time.  This year the conclusion to the conference was more short and sweet.  Mr. Hybels shared a few simple things that he wanted to challenge the leaders with.  I want to share one of his simple ideas that has really impacted me and will be with me for the rest of my life.

Mr. Hybels said that we should challenge ourselves to obey the Spirit of God every time He prompts us.  When he began to explain it the quote came out this way, “God, the answer is yes.  What’s the question?”  The challenge is that upfront we simply choose to obey God no matter what He asks us to do.  The answer is yes, now what was the question.

This was so powerful to me.  I have yet to fully wrap my brain around it but my mind has been dominated since the end of Summit by it.

How will this change me?

How will this impact my leadership?

What does this mean for the people that come into contact with me?

How will something like this change my relationship with God?

This is a powerful statement that begins to dominate my entire day.  My mind is now racing trying to absorb and break down every single time I feel that God wants me to do something.  Then my thoughts turn to something more drastic, something bigger.  My thoughts turn to every single person who calls themself a Christian.

What does this mean for them?

How would something like this change their life?

How would doing this one simple thing change the lives of everyone around them?

What will this mean for the homeless person on the street?

How will this change the life of the AIDS victims around the world?

Child of Africa

Child in Africa

What does this mean for the children who will die because they can’t even get a meal?

What if the leaders of our churches did this?  Then by example what if all the Christians that were in their churches did this?  And that flowed out to the communities and organizations around them.  And what if it flowed right out of our country and into the world?

What would it look like?

What could it mean?

Does it mean what I think it means?

Oh yes!  It does.  It means that we might be able to change our world for the better.  It means that our generation could leave its mark on the world.  It means that the issues facing our world today (poverty, AIDS, hunger, lack of clean water) could all be impacted and most likely solved in our lifetime.  Can you imagine what that would look like?  Thousands…no, more.  Millions of Christians following the promptings of the Spirit of God to move in their world, to change it for the better.  To offer all of themselves radically to the service of God.  To give all that they have in obedience to the One who has saved us by His marvelous grace.  To give themselves to a world in need, a world that is physically and spiritually dying.  What a great task.  What a great vision.  What an opportunity.

That’s what I want!  That’s what I want to be a part of.  A group of Christ followers who are following every prompting of God.  Yes God!  The answer is yes.  What’s the question?

Africa?  Done.  Consider the plane ticket purchased.

Reconcile with my brother or sister in Christ?  Picking up the phone right now.

Hand that man a $5, even if he spends it on booze?  All I have is a $10, that will have to do?

Foster a teenage child?  Just call me daddy.

Volunteer in the local school?  I’ll clear my calendar.

Share Jesus with my friend, co-worker or family member?  Give me the words to say.

Skip my vacation to serve in Mexico?  No problem.

Give up my favorite TV show and in place spend time with you?  Consider it You and me time.

God, the answer is yes.  Yes God, I will do whatever You want.  Yes, oh Lord my God, the answer is yes.  Now ask me anything.  Anything you want and the answer is yes.

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