Perspective Makes the Difference

Success is as much about hard work as it is about perspective. Hard work without a bigger perspective or vision can be wasteful. It can also defeat your people. As a Church Planter you need to remember that your words are viewed very heavily by those who follow your leadership. They are watching you as an example of how to live their own lives. Furthermore, how you represent yourself and your reality can either propel or dismantle your future success as a church planter.

I recently attended—one week apart—two different church plants in which the church planters had two very different perspectives. One had a church plant that was moderately growing and doing well, the other was on the brink of failure. But before I convey my experience, let me share an apocryphal story with you.

Sometime during the last century, two salesmen were sent by a British shoe manufacturer to Africa to investigate and report back on market potential. The first salesman reported back, “There is no potential here – nobody wears shoes.” The second salesman reported back, “There is massive potential here – nobody wears shoes.”

What a difference perspective makes. Now, back to our two church planters.

The successful one took the stage to do announcements and was super excited. He actually pointed out the empty chairs in the room and challenged his people to make sure those were filled in the coming weeks. He spoke of his adventure in church planting as a roller coaster ride for Jesus and his energy was apparent.

The second church planter (I actually visited him the previous week) came to the stage early in the service and made a comment about several families that were not there because of vacation, and talked about how hard church planting was. He was obviously speaking through a sense of disappointment. I don’t want to overstate, but I could almost—literally—see a cloud over his head.

Let me ask you – who would you follow? No one wants to follow a defeated leader with a pessimistic perspective.

As a church planter let me recommend that even on the worst of days you take the stage with the excitement of a man purchased by the blood of an omnipotent Savior and let your people experience that passion through you. Let them see a man who assaults the difficulties of church planting with an energy that is relentless and contagious. Let them find inspiration in the way you handle yourself in their presence.

Here is a quick video that I put together for this blog. Please share it if you like it.

Empowered

As a leader, I need to encourage you to move as far away from being a command and control leader as possible, and become a leader who understands the importance of empowerment. Empower and Release leaders are at the forefront of organizational discovery and there is a reason for it. Empowerment enables trust, freedom, autonomy and a feeling of worth in your direct reports. It also maximizes your time as a leader and allows you to move the organization forward.

One thing I am faithful to do with my leadership team is to have “the talk” and it always sounds something like this.

You are a ten at what you do and it is my job to empower you to do it. You will be your best when you are working in your passion and your strengths. Where you are a ten, I may only be a six… and if I tell you how to do your job, your ten will sink to an eight because of my six. 

However, if you will let me empower you to be the best leader you can be… If you will allow me to release you to your own creativity, you may even work as an eleven. 

Understand this next point. If I release you, you’re going to make mistakes, and that’s OK. I want you to know that I may pull you into my office and we may even have some words,… but out there with our people… I will support your decisions. You can trust that I will support you as a leader.

Now here’s the thing… I demand the same from you. If you feel I have made a mistake in leading you or this organization, I have an open door, let’s talk about it in my office. When we leave my office, we will be united in front of our people and I will be grateful that you had the courage to come to me rather than go to the others. Now get out there and change the world.

Every time I have that talk, I can see a feeling of relief wash over the face of that leader. You see, the leader that can instill trust and empower his or her people early in their relationship, and not destroy that trust by actions, will buy the loyalty, trust and respect of their people. In those very special cases, everybody wins.

Leader Video

Church Planter Video

Of Thermostats and Boots

Place: South America.
Mental State: Exhausted.
Alarm Clock: About to be destroyed!

I slowly awoke before the sun to begin one of the most impactful days of my life. There I laid, pillow over my head trying to ignore the alarm that was crying out for me to start my journey. As I peeked out, my eyes began to adjust. In that moment—the focusing of my eyes in dim light—three things began to stimulate my senses; the roar of the Vilcanota river, the ever-so-faint outline of my boots next to the wall, and about three feet above them, the room’s thermostat. The combination of these two visuals caused me to begin not only an adventurous day, but a pensive one as well.

Leaving that hotel in Aquas Calientes Peru, my brother and I began our final two days in our push to hike to Macchu Pichu, famed for its secrecy and its breathtaking ruins. While the leadership lessons learned on these two days are abundant, and I have written about them extensively, I want to convey the impact of the visuals that burned their way into my consciousness that morning; the thermostat and my boots. You see, it occurred to me that those two everyday items represented my life in many ways. More specifically, they represented a paradigm shift in my leadership perspective. Here is my epiphany.

As the thermostat came into view, my mind wrestled with it. If you know me, you will know that I am plagued with trying to make everything more efficient, whether it’s a person, an organization, or a system. So there I sat, in those brief moments thinking; that thing needs to be reinvented. Then a lateral thought… Forget peanut butter and chocolate, those hiking boots had just T-boned my consciousness and I realized that those two items, slammed together, represented both the leader I had been as well as the leader that I was becoming. Let me explain.

Truly impactful leaders are like the boots; comfortable, yet rugged. More importantly they are the greatest factor in getting the climber where he needs to be. The task of the day, Macchu Pichu—in all its glory—would be impossible without those boots. They propel me to take risks, they provide traction when I slip, and they protect me from injury. Those boots represented empowerment and the ability to stretch myself beyond previous capabilities. I remembered purchasing them with the expectation of where they might take me.

…eyes slowly moving to the thermostat…

The thermostat is always working. Always on call. However, unlike the boots, the thermostat puts all of its energy into keeping things the same, into maintaining the system. It only adjusts when there is a shift, and it spends its time making sure that things return to how they were before. While the boots love new adventure, the thermostat loves the status quo. It’s entire existence serves to maintain the most pleasant setting.

Our church planters, they need to be the boot. The days of status quo are gone. They can not succumb to the tyranny of the urgent just to maintain the system. The system is changing and if their desire is to sit there and maintain what is and what was, then they need stay right there on the wall. We, the boots, we’re hittin’ the trail. See ya!

The Old Man and the Sea

You may or may not know this, but I am a borderline workaholic (some may say there is no border to be seen). I am rarely to bed before midnight and I am always up early to start the day. After a full day of work, I spend the evening with my family, and then once everyone has gone to bed it is back to work. The only thing I let interrupt this evening work time is study or a good book. I read many books, and from time to time I will share something about them with you. I love the classics.

This week’s book was Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. It is a tale of… you guessed it… an old man… and the sea. Really, it is a book about perseverance and struggle. You see, the old man, though his history was one of fishing fame, was ridiculed in his Cuban town because he had not caught in 84 days. He was considered unlucky. He didn’t care, catching fish was all he knew and he used to be the best at it.

How long has it been since you caught a fish?

He was determined, and believed that he would catch the biggest fish ever. HE DID. The fish he catches, he catches with great struggle and pain. In fact the struggle nearly kills him. It drags him to sea for several days of sleepless battle, taking his boat into uncharted waters. He watches as the island of Cuba disappears from view and he fears he shall never return. But, it is acceptable that he should die as long as he catches the fish. He respected the fish, and in that respect desired to kill it.

“The fish is my friend too,” he said aloud. “I have never seen or heard of such a fish. But I must kill him.” Then he was sorry for the great fish that (like him) had nothing to eat and his determination to kill him never relaxed in his sorrow for him. “How many people will he feed, he thought”

If you do not see what I see in this paragraph, allow me to comment. If we are to be fishers of men then we must struggle to do so. We may go 84 days without leading another to Christ (I hope not). But, we must keep looking for the big fish. We can catch numerous small ones, and that is good. However, the fish that comes with struggle, although we may be dragged beyond what is familiar and comfortable, when landed has the potential to feed many. We should even be willing to lay down our lives for it. It may in fact mean that we need to ruin their life as well. What I mean is that their life will have to change.

“Then he was sorry for the great fish that had nothing to eat and his determination to kill him never relaxed in his sorrow for him.”

We all know people, that if we bring them to Jesus, their lives will necessarily change. Certain comforts must go. We can feel sorry for them, but knowing that a life with Jesus is the priority, we determine to allow Jesus to redirect their lives. We kill their “comfortable life” so that they and others will live. It is worth it! There really is no choice in it!

Passion and Uranium 238

Understanding why we should invest in first generation converts as future church leaders.

What!?
If this was your reaction to the title, put your thinking cap on and continue reading. This article was birthed from a conversation I had with a pastor friend of mine. There are people who add value to my life, and he is one.

Remember physics? You learned all sorts of information that left you scratching you head as you pondered Strong Force, Gravitation, Mass and various other weird and wonderful things. Personally, I needed an apple to fall on my head and wake me from my dreams of a distant tropical shore. One thing I do remember, however, is that the half-life of Uranium238 is about 4.5 billion years. After all these years I have finally found a use for what seemed then to be useless information.

Half Life Explained
A half-life is the fixed, invariable amount of time it takes for an original sample of a radioactive substance like uranium, radium or carbon-14 to break down (decay). This decay happens nucleus by nucleus. For instance, the half-life of Uranium238 is roughly 4.5 billion years, which means that at the end of 4.5 billion years, a one-pound block of the stuff will weigh only one-half pound. In another 4.5 billion years, it will weight in at one-quarter pound, and so on.

Have I Lost You?
Back to my conversation with my friend. We were sharing the immediate need for fearless Christians in our churches. The need to excite and mobilize Christ-Followers and the difficulties associated with stimulating the complacent. I shared with him that when I accepted Jesus I was transformed by His power. Fearless! That exuberance has not diminished in 22 years. I love Him, He is mine, and I am His. Something reminiscent of what Buber called the “I-Thou.”

I verbalized my concern; that I don’t see a “take-up-you-cross” kind of Christianity in our churches, except among the youth. I shared how I see many of them as fearless. They seek more than complacency from their relationship with Father. They want to change their world!

Moment of Insight
So he looks at me and says; “It’s not the young, it’s the first generation Christian.” BAM! He was right. It is that first generation Christian that is fearless and ready. They have not grown complacent due to familiarity. Their nuclei have not yet decayed. They have not reached their half-life, half of what they were, decaying by the moment.

Something happens when a life is transformed. Like a child growing up poor appreciates the gift of hard labor and moderate success while the child of abundance looks upon it with disdain. Such is the church. This leads me to ponder if the half-life of Christian passion is equal to one generation or if second generational Christians could ever understand what transformation means. Can the child of abundance identify with the child who knows nothing but need? This is why we must invest in those of the first generation.

Leadership Farming
Where do we go from here? Paul warns us in 1 Timothy 3:6 of the dangers of placing individuals in places of authority too soon, so I am not advocating taking leaders from the waters of baptism, handing them a towel, and saying “Let’s Go!” This is not a “time” thing, it is a “passion” thing. As leaders, we must, in a focused manner, spot those whom the Holy Spirit has transformed and excited, father them, and help to transform them into what God would have them to be. No small task, but the rewards will be huge.

Back to Uranium238
Everything dies: people, trees, metals, galaxies, and even atoms. Only one entity is eternal and He is the source of an eternal future. All that decays is slowly dying: people, trees, metals, galaxies and even Christian passion. It all has a half-life. I only wish the half-life of Christian passion matched that of Uranium238.