Friday, May 29, 2009

Developing Leaders, Part Three

This post will wrap up a short list of leadership development ideas from Warren Blank, author of The 108 Skills of Natural Born Leaders. I hope you have been challenged by them - I know I have!

Push Constant Preparation – develop others by focusing them on constant preparation.

Use Diversity as Strength – master leaders know that differences make a difference. Seek out the assets in each person, and focus on how they add value to the team.

Differentiate Between Can’t and Don’t – recognize that people can doubt themselves, get discouraged, and lose their desire. Clarify where “can’t” actually refers to a skill, resource, or belief deficiency and work to improve that deficiency. Demonstrate that “don’t” reflects a person’s will and help them understand their lack of will.

Be an M&M: Model and Motivate Excellence – model and motivate people every day. Followers look to leaders to set the example. Your overt actions will motivate many people to step forward to accept leadership roles.

Pace the Marathon Race – exceptional leaders pace the marathon race to develop others as leaders. Work with others to not only bring them to the starting line, but encourage and develop them all the way across the finish line.

Be First Follower Ready – practice first follower readiness by looking for opportunities when you can visibly support another person’s direction-it offers them concrete evidence of forward movement toward becoming a more effective leader.Lead Up to Formalize Leader Development – your efforts to develop others as leaders will be greatly enhanced if you can get organizational support for the effort.

I wish there were "magic keys" that you could push to develop leaders. Fortunately, there are not! But if there were, these two keys would certainly be at the top of the list:

How is your leadership development coming along?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Developing Leaders, Part Two

Use “World Class” as the Standard – the average leader is, by definition, average. Consider your leader development task as a challenge to get people to perform at a world-class level. Define what that level means for your organization, and then continually compare current levels of action with that level.

Coach and Train – coaching refers primarily to one-on-one, face-to-face, day-to-day developmental activities. Coaching improves, extends, refines, or redirects behavior where a person already has some knowledge and skill. Training refers primarily to individual or group learning activities to teach or instruct people in knowledge and skill they do not already have. Exceptional leaders use a combination of the two approaches to develop others as leaders.

Polish the Whole Diamond – your ultimate success in developing others as leaders demands that you cultivate the full range of a person’s potential. You must polish all facets of people’s potential to prepare them for any leadership possibility.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Developing Leaders

My leadership library consists of hundreds of books accumulated over the years. I use them on a regular basis, but one in particular seems appropriate for highlighting in this series of posts. Warren Blank’s The 108 Skills of Natural Born Leaders provides some very solid leadership principles that you can readily adapt to your own situation. Here are some excerpts from his chapter on leadership development.

Attract Rising Stars – Ultimately, the best leaders focus on developing everyone's leadership skills. However, they also recognizes the limits of their time and energy resources. A good place to begin your efforts to multiply yourself is by attracting the rising stars - those with raw talent and the desire to turn it into real results. Identify those who have attracted your attention as “rising stars” by using questions like these:
  • - Who has already demonstrated a desire to grow?
    - Who typically steps up and tries to lead?
    - Who has directly indicated an aspiration to improve their leadership capacity?
  • Identify those who rate at the the highest end of this scale. Focus your first efforts on them, then expand your rising star search into other areas within your organization.
  • Focus on attracting those with potential as opposed to only focusing on those with experience. Use a personal touch in talking with them about becoming a leader.

Skillful leaders apply their developmental effort where it can do the most good in the fastest manner possible.

Have you been doing any "star gazing" lately?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What is a Leader, Anyway?

The answer to that question would fill the pages of this post many times over – and many more! Noted church leaders from John Maxwell to Andy Stanley to Bill Hybels all have their definition of leadership. They are all good, and should be a part of your understanding on this journey. But to me, leadership is simple: If no one is following, you are not leading! While you may find that simplistic, it illustrates the foundational truth of leadership: you have to have those qualities, skills, and influence for others to believe in you and the direction you are going. Under this definition, I believe that many, but not all, people on your team could become a leader in their own right.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Solving the Leadership Shortage

The United States generates more energy than any other country in the world – and wastes more than half of it. Rather than focusing on inventing new sources of energy, there is a growing trend to concentrate on a vast source of existing energy – by increasing the efficiency of current operations.

Church leader, sit up and take notice: what works in the business world can provide help in your world too. Your “leadership engine” is probably not working as well as you would like. If your church is like most churches, you are always looking for more leaders. How about looking right under your nose: your next, and best, leaders are probably already working in a ministry at your church. All you need to do is become more “efficient” at discovering and then transitioning these individuals into ministry leaders.

Transitioning a Volunteer into a Leader
The word “leader” and any derivative of it are sure to capture the attention of those responsible for the vision, direction, and operation of the church. Pastors especially are always looking for the latest help in providing more resources to help guide the ministries of their churches. Even the smallest church needs many leaders to effectively minister to their members and the community.

How does a leader go about developing other leaders? There is certainly no shortage of books, conferences, and courses on the subject. Web resources also provide a wealth of information for the leader interested in setting up such a program.

In over 30 years in church leadership experience (as a volunteer, leader, staff member, and consultant) I would suggest three starting points:
  • Not everyone on your team will, or should be a leader
  • Develop resources from your own experience to begin to develop others
  • Always look to the Scriptures for guidance

This week I want to invite you to spend some time looking at leadership development from a new perspective: developing the leaders who are already in your church.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Meatball Sundae Goes to Church

Seth Godin's 2007 book The Meatball Sundae examines fourteen trends of the realities of what he calls New Marketing. As with all of Godin's books, it's a fairly quick read that will have you wondering "Why didn't I think of that?" So, with apologies to Seth Godin, here is a quick analysis of the fourteen trends in The Meatball Sundae as applied to ChurchWorld.

  1. Direct communication and commerce between producers and consumers - The Internet; need I say more? Organizations here more, and more often, directly from consumers. Church leader, you may hate that word consumer, but your church is full of them, and there are many more in your community that you could reach. Are you listening to them?
  2. Amplification of the voice of the consumer and independent authorities - In a market where everyone is a critic, the need to create products and services that appeal to and satisfy critics becomes urgent. The same is true for after-purchase issues of service and quality. Your church probably doesn't have a guest experiences department, team, or even single person. Why not?
  3. Need for an authentic story as the number of sources increases - Consumers hear about organizations from many sources, not just one. As a result, you have to get your story straight. Saying one thing and doing another fails, because you'll get caught. Wait a minute - didn't the church invent hypocrisy?
  4. Extremely short attention due to clutter - The death of mass marketing is partly due to the plethora of choices and the deluge of interruptions. As a result, complex messages rarely get through. Does your vision take a wall to display - or can you put it on a t-shirt in large type? Do you communicate one big idea every week - or dozens of unconnected thoughts?
  5. The Long Tail - it's a book by Chris Anderson, but it also demonstrates that in almost every market, "other" is the leading brand. Domination by hit products is fading and consumers reward providers that offer the most choices. Wait - doesn't that contradict number 4? Maybe; maybe not. You've got to figure out the difference and do it.
  6. Outsourcing - it's not just possible to find someone to make/code/do something for you quickly and cheaply; it is now easy. The means of productions of physical goods and intellectual property is no longer based on geography but is based on talent and efficiency instead. The biggest resource for churches is, surprise, within the church; it just may not be your church.
  7. Google and the dicing of everything - No one visits a Web site's home page anymore - they walk in the back door, to the page Google sent them to. By atomizing the world, Google destroys the linear, end-to-end solutions offered by most organizations (churches). It is being replaced by a pick-and-choose, component-based solution. Chaordic is a term I've come to like very well; church leaders might want to get comfortable with it!
  8. Infinite channels of communication - New forms of publishing, communication, and interaction are arriving by the second in an already cluttered world. Some organizations will thrive from this increased chaos, some will be unprepared, and some will merely fight it and lose. Which will you be?
  9. Direct communication and commerce between consumers and consumers - eBay on the commercial side, social networking on the personal communication side. As these networks become more powerful, consumers will gravitate to each other, not just informing each other about their experiences but banding together into groups that will pressure organizations for more of what consumers want. How do you know if someone is talking about you? To someone else?
  10. The shifts in scarcity and abundance - your organization is based on exploiting scarcity. Create and sell something scarce and you can earn a profit. But when scarce things become common, and common things become scarce, you need to alter what you do all day. Okay, this one really messes with my head. Churches don't "sell" - or do they? They don't make a profit, right? What are the things that are becoming ever scarcer? How can the church leverage these things? Here's a biggie to get your brain spinning: time.
  11. The triumph of big ideas - in the industrial society of commodization, little ideas are the key to success. Small improvements in efficiency or design can improve productivity and make the product a little more appealing. New Marketing in a noisy marketplace demands something bigger. It demands ideas that force people to sit up and take notice. The Church is happily humming along, tweaking ideas, practices, and policies from the 50's - the 1850's. Have you checked your calendar lately?
  12. The shift from "how many" to "who" - organizations used to market to the mass: shovel attention in the top of the funnel, and over time, sales come out the bottom. The funneling process sorts the wheat from the chaff, separating those who can buy from those who aren't interested or can't afford to participate. That works if you assume all consumers are pretty much the same, or if you can't tell them apart. Unfortunately, they aren't, and you can. Now we need to focus on who is hearing and talking about our message, and reach out to them.
  13. The wealthy are like us - rich people used to be all the same, just different from the rest of us. Now they're not just different from the rest of us but different from each other. As the number of people considered rich increases daily, the diversity of the rich increases as well. It may not seem like it in this troubled economy, but we in the US are filthy rich in comparison to the rest of the world. Even in the US, there is a growing gap between groups of people. How will this play out in ChurchWorld?
  14. New gatekeepers, no gatekeepers - one way big organizations got bigger was by working with the other big guys. It was who you knew, and what they could do for you. There were channels to work through, gatekeepers to work with. Not now; it's YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and dozens of other social networking options. Its you going to the world, and the world discovering you.

Movements are at the heart of change and growth. A movement - and idea that spreads with passion through a community and leads to change - is far more powerful than any advertisement ever could be. In ChurchWorld - or at least what it could be, what it started out as - is all about that kind of movement and message. After all, it's the Good News we have.

How are we sharing it?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Eating the Meatball Sundae

Seth Godin, one of my favorite business authors, published a book a couple of years ago entitled Meatball Sundae. The idea was that taking two perfectly good items that don't go well together and combining them was messy, disgusting, and ineffective. Like a meatball sundae.

The main premise of the book was aimed at understanding how meatballs - the basic staples of life, things people need - used to be marketed with mass-marketing techniques (TV, radio, print). The sundae - Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, permission marketing, viral techniques - is depicted as New Marketing.

Generally speaking, you won't like a sundae topping on meatballs. It's not an accident that all the brands, products, and careers that have succeeded with New Marketing are brand-new and fresh. The New Marketing demands more than a meatball. It insists on a reinvention of the entire organization and the products it creates. Marketing is about the entire package. What you say and do as much as how you say and do.

When I look at church world, I see a lot of meatball sundaes. Not to take the analogy too far, but most churches are offering a smorgasbord of programs rivaling Baskin Robbins 31 flavors. They are taking what they've always done (you fill in the blank), maybe putting new language or a new look on it, and expecting to get something new.

It doesn't work that way anymore. We live in a complicated world now (not that 1950 or 1850 or 50 wasn't - it's just different). And that's my point:

Churches continue to interrupt people's lives with average "products" in the way they've always done it before. Hello? The world changed. Now we need to treat every interaction, product, service, and side effect as an opportunity to connect with people at the intersections of life where they are. Most of that is going to take place outside the walls of "church".

When we realize that the scattered "church" is where life is at, where people are hurting and asking questions and seeking relationships, then we will begin to understand.

Need a spoon?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

meatball sundae

I usually end up averaging about one flight per month for most of the year. Most of my flight involves the eastern half of the US; though occasionally I head west. My typical pattern is to buy a magazine that I would not normally read at the airport while I am waiting to board. Once on the flight, I will read the magazine from cover to cover, including ads. I highlight stories, phrases, photos - anything that catches my eye and categorize them for later use. I find that the difference in environment stimulates thinking patterns. It also forces me to focus, as there are relatively few distractions on the flight.

Oftentimes, a single phrase, sentence, or photo will form the genesis of a blog post, magazine article, or presentation for a client. Take the illustration from yesterday's post: a Swiss Army Knife combined with a 2 GB flash drive.

When I saw this item in a magazine, my first thought was - this is really cool! Then, in a stream of consciousness, the following thoughts occurred:
  • The use of a Swiss Army knife (scissors) in the recent Pink Panther movies
  • The time when my youngest son cut the tip of his thumb nearly off with a Swiss Army knife (that he "borrowed" from his older brother)
  • Dealing with that crisis while simultaneously dealing with my daughter's broken wrist, which happened 5 minutes before
  • Trying to explain both of these to the ER personnel while avoiding being reported to Family Services
  • The ubiquitous Swiss Army brand and how it is used (my brief case, for example)
  • How did the Swiss Army brand originate?
  • Do we have Swiss Army items in the church?
  • Can you take this item through TSA at the airport?
So, in about 15 seconds thought, I surmised that it was a great idea but maybe not practical for an airline traveler.
Which puts it in the category of a meatball sundae. Which is for tomorrow's post.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Airplane Effect

On a recent cross-country flight to Long Beach, I finally put my finger on something that had been bugging me: flights (of any distance) really turn my brain loose. I will be posting some this week on the topic, but here's a visual to get you started:

Where does this take your thoughts?

Monday, May 18, 2009

WFX Wrap-Up

The 2009 Worship Facilities Expo in Long Beach California ended Friday afternoon. My final presentation was Friday morning, then I closed up shop and headed back home, arriving late Friday night.

For a quick summary of WFX, take a look at my Learning Solutions blog posted here. It should be up sometime later today.

This WFX was one of the smaller events they have held, but a couple of factors contributed to that: the economy and resulting travel budget cuts, and the West Coast location. Still, it was a great event, and all the participants I talked with were glad they came.

Now it's back to a desk and schedule that's full after having been away for a week!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

WFX Day 2 Wrap Up

Dave Gibbons, pastor of New Song Church in Irvine, author of "The Monkey and the Fish"
  • There is a change coming from hard power (brute force) to soft power (influence of attraction)
  • Beware of the trap of plugging and playing instead of innovating and praying
  • As you become light and eradicate darkness, beauty will come in (Isiah 58-60)
  • Love your neighbor (someone NOT like you) and God's beauty will be unleashed and the world will sit up and take notice
  • Instead of thinking about answers, think about questions.

Missed out on John Ortberg's keynote, but had a very productive session with the general manager and vice president of EH Publishing, talking about preliminary work for WFX Charlotte, coming October 28-30. JHB has made a big commitment to the show, and we are working on some pretty cool stuff for the show.

Toured the Expo floor for awhile, checking in on old friends and making a few new ones. Interesting AV technology continues to be rolled out, especially in the digital and LED realms. Will try to squeeze in another quick trip tomorrow AM.

Had lunch with the Church Solutions team, enjoying the sunny California weather. We decided that Friday's sessions should be held outside.

The evening session was a two hour brain stretching exercise called The Idea Camp. Tony Kim, Executive Pastor of New Song Church, Eric Bryant of Mosaic, and Mel McGowan of Visioneering led a real-time and online discussion on the theme of "Creativity". Some good seeds sown throughout the exercise.

Closing up shop now to review my final presentation, pack, and head to bed. My body is still on East Coast time, but it's beginning to show!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

WFX Day 1 Wrap-Up

WFX Long Beach opened today, and I felt like a pair of bookends. My presentation "Developing a Creation Care Audit" was one of the first presentations of the day, and "Puttin' on the Ritz: Creating WOW! Experiences at Your Church was one of the last. Here are a few highlights of some of the in-between action.

Michael Trent, aka The Church Bartender, spoke on "Redefining Third Places".

  • I have faith that the human instinct for community will prevail

  • Successful third places connect people, develop leaders, and fund causes

  • When filtering your plans for a third place, consider genetics vs. generics; time vs. money; and investment vs. expense

Craig Janssen and Vance Breshears of Accoustic Dimensions spoke on Integrated Design Approach

  • Mission-> Activity-> Facility

  • Integration of Team, with mission (of the project) at the core

  • Triangle of communication - presentational, responsive, community

Larry Osborne, North Coast Community Church delivered a good keynote: Death of the One Size Fits All Ministry

  • Big boxes (stores or churches) grow by offering quality and ability to provide options, BUT can only keep people through personalization

  • Implications include decline in big buildings, need for sticky relationships, mindset to reach tribes must offer ministry in their language and ambiance/environment

  • Not bowing a knee to consumerism, but thinking missionally

Mel McGowan, Visioneering Studios, talked about "From the Magic Kingdom to God's Kingdom

  • Brief history of Walt Disney

  • Placemaking lessons

  • Disney's thirst for community

  • God's passion for community

After the conclusion of my final session of the day, I took a walk outside the hotel toward the beach, with this as my view:

That's the Queen Mary, permanently dry docked as a hotel and restaurant. The weather was pleasant; I met a participant from my Ritz presentation, and we had supper together. After a brief browsing session at Borders, it was back to my room for the evening. Tomorrow, Day 2.

7 AM in Long Beach

Here's the view out my window; a little gray today, but I will be inside all day anyway.
Heading over to register and make my first presentation of the day: Developing a Creation Care Audit for your Church.
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Headed to WFX Long Beach

I'm flying out of Charlotte this morning, headed to Long Beach CA and the Worship Facilities Expo. I've got a full week, making three presentations, moderating a breakfast roundtable discussion, and meeting with WFX staff about the Charlotte show this fall.

Here are my presentation thumbnails:

Developing a Creation Care Audit for Your Church
Green. Sustainable. Environmentally responsible. Stewardship. No matter what words you use, the movement to become more aware of our impact in the environment is growing. The church, as a community leader, has an important role to play. Learn how your church can measure its environmental impact now and what steps can be taken to improve it in the future. Walk away with examples to help adapt your church to become more environmentally responsible.

Puttin’ on the Ritz: Creating WOW Experiences at Your Church
The Ritz-Carlton Hotel is legendary for providing an exemplary level of customer service for its guests. Church leadership teams can follow their examples in providing experiences that consistently WOW guests and members alike. In this session, learn how to understand your guests and their needs while exploring ways to deliver a high level of customer service to ensure positive guest experiences. Put processes in place now to deliver WOW moments…and prevent WHOA incidents.

Creating Leaders
Volunteers are often the the backbone of your ministry, whether on the administration side or the facilities side. Keeping these workers motivated and learning can be challenging when the rewards are intangible. The promise or goal of growing with the church and continuing to serve in the future can become a encouragement to otherwise burnt-out folks. This session will explore how you can nurture your team and transition a volunteer in any ministry position into a leader.

One of the best things about WFX is the information flow - as you can tell from my topics above, there will be a wide range of sessions on everything dealing with church facilities. I like to make these presentations, but you can be sure I will also be soaking up the three days worth of sessions as well.

Look for updates and summaries here throughout the week.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Barbeque is a Noun

The title alone will open me up to corrections from English teachers and mid-Westerners, but it is what it is.
The above image, which I read in this month's Fast Company on a flight back from Evansville, spurred a few thoughts about barbecue, good restaurants you will never hear about, and summer.
  • I have a bias about barbecue - it's pork, grilled/smoked in a pit or smoker, and it can have minimal seasoning (the original coastal Carolina's method) all the way up to a tomato-based sauce. I lean to the minimalist version, but I haven't met a barbecue rib or sandwich I didn't like yet
  • I travel a lot across North and South Carolina talking with churches. When the timing works out right, I often look for a barbecue joint for lunch. My sure fire method for selecting the best place to eat? If the trucks in the parking lot outnumber the cars, it will a be a good place. If the trucks have gun racks, it will be a great place.
  • Memorial Day is a couple of weeks away. Traditionally seen as the "start" of summer and the outdoor grilling season, I say start summer grilling season whenever the temperature is above 70 degrees, the sun is shining, and friends are nearby.

Here's a quote from the documentary "Barbecue is a Noun" that pretty much sums it up:

"If you use it as a verb, you can barbecue anything, but... barbecue is... roast pork."

I rest my case. Enjoy some barbecue this summer!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Rugby tournament

Aaron's team - North Meck high school, playing West Meck
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Friday, May 8, 2009

Love in Action

For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son,
that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have eternal life.
How will you "so love the world" today?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

United Methodist Bishops Combat Poverty Head on During Rethink Church Launch

Washington, DC: The top spiritual leaders of The United Methodist Church are rethinking the way they combat poverty and rolling up their sleeves in the process.

On May 5, 2009, many United Methodist bishops embraced the plight of migrant workers by taking to the streets of the Washington, DC area to serve the workers breakfast. The bishops participated in the effort as part of the launch of the denomination’s new Rethink Church campaign, the next evolution of The United Methodist Church’s “Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors” welcoming and advertising campaign.

Church leaders hope that reaching out and embracing migrant workers will inspire others to rethink church as an experience that extends beyond the church walls and into communities. By taking a hands-on approach, United Methodist leaders hope to demonstrate there are thousands of ways in which a person can engage with the church—many of them non-traditional.

Those opportunities are highlighted at, a new Web site to which The United Methodist Church is directing persons unaffiliated with the denomination, via Rethink Church advertising. Aimed at being relevant to an 18 to 34-year-old audience, encourages exploration of the diverse ways United Methodists are making a difference in the world, and invites participation, discussion, and action.

United Methodist bishops from the U.S., Africa, Europe, and Asia will be in Bethesda, Md. May 3-8 for the semi-annual Council of Bishops meeting. During the week, council members will attend planning meetings, workshops, and plenary sessions primarily held at the Bethesda Hyatt. However, on Tuesday, May 5, many of the bishops will go out at 7:00 a.m. to serve breakfast to day laborers at three locations in and around the city. The bishops will also pray with and talk to the workers.

“Migrant workers are among the most exploited groups in American society. Day after day, hundreds of those workers gather in parking lots or on street corners hoping someone will offer them work for the day,” said Bishop Gregory Palmer, president of the Council of Bishops. “Many of them are struggling to support families they left behind in their native countries.”

Also on May 5, The Council of Bishops visited with Congressional leaders on Capitol Hill to urge lawmakers to support legislation consistent with the priorities of The United Methodist Church concerning children, health care, and poverty. Ministry with the poor and fighting diseases of poverty are both areas of long-term focus for the denomination.

The United Methodist Church also sponsored other Rethink Church launch events on May 6 in New York, Dallas, and San Antonio. New television commercials and other advertising began April 20.

“The United Methodist Church wants people to begin thinking of church as an active verb; people taking action to better the lives of others. While ministries vary from church to church, United Methodist churches offer thousands of services and opportunities in the United States and abroad,” said Palmer.

The 163-member Council of Bishops—which includes active and retired bishops worldwide—provides leadership and helps set the direction of the 11.5-million member church and its mission throughout the world. The United Methodist Church is the second largest Protestant denomination in the U.S.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Dino Rizzo, pastor of Healing Place Church (11 sites, 18 services, over 7,000 participating) was featured yesterday on the inaugural Leadership Network program “The Show”. Some of his key points:
  • We have got to understand the power of diversity
  • The disciples and the early church were models of diversity and opposites attracting
  • God calls us to reach people we don’t care about
  • In John 5, Jesus models how to leave the group for the one
  • Opposites are going to attract
  • The integrity of ministry is not to the masses, but to the one
  • The poor were never meant to be a trend; therefore the heart to serve the poor shouldn’t be a trend, but a part of our DNA

Servolution is a book title. It’s also a movement that Healing Place Church pioneered for churches to reach out to their communities in the 7 days before Easter. Rizzo estimates that tens of thousands of volunteers from over 240 churches in 38 states and 15 nations served hundreds of thousands of people during that period.

Servolution – get used to it!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Church Has Left the Building

Across the country it seems as if a revival of service is taking place. In churches large and small, in urban and rural areas alike, the people of God are discovering the ministry of service in unique and practical ways. And through it all, the love of God is being offered to people who desperately need it.

Yesterday I recounted the story of Granger Community Church and its involvement in the Monroe Circle Community Center. Amazing things have happened there in the last eight years – and it appears that even more amazing things will happen in the future.

Hundreds of churches in Portland Oregon came together in a “Season of Service” to address five community concerns: homelessness, the medically uninsured, public schools, hunger, and the environment. Over 25,ooo volunteers from these churches fanned out across the city in an outpouring of love and generosity that moved the city. Even skeptical city officials were amazed at the outflow, and promised to continue working with the churches to accomplish even greater things. Evangelist Luis Palau, Pastor Rick McKinley of Imago Dei and Pastor John Bishop of Living Hope Church are leading the efforts.

Dino Rizzo and the Healing Place Church in Baton Rouge LA started a “revolution through serving” several years ago. It has attracted a lot of national attention, and in the week before Easter, churches large and small from one end of the country to the other participated in simple acts of kindness intended to show their communities their unconditional love. Even now, almost a month later, “Servolution” stories continue to be shared via Twitter (#servolution).

What’s the deal? Here’s my take on what’s happening: We typically think of the church as the “gathered” collection of believers in a place and time: usually on Sunday mornings. Powerful worship and illuminating study of the Word of God takes place. Then the church goes home. One week later, repeat. On and on, happily oblivious to the desperate needs outside the church walls. It’s almost as if we live separate lives.

But now take another look - the “scattered” church is awakening to the power of God lived out in member’s daily lives. People are realizing that they are called to be the hands and feet of Christ, ministering and serving others as they live out their daily lives.

What a concept – a pity it has only taken us 2,000 years to begin to understand it.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Vital, Vibrant, Viral

What do Nehemiah, a one-hundred year old crumbling storefront, and a church with a passion for loving people where they are have in common?

Nehemiah: cup-bearer to the king. That’s what his business card would have said. What it really meant was this Persian-born Jewish administrator had constant access to the king whose family had conquered Jerusalem over one hundred years before. When word reached him that Jewish expatriates had been struggling for years but had not been successful in rebuilding the city, Nehemiah was driven to his knees in prayer. This one vital act, played out over months of soul-searching, led to Nehemiah returning with the blessings of the king and rebuilding the city of Jerusalem.

Several thousand years later, the story of Nehemiah and urban renewal by the people of God is again being played out in cities all around the world. Granger Community Church in Granger, Indiana, is just one such story. Located in a prosperous and growing suburb of South Bend Indiana, GCC was not content to sit in suburbia ignoring the plight of the city. Though located only a few miles from the church, the urban area called Monroe Circle was as different as could be: average family income of less than $7,300; less than 25% of children graduating from high school; 70% of children in single family situations; 35% of all the city’s homicides committed in this community.

Yet within that dark circle of despair, a spark glimmered. A non-profit food pantry for senior citizens run by senior citizens was about to close. GCC learned about the situation, and went before the city housing authority for permission to take over the food pantry. Reluctant and very skeptical permission was granted, with the admonition that one misstep and the church would be thrown out. Investing time, sweat, blood, and under- girded by prayer, 8 years later Monroe Circle Community Center (MC3) stands as a testimony to the vibrant place a community can be when it learns to believe in itself.

From a food pantry to children’s activities to afterschool tutoring to GED classes to vocational training to teaching life skills…the relational programming of MC3 is reversing the trends of welfare dependency and hopelessness prevalent through the community. In addition, through grass-roots community building and home based surveys, the following macro-categories are being targeted to measure transformational change in the Monroe Circle Community:

V-vocational training
A-arts community
L-leadership and spiritual development
U-unique health and wellness

Like a pebble thrown into a pond, the ripples of what is happening at MC3 are spreading. The Housing Authority, once skeptical and distrustful of the church’s efforts, now says: “Do anything you want, anywhere you want, anytime you want, any way you want.” Other properties in the community are now being transformed into inviting homes. The South Bend Silver Hawks minor league team, which plays in a stadium right behind MC3, has provided mentors and coaches for a Little League team from the area. On Friday April 24, the MC3 Bravehearts took the field for their first-ever game – and the good news continues to spread like a virus.

Is your church doing something vital, vibrant, and viral? Or are you on cruise control?

Friday, May 1, 2009

Love to Live

To conclude “Self-Improvement Week”, I turn to C.S. Lewis and a summary of his book The Four Loves. Originally intended to be a discourse on the John’s statement that “God is Love”, it turned into an examination of the four Greek words for “love” that we translated into one in English.

Affection (storge) is fondness through familiarity, especially between family members or people who have otherwise found themselves together by chance. It is described as the most natural, emotive, and widely diffused of loves: natural in that it is present without coercion; emotive because it is the result of fondness due to familiarity; and most widely diffused because it pays the least attention to those characteristics deemed "valuable" or worthy of love and, as a result, is able to transcend most discriminating factors.

Friendship (philia) is a strong bond existing between people who share a common interest or activity. Lewis explicitly says that his definition of friendship is narrower than mere companionship: friendship in his sense only exists if there is something for the friendship to be "about". He calls Companionship a matrix for friendship, as friendship can rise in the context of both. Friendship is the least natural of loves, states Lewis; i.e., it is not biologically necessary to progeny like either affection (e.g., rearing a child), eros (e.g., creating a child), or charity (e.g., providing for a child). It has the least association with impulse or emotion.

Eros is love in the sense of 'being in love'. This is distinct from sexuality, although he does spend time discussing sexual activity and its spiritual significance in both a pagan and a Christian sense. He identifies eros as indifferent. This is good because it promotes appreciation of the beloved regardless of any pleasure that can be obtained from them. It can be bad, however, because this blind devotion has been at the root of many of history's most abominable tragedies. In keeping with his warning that "love begins to be a demon the moment [it] begins to be a god", he warns against the danger of elevating eros to the status of a god.

Charity (agapÄ“) is an unconditional love directed towards one's neighbor which is not dependent on any lovable qualities that the object of love possesses. Agape is the love that brings forth caring regardless of circumstance. Lewis recognizes this as the greatest of loves, and sees it as a specifically Christian virtue. The chapter on the subject focuses on the need of subordinating the natural loves to the love of God, who is full of charitable love. Lewis warns that those who exhibit charity must constantly check themselves that they do not flaunt—and thereby warp—this love ("But when you give to someone, don't tell your left hand what your right hand is doing."—Matthew 6:3), which is its potential threat.

All of us express these different types of love in some way to our family, friends, co-workers, and complete strangers. Remembering that we love because God first loves us, how will you love others today?