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Pushing down into the heart of WHY

Filed under: books,God's movement,leadership — 3:47 pm

Here are two fantastic meditations on the importance of figuring out WHY we are doing what we do, rather than simply the WHAT.  Both matter.  Honestly, I found these deeply challenging.

(1) Richard Rohr (From Daily Meditations):

“We’ve got to know the true source of our truth.  In my attempt to work inside of earthly institutions for some small degree of justice, am I just fighting for my little “Richard Rohr truth,” or am I really in touch with the great truth that Jesus calls the reign of God?  I’ve got to know that it’s not just what I do but why I do it and where it comes from.  I think the sequence of Jesus’ words about himself is significant.  He is first Way, and only then Truth, which is finally Life (see John 14:6).

“Without prayer, we’re trapped in our heads, our opinions, our righteous selves.  Maybe we’ll be doing the right thing, but from an egocentric place, not a place of unitive consciousness, the place where all things are one.  In other words, we’ll be doing our own agenda instead of God’s.

“When people are doing God’s thing, they have freedom—they can laugh at themselves, they can take humiliation and non-success because their own reputation is not at stake.  The mature believer will probably look more like a holy fool than a do-gooder or a ‘saint.’”

(2) Mark Sayers (from his blog series about surviving ministry through your 20s)


TED talk: The Politics of Fiction

Filed under: creativity,leadership — 7:38 pm

This brilliant talk was both deeply challenging AND profoundly inspiring.  After watching it this afternoon, I immediately started it again…trying to soak in the fire hose of insight.  Two of her key thoughts:

ONE: “If you want to destroy something in this life, all you need to do is to surround it with thick walls.  It will dry up inside… If we have no connection whatsoever with the worlds beyond the one we take for granted, then…our imagination might shrink. Our hearts might dwindle. And our humanness might wither if we stay for too long inside our cultural cocoons.”

TWO: “Chekhov said, The solution to a problem and the correct way of posing the question are two completely separate things.  And only the latter is an artist’s responsibility.  Identity politics divides us.  Fiction (or any true art) connects.  One is interested in sweeping generalizations.  The other, in nuances. One draws boundaries. The other recognizes no frontiers.  Identity politics is made of solid bricks.  True art is flowing water.”  (Elif Shafak)


Church Marketing (part 3)

Filed under: God's movement,leadership — 5:52 pm

Thanks to everyone who has been a part of this conversation!  Your thoughts, questions, and insights have challenged me in a number of ways…hopefully it’s been helpful for you too.  A few new thoughts…

Maybe “marketing” is a neutral word – even in the church.  If marketing = defining, explaining, and making people aware, then I’m cautiously okay with that.  To help people know when our church gathers, how we’re trying to serve the world, and how they can help seems to be a useful service to the community.  And like Amanda commented, “if you love something, you want to share it with others.”  It is not innately more authentic just because it’s unknown.  (Like I’ve said about snobby indie music:  anyone can create music that no one listens to.)

However, when marketing tips over into convincing, pressuring, or incentivising…I’m out!  And sad.  And mad.  Letting people know about our worship gathering may be helpful, but offering a free iPad drawing if you come to our worship gathering is sick.  (At least to me.)

Clearly inviting people to join us?  Yes!

Using a gimmick or carrot to entice people to join us?  NO!

I may have found my line.  What do you think?


Church Marketing – Pleasing the masses (part 2)

Filed under: God's movement,leadership — 11:03 am

Last week I mentioned that Henry Ford, Steve Jobs, and Daniel Pink all believe(d) that “asking your customers what they want and then giving it to them” is a flawed, short-sighted business strategy.  Unfortunately, many churches still seem to see themselves in the “pleasing our customers” business.  And every time I hear about church surveys or marketing campaigns, something in me gets really sad.  A couple thoughts…

First of all, how dare we reduce the beautiful, epic story of God’s redemption of all things into a product to be marketed and sold?  And how dare we reduce the Church – the bride that Christ gave His very life for – into a venue to sell these spiritual goods and services?  Maybe it’s time for a new cleansing of the temple.

Secondly, wouldn’t this business strategy create consumers of the Church instead of servants of God….reinforcing the dangerous idea that church is something we go to instead of something we are?  And it could confuse us into believing that the church exists to serve our needs, when the scriptures clearly teach that “we exist AS the church to serve the needs of the world“.  This is more than mere semantics.

These thoughts are not yet well-formed, so I beg for the grace to wrestle.  And more than grace, please help!  What do you think?  Am I over-reacting?  Over-simplifying?  What ideas, books, and people have helped you grapple with this?  Let the messy conversation continue…

To launch us further, please watch this teaching from my friend Chris Seay.  Even though it’s 19 minutes long, PLEASE watch until the end.  The last five minutes are the big payoff and I’d LOVE to hear what you think!

Watch “The Irony of Church Marketing”

(and another great perspective is the blog post:  “Scratching Where They Itch?”)


What I would quit my job over…

Filed under: God's movement,leadership,willow — 12:23 pm

For the last couple weeks, our Willow programming team has been talking about our deepest values.  Bill encouraged us to really dig down and ask the question: “What do I believe SO deeply, that if it were not so, I would have to quit?” Great question!  After much thought, here’s what I’m bringing to today’s discussion…

Courage. The number one thing I’ve admired about Willow over the years is their courage to try new things and blaze new trails in the name of Christ.  Out of love for God and people – not just for innovation’s sake – Willow has consistently followed God into the huge risks that bring the Kingdom in huge ways.  I would quit if we ever lost this revolutionary spirit.  I would quit if we ever let the mindset of “pleasing our consumers” hijack our invitation to join God’s messy, risky Movement of Redemption.  I’d quit if we ever got safe.

Outward. The potential amount of good that Willow could do on planet earth is staggering.  What if Celebration of Hope is just the tip of the iceberg?  I would quit if we ever became more about building an institution than serving the world.

Bigger Stream. Related to “outward,” I’m excited to invite our community into a bigger movement of transformation, service, and community.  Weekend services are important, but only as one tributary flowing into a bigger river.  (Of all the “one another” verses in scripture, only a few of them happen well in a service.)  How are we helping our community become Church in the widest possible sense?  I would quit if we never found that bigger calling, but settled for merely creating services to fill seats.

What about those of you who are a part of a church…Do these connect with you?  What else would you add?


Steve Jobs, Daniel Pink, and pleasing the masses

Filed under: creativity,leadership — 9:07 pm


Steve Jobs has this Henry Ford quote on his desk:  “If I’d asked my customers what they wanted, they’d have said a faster horse.” Although I bristle at the potential arrogance and narcissism, Ford was right.  So was Jobs.  And the world is better for it.

Daniel Pink just wrote a fascinating blog called “The Peril of Giving People What They Want“, where he suggests that trying to give the customer (or critic or congregation or fan) what they’re asking for is not always the best plan because “we don’t often know what we want.”   In many cases, people don’t change the world by simply delivering the next logical step, but by “giving the world something it didn’t know it was missing.”  I’m not a business person, but as an artist and pastor, this is deeply inspiring.  Pink ends with…

“Enhancing a category is cool; creating a category is cooler.  Providing people what they want is a smart tactic; giving people something they didn’t know they’re missing is an even smarter strategy.  Listening to the customer can be helpful; listening to your own voice can be revolutionary.”


where does the future come from?

Filed under: creativity,leadership,quotes — 11:08 am

“Learn from the fringe.  It’s true for music, fashion, business, and the arts:  the future starts on the fringe, not in the mainstream.  As William Gibson once said, The future has already happened, it’s just unequally distributed.  To see it coming, we have to pay attention…”  (Gary Hamel)


honesty and guacamole

Filed under: leadership,life — 9:32 am


A friend and I recently went out to lunch (Chipotle!) and stumbled into a profoundly honest conversation that really helped me.  This friend is ten years older, about 20 years wiser, and three life-times more grounded.  He’s influential and well-respected in a big corporation – kind of a big shot – and as smart as anyone I know.  He’s read more, created more, prayed more, and grown more than most people ever will.  But none of those things helped me.

We were talking about something I’m wrestling with, and instead of trying to fix me, he simply told his story.  And not just the “here’s why I’m great” part, but something messy and vulnerable.  Instead of standing up and saying “someday you might be as put together as me”, he knelt down and said “me too.” And this humility created a space where I could nervously pull back my own curtain. . .opening a conversation that has the potential to change my life.  What a gift.

I didn’t need an expert or judge or super-hero or teacher.  I needed a fellow human.  Thanks, friend.


How to Start a Movement

Filed under: creativity,leadership — 7:13 am

This is a 3 minute freight train of energy and insight.  If you’re more excited about a Movement than an Institution – a Revolution more than an Organization – you may love this…


Drive: discovering what motivates us

Filed under: books,creativity,leadership — 1:11 pm

I just finished Daniel Pink’s fascinating book “Drive”, which lays out a simple but profound idea:  the old management/motivation style no longer works with this new generation. I’ve been feeling this for a long time, but Pink fleshes it out masterfully.


Premise one:  Sticks and Carrots (punishment and rewards) don’t motivate people the way they used to. External, top-down pressure can create quick action, but like a drug we’re building immunity to, it is losing potency.  In fact, new research suggests that “to focus on the short term and opt for controlling people’s behavior does considerable long-term damage.”  I recently heard of a boss directing a manager to “put the fear of God” into her employees as a way of helping them create something new.  This. Will. Not. Work.

Premise two:  People are most fueled by freedom, challenge, and purpose. (1) Freedom, different from independence, is the ability to be self-directed in meaningful ways.  (2) Challenge is being devoted to getting better at something that matters.  (3) Meaning connects the quest for excellence to a larger purpose.   For me, when these three realities are present, I’m not thinking about salary or weekend or requirements or failure or anything that I HAVE to do…I’m simply swept up in what I GET to do.

“…the secret to high performance isn’t our biological drive or our reward-and-punishment drive, but our third drive — our deep-seated desire to direct our own lives, to extend and expand our abilities, and to live a life of purpose.”

This resonates SO deeply with me!  What about you?  Thoughts?


health care debate and jerks like me

Filed under: books,God's movement,leadership — 12:58 pm

“The contemplative knows that truth held arrogantly will not bear the wonderful fruit of truth.  Moral outrage at the ideas of others hardly ever serves God’s purposes, only our own.”  (Rohr, The Naked Now)

When reading this, it’s easy to think about the nastiness of much of the health care debate…or the accusations of someone like Glenn Beck…but if I’m honest, I need to embrace this idea more than anyone.  How often do I let my arrogance (or ignorance) sabotage a potential gift that I could be/give to someone?  Ask my wife.  Ask the people I work with.  I’m embarrassed to admit how often I become hurtful in the name of “truth”.  Ronald Rolheiser explains…

“Many movements throughout history have been based in truth, but they failed because the energy powering them was ugly.”  (my paraphrase from The Holy Longing)

May God be merciful on us all.  And may us all share that mercy generously…


ideas I can’t stop thinking about

Filed under: creativity,leadership,willow — 8:13 pm

Gary Hamel

Last week i went to Willow Creek’s Leadership Summit, which was really inspiring.  After a rousing opening message by Bill Hybels, the next session didn’t look very promising.  The speaker, Gary Hamel, was recently ranked as the world’s most influential business thinker, and the last thing I want the church to become is “more business-y”.  But this revolutionary in CEO clothing blew me away.

His premise was that the world is changing faster than our churches are, and we need to re-examine everything.  Most of our churches have become “weekly convocations for the converted and content”, and our tired systems have tethered us to a world that is fading away – while the present world needs us more than ever!  His prophetic words stirred me deeply.

Out of this passion, he offered four suggestions. . .

(1) Fight denial.  “Deal with the future by facing the facts.  Question your beliefs.  Listen to renegades.  Humility is not a virtue, but a survival strategy.”

(2) Generate more options.  “We clutch to the familiar because we can’t see compelling alternatives.  Don’t rush to closure. . .make change feel more exciting than standing back.”

(3) Deconstruct what we already do.  “We’re in a race to uncover and challenge our orthodoxies.  We need to learn to be contrarians.  The longer we’re in the trenches, the more we mistake the edge of our rut for the horizon.”

(4) Flatten your organization.  “Top down structures will not last.   Organizations fail when the mental models of the leadership team depreciate faster than their authority. (take a moment to read that again and let it sink in!)  It’s dangerous in a world of change to give a few people a monopoly on decision making.  Is the challenge finding great leaders or building organizations that can survive without super humans at the front?  Is there any alternative?  The leaders job today is less in vision, command, and control and more focused on mobilizing, connecting and supporting.
This generation doesn’t want to work for a Fortune 500 company and I’m not sure they want to go to a church that looks like one.  Churches have been trying to turn themselves into businesses while businesses are trying to turn themselves into causes.”

I can’t tell you how inspiring these ideas are to me.  A friend of mine says that despair is “believing that tomorrow is just an extension of today.”  I feel that way sometimes. . .especially about church and our current practice of Christianity.  Many people are trying to repaint an old building, but it seems to me like this may be the time to build something new.  We need to listen to prophets like Gary Hamel.  Let’s find (blaze?) a path into a new day.


p.s.  If any of this resonates with you, make sure you pick up a copy of his DVD here (or just wait until someone posts it on YouTube).

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