March 31, 2010

Who's The Boss?

It's not uncommon for these two terms to be taken as synonymous, but I think there's a subtle difference that we need to understand.

Bosses motivate from their positional authority.

Leaders motivate from their relational connections.

Maybe I've oversimplified a little bit, but not by much. Bosses know they have leverage because their position in the organization says so. Meanwhile, leaders know that their followers have a choice as to whether or not to follow them. When a leader begins to operate more as a boss, he or she is expending that precious relational capital that he or she has been building with those he or she leads. Effective leaders understand that having positional authority isn't enough. They understand that in order to really lead & motivate others there has to be an ongoing relational connection built on trust, integrity, mutual submission, & love. When those things begin to erode, leadership erodes. How can someone follow a leader that he cannot trust? How can a person follow the leader that she doesn't feel a sense of love & concern from?

The differences may be subtle, but the effects won't be. Leaders who act more like bosses will lose followers because following is a choice.

What are the implications for this idea in your life? At work? In your church? In your home?

March 30, 2010

Leadership Roudtable

If I could sit down around a table with 10 other leaders for a day of discussion & learning, these are the people I would invite (& who would accept the invitation because this is hypothetical). I've also linked to their blog, twitter, or Facebook page so that you can check them out further.

1) Andy Stanley
Anybody who knows me, knew this name would be at the top or near the top of the list. His leadership and developing of other leaders has been highly influential in my life & ministry.

2) Roger Glidewell
My friend & mentor Roger Glidewell has forgotten more about ministry than many of us will ever learn. I've known him for over 10 years, & I still learn fresh insights from him everytime we talk.

3) Ben Arment
Ben is a young leader who God is using to do some really cool stuff. He's got a new book on the way called "Church In The Making". Would love to spend a couple of hours downloading some stuff from him.

4) Anne Jackson
Anne is real, sometimes uncomfortably real, with her readers, but that's what makes her compelling. She doesn't just deal in platitudes; she's firmly planted in the real world.

5) Michael Hyatt
Michael is the CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing & an uber-blogger. The man is loaded with wisdom, & I'd love to have some of it rub off on me.

6) Perry Noble
Perry brings a fresh, fiery edge to the contemporary church leadership landscape. He asks hard questions & isn't afraid to give his opinion.

7) Truett Cathy
Not only could Truett Cathy give us all insight on how to lead with integrity, even when it doesn't make sense in the market, he could also provide lunch. And I'm always up for some Chick-fil-a.

8) Carla Sanderson
Carla is the Provost of Union University in Jackson, TN, & she's like family to me. She understands leadership like few people I've been around. Union would not be what it has become today without her leadership.

9) Rick Warren
Rick has been criticized over & over from people on the left & the right, yet he keeps moving right along. He's also stated that he's devoting the second half of his ministry to developing future leaders of the church. How can any of us argue with a goal like that?

10) John David Mangrum
It's most likely that you have no idea who this guy is...yet. I met John David about a year ago in preparation to work with church plants in Greenville, SC. J.D. & his wife Natalie picked up & moved to Greenville to start Origins Church in order to reach downtown Greenville. They pretty much knew no one & on top of that, they were expecting their first child. Last summer some students & I spent a week working with J.D., & I was really struck by his humble leadership & his vision to reach downtown.

As I was making the list, I realized how hard it was to keep it to 10 & keep it somewhat diverse. Who would you like to spend a day with, sitting around a table & learning from one another?

March 26, 2010

The Prerequisite For Growth

Just the other day I was talking with a friend who has really been struggling with some stuff over the last several months. Long story short, there has been some conflicts in his life that he has tried to work on, but he doesn't seem to be able to make any headway with the others involved. At the same time, the issues are not just things he could walk away from. So he's learned some of the lessons that you can only learn through perseverance. As we talked, he made this statement to me, "I'm glad this junk didn't get resolved 3 or 4 months ago because I wouldn't have learned the lessons that I've learned." Wow, talk about getting some perspective. How many of us can say we're glad that some of the junk in our life won't go away because we're learning from it?

In the course of the conversation, I had this thought: The only reason he has grown in this is because he was willing to admit he had room to grow. In the process of this conflict, he has recognized his part and talked about how he messed up, & that's the difference: humility. You cannot grow without humility. Humility is a prerequisite for growth. Pride says, "I have it all figured out", "I'm right", "I don't have to change". Meanwhile humility says, "I don't have all the answers", "I could be wrong, stranger things have happened, or "I still have a long way to go".

How many opportunities have we missed out where God really wanted to teach us something or stretch us, but because we were too proud to admit our need to grow, we let it slip through our hands?

March 25, 2010

have to vs HAVE TO

As I've been reading Seth Godin's Linchpin, I've been blown away by some of the insights that Seth brings out. On of the concepts that is central to the book is the idea of "the work", namely the indispensable part of what you & I do in our jobs or ministries. "The work" actually makes up a small part of what we actually do everyday, but it's the stuff that can make us vital. A thought came to mind as I was reading:

There's work that we have to do & then there's the work we HAVE to do.

What I mean by that is that whether you're a student, an accountant, a teacher, or a pastor, there are things that you "have" to do; it's required; it's in your job description. However, at the same time there is the part of your work that you HAVE to do. It's that part of what you do that makes you come alive; it's the part of your work that sets you apart from everyone else in the classroom or office. If you don't do it, you don't feel like yourself; you don't feel like you've brought everything you could to the table. In short, you feel incomplete. The tension is leaning into the stuff that we have to do so that we can do the work that we HAVE to do. Usually the stuff that we feel is mindless & pointless only serves to put us in a place where we can do that part of our work that is unique & potentially game changing.

What are the "have to's" that you struggle with doing? What are the "HAVE TO'S" that make you come alive, that set you apart from those around you? How do you manage to push through the "have to's" in order to do the "HAVE TO'S"?

March 21, 2010

25 Random Things

1) These folks are on heavy rotation on my iPod right now: The Band, U2, Andy Stanley, Bela Fleck, Eric Clapton, Carlos Whittaker, Randy Newman, The Allman Bros. Band.

2) My latest obsession is 24 (Yeah, I know it's been on TV for like 7 or 8 years)

3) I've met a few "famous" people. My coolest brushes with celebrities were meeting Steven Curtis Chapman & his wife in a bookstore in my hometown & meeting John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin (my favorite band ever).

4) Some ministry goals include doing ministry on every continent, preaching at FBC Jackson (they helped giveme a great start), & speaking at Global Youth Camp (led by my mentor Roger Glidewell).

5) One of my childhood obsessions was The Dukes of Hazzard.

6) Some of my favorite meals are Enchilasagna (my wife makes it...awesome), BBQ, & fresh seafood.

7) I received an A in a class that I never attended in college. Thanks to whoever that professor was!

8) I've swam in the Arctic Ocean

9) Never tried sushi until a couple months ago, & it was in Bentonville, Arkansas. Something tells me that probably wasn't the best place to have my first sushi experience.

10) Some of my best memories include: grilling out & taking roadtrips to the Swamp with Clayton, Larry, Ben, & Andrew, staying up way too late & causing trouble at the Renaissance Hotel in Atlanta with Nick, Colin, Evan, Lane, & Jared, & having deep conversations in the early morning hours with Andy Dodd & Stan Key.

11) If I weren't in ministry I'd probably be a lawyer or politician (weird huh?).

12) If you made me pick an absolute favorite movie, it would have to be The Shawshank Redemption.

13) If you made me pick an absolute favorite book, it would have to be The Lord of the Rings for fiction & Visioneering for nonfiction.

14) I love studying history. When you dig beneath the bare-bones stuff they cover in textbooks, you get a much bigger & more human picture of the events that shaped the world in which we now live.

15) I was honored to be asked to participate in the memorial service for a member of the 82nd Airborne Division who jumped into Sainte Mere Eglise on the night leading up to D-Day in WWII.

16) I've sung "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" at the top of my lungs with a couple of other guys in a totally empty Wrigley Field. One of the guys climbed in a dumpster outside the stadium to get a piece of the old grass that had recently been replaced. I settled for a chunk of brick that was broken off the wall behind homeplate.

17) The first song I learned to play on guitar was "Every Rose Has Its Thorn". Sad, but true.

18) I preached my first sermon on March 19, 1995, the day after Michael Jordan returned to the Chicago Bulls. It's weird how you remember some things.

19) I've been to a lot of concerts. The most surprisingly good one was Fleetwood Mac's reunion tour that I wasn't even planning to go to & the most disappointing was one of the times I went to see Eric Clapton. Even my dad, who thinks Clapton is the man, would tell you something wasn't right about that show.

20) If I had to recommend one band to you that you've most likely not heard of, it would New Grass Revival.

21) I went to college less than a mile from where I went to high school. It may seem kinda sad to you, but it was definitely the right choice.

22) Growing up my family owned a piano that no one could play. Seriously, nobody had a clue about that thing. Plus it was in a room that you pretty much couldn't get in because it was so junky. Never understood why that thing came into our house. My day probably wonders about that too.

23) I just noticed that I have dried snot on my leg, presumably from one of my children.

24) I regularly volunteer to clear the table & do the dishes after dinner, but only because bathtime for the kids follows dinner, & I'd rather wash dishes than my kids. Bathtime makes me crazy.

25) I have asphalt embedded in my hands & feet from two separate incidents, one that involves being dragged behind a truck. Painful is an understatement.

March 20, 2010

Headed South

Looking forward to spending some time this weekend at a church in south Alabama with a group of volunteers and staff talking about youth ministry. I'm excited to talk with them about where they have been, where they are, & where God wants to take them next. And I can't wait to preach Sunday morning. I never get tired of sharing from God's Word. I love it. I'll be sharing some insights that I picked up from the life of David that I think are so central to our growth as disciples & as leaders.

Already had some great fresh seafood (Thanks to all the cooks). That's always a bonus about heading down to the coast.

Would appreciate your prayers as I hang out with these great folks this weekend.

March 18, 2010

Dear Southern Baptists...Part 4

One final thought for my partners in crime in the SBC; it's simple: Work Together. I'm not just talking about supporting the Cooperative Program. I'm talking about truly working together & supporting one another & the work God is doing in our ministries. Can I ask a question: "Why are we willing to support ministry in Africa or some other faraway place, but we won't support the ministry across town?" Why is it so hard for church planters to get local support in most places? While I've seen some places that are extremely open to church planters, I also know that in a lot of places, they're seen as competition. I personally know a planter who couldn't even get meetings with local pastors to share his vision. When will we realize there are more than enough lost people for all of our churches and then some? When will we realize that we can accomplish far more together than on our own?

Perhaps the reason so many of our churches have stopped growing is because we're too worried about protecting our turf instead of looking to take new ground. Churches should definitely seek God's leadership for their individual congregations, but shouldn't leaders also seek God's leadership as to how they can work together on some things to impact their communities? Shouldn't they also work together to see how they can really support & help one another in ministry? We should work together to complete one another rather than compete with one another. When we stop playing defense against other churches & ministries & collectively go on the offensive to advance the Gospel, we'll see an awakening like none of us have ever seen.

March 17, 2010

Dear Southern Baptists...Part 3

Here's the deal, most denominations are, but especially the SBC is in desperate need of new blood in leadership. Sadly, there is still a "good ole boy" system in a lot of the SBC. The result is twofold: young leaders check out altogether from the denomination (the funny thing is that many of these young leaders are doing some great stuff in a non-denominational setting) or the young leaders lash out at the establishment which of course leads to a backlash from the establishment.

This shouldn't surprise us. Young leaders, by nature, challenge the status quo. It's part of their DNA, & there is nothing wrong with it. However, if these young leaders haven't been trained in how to channel that energy, it can become destructive. This is where the older, more seasoned leaders in the SBC (church & denominational level) need to invest in these young leaders. In recent years, there have been some steps taken in this direction but not nearly enough. There are some amazing young leaders in the SBC who are beginning to get some attention like Matt Chandler & David Platt, but there are more out there, & they need to be brought into the rethinking of how the convention is going to function in this new, potentially post-denominational, world. The old ways of thinking are probably not going to work in this new era.

Let's keep pushing the envelope in this area. Young leaders, don't check out; don't lash out. Instead, let's find some constructive ways to enter the dialogue & to initiate change. It's time to change the game.

Who are other great young leaders in the SBC that are flying under the radar but who need to be recognized & need to get into the mix of what's going on in the SBC?

March 16, 2010

Dear Southern Baptists...Part 2

Yesterday I encouraged SBC leaders both at the church & denominational level to stick with what we do best: working together for the advancement of the Gospel. Our mission endeavors at home & abroad & our equipping of students & church leaders should be our priority, not politics, not social issues, simply the Gospel & raising up leaders for God's movement. The ironic thing is when we focus on the Gospel, the social issues are impacted by it. but for some reason we're backwards.

Today I want to ask a serious question, "Why Do We Always Have To Pick A Fight?" A lot of times the SBC is seen as the antagonist pitted against the pro-choice or homosexual community, but just as often we're antagonists toward one another! We've fought & split churches & shamed the Bride of Christ over issues like music, the role of women, alcohol, and now one of the biggest issues facing SBC churches is the issue of Calvinism. In fact, right now in my homestate of Tennessee a somewhat anonymous memo has been circulating through churches that is designed to help churches "smoke-out" Calvinist pastors & get rid of them. I'm not here to debate Calvinist theology, but I do have a question, "Do we really not have any other important things to take care of as churches?"

When we fight like this, no matter who wins, we all lose. Well, all of us except the enemy. We're never going to have perfectly uniform theology in every pulpit & church in the denomination. If we were, we would be setting the denomination back about 500 year to the pre-Reformation era when there was only one church, & that didn't work too well either did it? Instead of focusing on all of our differences, why can't we rally around our common cause? I know both Calvinist & Arminian leaders who are passionate about the authority of Scripture, the sovereignty of God, & the urgency of missions. Why can't we band together around that instead of taking cheap shots at one another?

What are some other examples of silly, self-defeating fights that those of us in the SBC have gotten into that did nothing but stall the movement of God in our churches? How do we resolve some of the tensions & get on the same page?

March 15, 2010

Dear Southern Baptists...

This week I want to talk a little bit about my spiritual heritage. I grew up in a SBC church & attended a SBC university. However, I have never over-identified myself as a Southern Baptist. In fact, it saddens me when someone seems to be more proud of their SBC membership than their part in the Body of Christ. So I want to write this week about the SBC, not to bash it, although I will challenge the status quo on some things & not to stroke the SBC ego, although I will point out a couple of areas where progress is being made.

In some ways, I think we have entered a post-denominational era, but I don't think that means the denominations have to be dissolved, but it does mean that the denominations will have to rethink how they work as an organization & as individual churches. That's why my first word to the SBC is this: Stick With What We Do Best. Baptists aren't good at politics, & usually we have been terrible at PR, but historically we've been really good at working together so that the Gospel goes forward. In this new era, I think it's so important that the SBC focus on missions both at home & abroad. That's what we've always been good at. Stop trying to transform the political landscape & start transforming the culture with the power of the Gospel. Our collective resources should be going to equipping & sending missionaries, setting up church planters, & equipping college students at our universities & seminaries to be the church in whatever field they go into. If that means some of our state entities have to cut back, so be it. This should be THE priority. It should be the thing that defines us, both inside the denomination and out; right now, that's not the case.

I'm no SBC big-wig. In fact, no SBC big-wigs are likely to read this, but that's OK because change in the SBC won't come from the big wigs; it will come from the people on the ground who refuse to be distracted from our calling. I know what God can do in & through us, but I also know how easily we've been distracted from our calling, from the only thing that matters, from the only thing we've been perfectly equipped & empowered by the Holy Spirit to do. Let's stick with what we do best, & let the other stuff take care of itself as God transforms the hearts & lives of people we are able to reach with the Gospel.

March 13, 2010

Ship It

I'm reading through Seth Godin's latest book Linchpin right now (I know I'm behind but needed a break in class schedule so that I could focus on this). Just read a quote in the book from Steve Jobs that says, "Real Artists Ship." The point is that whatever you've created isn't art until it's shipped out for people to interact with. It's just a project until it ships. That doesn't sit well with perfectionists because we like the project to be perfect before it is revealed. The problem is that anything you actually create (art) will not be perfect. No matter how hard you work it will not achieve total perfection. Godin goes on to say "Shipping isn't focused on producing a masterpiece." Instead, it's focused on finishing & sharing. If you started that project, isn't it worth finishing, even if it's not perfect? Isn't it worth sharing with others?

So whether it's that blog post that your trying to make absolutely perfect or that lesson plan or sermon that you just have to fine tune one more time, hit publish, ship it, share it. Is it perfect? No. Does it have to be perfect to leave an impact? Again, no.

What are you working on that you are afraid to ship? Isn't it worth finishing & sharing with the world? If not, why did you start it? At one point you thought it was worth it, & it was, & it still is.

March 12, 2010

Think Orange

I just recently finished reading "Think Orange" by Reggie Joiner. Reggie was one of the founding pastors of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, GA. Reggie led the family ministries at North Point, and along the way Reggie realized the desperate need for the church to really partner with the home in the spiritual teaching of children and teenagers and to have an integrated strategy for family ministry in the church. "Think Orange" lays out the principles behind this strategy for family ministry. I would encourage all pastors along with their children & youth staff to read this book. You don't have to buy into everything that Reggie lays out, but it will make you think and hopefully ask some serious questions about your ministries and your partnership with the families of your church.

March 10, 2010

10 Things About Audrey

Well Sunday was Julia's 4th birthday, and today is Audrey's 2nd birthday. As you can imagine, the last few days have been a party (especially with grandparents in town to spoil the girls). Here are a few things about the latest member of the terrible two crew.

10) Audrey is tough. You might not know to look at her, but she doesn't let big sister push her around. There have been times when Valerie had to hold her after an accidental fall b/c she knew that Audrey would go punch Julia for accidentally knocking her down.
9) Audrey loves spicy food. I'm serious, I've watched her eat salsa out of her bare hand, no chips, just a handful of salsa.
8) Audrey loves going outside but hates getting "outside" on her hands. If she falls in the grass & gets a little dirt or leaves or grass on her hands, it's as if she's paralyzed. She'll just sit there until somebody helps her up & cleans her hands
7) Audrey has no fear. I'm sure most of this is that she watches her older sister, who was a big coward at Audrey's age, & thinks she can do whatever Julia does, & for the most part she does. She'll climb up on stuff & jump off, hoping someone will catch her, or she may just dive head first off of the couch just for the fun of it.
6) Audrey is funny. By that I mean she intentionally does things for a laugh. She's not funny by accident. She works on it. Anybody who knows Valerie knows that Audrey definitely got her sense of humor from Valerie (and to those who don't know Valerie, that was sarcasm).
5) Audrey loves her sister. Not only does she copy everything Julia does, but when we pick her up from the nursery at church, she couldn't care less about seeing us. The first thing out of her mouth every week is "JuJu"; then she takes off down the hall toward Julia's classroom.
4) Audrey actually sleeps in her bed all night, in the dark. This is a big deal because Julia still hasn't mastered this.
3) Audrey is great at hiding. She will find a place to hide, & then get really quiet, like you could be standing within a few feet & you might not realize she's there.
2) Audrey can count. She doesn't know she can count, but she always knows exactly how many pacifiers she goes to bed with & if at any point, one is unaccounted for she alerts me so that I can find it for her. That doesn't get annoying at 4am at all.
1) Audrey loves music. Of course, Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus is big with her, but just a couple of weeks ago, she was standing on my bed holding a tiny toy guitar that goes with a Hannah Montana doll pretending to play while some Eric Clapton was playing on my Ipod/alarm clock. My dad & my friends would be proud!

Happy Birthday Audrey!

March 5, 2010

10 Things About JuJu

This weekend is Julia's 4th birthday, so I thought I'd share some stuff that you may or may not know about her. Hope this doesn't come back to haunt her in 10 or 12 years (actually I hope it does; it will keep the boys away).

Here are 10 things about Julia in no particular order.

10) Julia loves coffee, but she won't drink from her own cup. She prefers to drink from mine.
9) Her favorite book: whatever Dora, Berenstain Bears, or Princess book she has most recently brought home from the library.
8) Her favorite movie: I would say it's a toss up between Cinderella & Hannah Montana the Movie, but she usually prefers to watch episodes of shows like Dora, Hannah Montana, or something like that recorded on DVD. Movies require too long of an attention span.
7) Favorite Restaurant: Too close to call between Olive Garden & Chick-fil-a (definitely my child). Olive Garden is huge to her b/c of the breadsticks & Chick-fil-a has a playground & kid's get free ice cream.
6) Julia is actually a very good card player. Uno is her specialty but she's getting better at Go Fish. I told her there's a city of lights out in the desert just waiting for her.
5) Julia is obsessed with her reflection. She sits at the dinner table & does silly stuff so she can watch her reflection in the glass of our china cabinet.
4) Julia is all girl except for one thing: WRESTLING. She loves putting on makeup, even if she does look like Lady Gaga when she's finished, but she loves to wrestle. She stands there & huffs & puffs. Then she says, "I'm getting mean!" right before she jumps on you.
3) Julia loves Audrey. She says that she's her best friend. Hopefully that won't change too much. That will make my house a lot calmer during the teenage years.
2) Julia is the worst person in the world to try to watch a movie with. You literally have to explain everything that's happening & why. I always thought Disney movies were for little kids but apparently they need explaining as if we were watching some artsy movie with French dialogue.
1) Julia just learned how to say "living room" this week. For the last year and half, it's been the :wuh-wuh-wuh wum" (that's my best attempt at spelling the noise she would make). Now she really over-enunciates "li-ving room". I guess it is a little sad, but at least now we don't have to translate it.

Happy Birthday Julia.

March 3, 2010

Acquaintance or Hearsay?

A.W. Tozer in writing about the Holy Spirit said, "Acquaintance is always better than hearsay." He was talking the necessity for the Holy Spirit working in & through Christian leaders. His fear was that leaders would have heard stories about how the Holy Spirit without every having experienced it for themselves. He knew that if that happened there was a chance that eventually people wouldn't even think about those past stories of the Holy Spirit's work.

As leaders in the church, we have to remember that we cannot program or produce the thing that God is calling us to. The mission is just too big! However, we will always face the temptation to believe we can. Now more than ever, with all the resources available to us, we will be tempted to by-pass the power of the Holy Spirit in our own lives & in our ministries in favor of cool stories from the past & all the cool technical things we can use to produce a program.

While I think we are called to create environments for ministry, we have to remember that we can't produce the experience that we and those we lead so desperately need: a real, life-altering encounter with God. That can only be produced by the work of the Holy Spirit. So, we need to work our tails off to create the right kind of environments, but we also better be praying our tails off, begging God to add the one thing that we cannot provide, but that is absolutely essential in leading people to a growing relationship with Christ.

If you had to tell a story of how the Holy Spirit is working in & through your life, how old would that story be? If you have to go back 2 or 3 years, could it be that you are leaning on hearsay rather than an acquaintance with the Holy Spirit?

March 2, 2010

I Don't Have To Do That

Last night I watched a couple of my favorite new shows, Pawn Stars & 24 (I know 24 isn't new, but I finally caught up with the rest of the world). During the episode of Pawn Stars, Rick who is co-owner with his dad, the Old Man, was complaining about how messed up their stockroom was. Their pawn shop in Vegas on a given day has anywhere from 3000 to 4000 items back there, & theoretically, it's supposed to be organized. Rick's son, Corey, is supposed to be in charge of this as manager of the shop. When Rick & the Old Man confronted Corey & his sidekick Chumlee about the situation, Corey responded, "I'm the manager, I don't have to do that!". As you can imagine that infuriated Rick & the Old Man; guess where Corey spent the next several hours? Yep, the stockroom. Unfortunately, it's that kind of attitude that could keep Corey from growing into being a leader. Managers "don't have to do that"; leaders "do that even if they don't have to".

Now contrast that with 24 & Jack Bauer. Jack isn't even supposed to be in the middle of this mess, but he is. Guess where Jack is in the middle of the crisis? He's out in front. Even though he's in charge, he's the first one in on the operation, & it's not because Jack enjoys smacking people around or shooting people (although he does); it's because Jack is a leader. And as Jack leads he inspires the other guys he's working with.

The difference between leading & managing is in what a person thinks is "beneath them". A leader understands that he has to expect more from himself than he does from others. He may not be able to do it all, but he can do enough that the others around him are inspired to follow & do what he can't.

What have you said, "I don't have to do that," about? Maybe getting in there & doing that is the one thing that is holding you back from a breakthrough in your leadership.