Saturday, August 28, 2010

Loving Your Pastor

I am convinced that there are few jobs more challenging than that of pasturing a local church. Too often we take our pastors for granted rather than honoring and loving them well. Having been one and now for many years serving them as a consultant I have some suggestions for how we can bless those who bless us with their ministry.

Pay a living wage – actually, be generous in your compensation. Paul tells Timothy that “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching” (1 Timothy 5:17). There are few more sad attitudes than stinginess on the part of congregations toward those who serve them. Generosity is not only biblical but it sends a strong message of love.

Be generous with time off and respect days off. I grew up as the son of a missionary doctor. I know what it is to have a father who was always on call, day, night, birthday parties and even days that were supposed to be off. Then in the pastorate I experienced the difficulty of getting enough rest and like my dad, always being on call. I would literally get out of town on my day off so that I could get adequate rest. Wise congregations are generous with vacation (at least a month) and respect days off so that their pastoral staff can recharge. The rest of us get days off each week – our pastors need to as well. It is called the Sabbath rest which for pastors does not happen on Sundays.

In addition to time off, be generous with study weeks where your pastor does not need to preach so that he can study, read, think and prepare for future messages. A week out of the pulpit is not a vacation week – trust me. It simply gives time to catch up on all the things that get pushed aside by the weekly responsibility of preaching.

Give your pastor the benefit of the doubt when issues come up where he comes under criticism. When I had a church with three hundred and fifty congregants I had three hundred and fifty individuals who all had an opinion about what I should do and how I should do it. Pastors cannot please everyone and meet everyone’s expectations. In addition we often hold them to expectations that we don’t even hold ourselves to. They are human, we are human and they and we will disappoint, fail, get into relational scraps and sometimes do dumb things. I certainly did.

Related to this – be circumspect about criticism and generous with praise. It is easy to criticize and healthy leaders are open to the opinions of others without taking it too personally. But, there is a whole lot said to pastors that is not helpful, constructive or encouraging and far too little thanks and appreciation. Words have great power to build up or destroy. Loving congregations are gracious with their words rather than destructive.

Surprise them with love. Want to keep you pastor? Love him and his family. Surprise them with a gift card, send them away on an all expenses paid weekend, help them with special needs they have. Pastors give – a lot. Shower them with love.

Give them a generous book allowance. Pastors by nature and by work are readers. They needs books and actually read them. Many leaders don’t understand that books are the tools of pastors. You may need to skimp on some budget items but don’t skimp on giving your pastor the tools he needs to serve you well Sunday after Sunday. In addition, because pastors are learners and because we all have high expectations of them, make funds available for ongoing learning so that they continue to grow. The more they grow, the more you grow. Your ongoing investment in them in an ongoing investment in your church.

Finally, make a sabbatical available to your pastor every five years. Give them three months to learn, grow, read, think and plan for the next run. It will come back to you in spades.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A personal code of ethics

Have you ever considered a personal code of ethics? Defining those commitments that you are committed to live by? None of us live perfectly but God continually calls us to a higher standard – one that reflects His holiness, righteousness and character. Since I am a ministry leader, my code of ethics reflect my calling. Having a defined code of ethics that we come back to regularly gives us road markers that keep us in the right lane and paid attention to, keeps us from losing our credibility, influence and even our ministries.


When truthfulness and honesty are compromised, everything is compromised because every one of the ethical commitments that follow mean nothing if we are willing to be untruthful with others, with ourselves or with God. The lie was at the heart of the Adam and Eve and has been at the heart of sin ever since. For ministry leaders this includes not inflating ministry results, and always attributing sources when preaching and teaching. It is a life of transparent honesty in all areas.


How we treat people: those we like and those we dislike, those like us and those unlike us, those who agree with us and those who don’t is an ethical issue. Jesus treated all people with dignity and honor with the exception of the hypocrites with whom he simply told the truth about their condition. For ministry leaders this is a major ethical commitment because our work is all about people – some who will like us and some not. The ethics of the world do not require us to treat all people with dignity and honor: the ethics of the Kingdom do.


This means that I will live within my means, I will model generosity toward God and others and I will be scrupulous in using ministry dollars and account for those ministry dollars used. When financial integrity starts to slip, that dishonesty has a ripple effect on other areas of life and an entitlement mentality takes the place of financial integrity. As a ministry leader I reject any entitlement mentality and live with gracious thanks for what God gives whatever that may me.


Sexual purity goes to the heart of men and women made in the image of God and temples of the Holy Spirit. There is no room for ethical compromise here as it has devastating effects on our person, relationships and relationship with God. This means that I will be faithful to my spouse, will guard my relationships with the opposite sex, guard my thought life and intentionally avoid moral impurity of the heart, mind or actions.


Our world is filled with broken and unreconciled relationships. Jesus came to bring reconciliation between people and Himself and between brothers and sisters. The ethics of the Kingdom require that to the extent that it depends on us that we will live at peace with all men and be proactive in seeking that peace. This means that we will do all we can to keep short accounts, seek to understand others and live in peace rather than conflict with others.


All of our ethical commitments depend on honest and deep relationships with others where others have the ability to speak into our lives, challenge us, tell us truth when we need to hear it and help keep us faithful to our God and our calling. In the Kingdom we live in community not autonomously. Autonomy is at the root of ethical slippage.


The church is the bride of Christ – His prized and beloved possession for which He gave His life. I will everything I can to build His church and never to hurt it. This means that even when I believe I have been mistreated by God’s people that I will do nothing that has the potential to hurt the congregation or congregations I serve.


Humility is highly esteemed by God while pride is antithetical to life in His Kingdom. Humility means that I understand how God has gifted and wired me and wants to use me coupled with an understanding that in all other areas I need others. A life of humility is one where I submit to both God and others, work together rather than alone and value the contribution of others.


All people have an ethical framework. My conviction is that the best ethics are the ethics of a holy and righteous God. Therefore I will seek to stay close to Christ and allow Him to transform my heart by grace, my thinking into His thinking so that His priorities become my priorities and my relationships reflect His relationship with me. I understand that my ethical understanding grows and becomes more complete as I become closer to the source of ethical conduct.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Don't waste your life in meetings

Think about all the meetings you attend in the course of a week – a month – a year. Then consider this fact: It is estimated that half of all meeting time in the United States whether business or ministry is wasted time! Henry Ford once said that the problem with wasted time is that there is no waste left over on the factory floor that can be visibly seen. And time is the one commodity that none of us can get back so if indeed half of all meeting time is waste, I want to reclaim that time for more important things. Many of us have read the book “Death by Meeting” and we instinctively understand the title. That says it all.

Meeting productivity can be seen as a function of three key elements: How we behave in meetings; having a tight agenda with specified outcomes along with a good facilitator; and ensuring that there is timely execution on action items.

Meeting Behaviors
All of us have been guilty at one time or another of “checking out” of meetings. We check out because there is not a tight agenda – wandering meetings are boring – and because we know that there probably will not be timely execution on action items anyway. That is why all three elements need to be addressed together.

Here is a set of meeting behaviors that I observed in a recent organization I visited. It says a lot about how they view meetings:

 We engage in robust dialogue. This means that we can discuss any issue without personal attack or hidden agenda.
 Our meetings start and end on time.
 Team members are responsible to attend as scheduled.
 One person speaks at a time, while others actively listen.
 Everyone actively participates.
 All ideas are encouraged and considered.
 The Meeting COMPASS (TM) has been completed and is followed.
 We leave the room as we found it.
 Action items are clearly defined and completed as assigned.
 Cell phones and pagers are turned off and only used during breaks or when meeting is over.

This organization obviously has raised the bar on how they do meetings!

Meeting format
Notice that one of their commitments is to use Meeting COMPASS which is a way to format meetings for maximum effectiveness. Basically the meeting compass (a proprietary tool) ensures that before a meeting is held, the purpose is clear, the outcomes are specified, the agenda is set and necessary preparation is done. With that kind of a roadmap (anyone can do this), and a facilitator, the meeting is kept on track, the agenda is followed, people are prepared and outcomes are clear.

The facilitator then records all action items and decisions made. Action items include the action, the person responsible and the date the action must be completed. These are put into an excel spread sheet

This brings me to the third issue – timely execution. The first thing that happens at the next meeting is a review of action items from the previous meeting. Using the excel spread sheet listing those action items, each item gets a color: Red (action was not completed – ouch), yellow (action was not fully completed – hmm) or Green (action was completed – great). It only takes a few meetings for folks to get a Red or Yellow to figure out that you are committed to execution rather than just talk.

We are working to up the level of meeting excellence in our own organization and are learning from others who do it better. How are you doing in your meetings? I for one don’t want to waste time in unproductive meetings.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Leader Standard Work

All leaders have a set of responsibilities that only they can fulfill. If those responsibilities are not carried out by them because of the press of activities, expectations or simply because they have not prioritized well, the organization or team we lead will suffer.

Think for a moment about the regular commitments you have on an ongoing basis. Those commitments are Leader Standard Work. Then think about the activities that are critical to you as a leader to ensure that the team or organization you lead is led well and stays on track. These are also Leader Standard Work. If all of these critical activities are not placed into your calendar ahead of time they often get lost in the shuffle of activity.

Leader Standard Work encompasses the activities that every good leader must fulfill and because they are the most important activities they get put on the calendar first and are rarely changed. This would include, key meetings that occur at the same time each month, preparation for those meetings (they will only be as good as the preparation) monthly check ins with direct reports, built in think and evaluation time, evaluation of results and so on. For pastors it would also include preparation time for messages.

Can you identify your Leader Standard Work? The truth is that many leaders have never thought about it in this way. Being able to articulate the key activities that you must be involved in ensures a higher level of leadership excellence and execution than if one cannot.

Healthy leaders always schedule those things that are most important first and then fill in their schedules around those first priorities. My calendar in Microsoft Outlook is actually color coded to reflect my Leader Standard Work which seldom changes, and then the various other activities so that I can visually see how and where I am spending my time. Because my Leader Standard Work is scheduled out at least a year in advance, I have the framework around which to schedule other activities and ensure that those things that are most critical for me as a leader are not neglected.

Having identified what I must do on an ongoing basis and getting it on the calendar first gives a rhythm and framework to my leadership role that is freeing. I don't have to wonder what is critical - I know - and it is already on my calendar.

Perhaps the largest impediment for many leaders is the level of discipline this requires. One of the realities of leadership is that the most effective leaders are the most disciplined leaders - around those things that are most important. The key to growing our leadership effectiveness is becoming more focused and more disciplined. There is actually a freedom that comes with that discipline, however, because we end up with more margin and we know that we are paying attention to those things that are most important.

These responsibilities can be supplemented by an Execution Journal built off of a spreadsheet that list all of the tasks and projects we are responsible for along with the date they are due. Every time I make a commitment I place that commitment in my execution journal and color code it so that I know its priority. Each day I look at the execution journal so that commitments I have made don’t fall between the cracks or fail to be finished on time. When leaders don’t keep their commitments, others will not either.

A key to keeping our commitments is understanding that every time we agree to do something, we must build time into our calendar to fulfill that obligation. If there is not realistic time in the calendar we should either not agree to the project or modify the date by which we promise it will be done.

Understanding your Leader Standard Work and ensuring that it gets on the calendar provides the architecture of how you spend your time. The important things get on the calendar first – always – and then other activities are added around the important. Can you identify your Leader Standard Work and does your calendar reflect that work?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

What is in the way of your growth?

Think about the excitement that new believers have when they come to Christ and experience His presence for the first time. And, the amazing life changes that can come in a very short time. Watching those changes in our own lives or in the lives of others again reminds us of the power of the Holy Spirit and He does His thing in bringing transformation.

But that is not the whole story because we also know that for many people - perhaps for us at times, periods come when that growth slows or stalls out. It is as if they have hit a plateau and simply cease to go deeper with God.

What causes this stall in spiritual transformation? I believe that it often has to do with things in our lives that get in the way of God and prevent further growth. Until those areas that are in the way we are not likely to see the growth that we once did.

Paul's letter to the Ephesians bears this out. In that Epistle, he lists a long list of "put offs" - behaviors that are incompatible with our new life in Christ. These put offs include falsehood, anger, stealing, unwholesome talk, grieving the Holy Spirit, bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander, malice, sexual immorality, any kind of impurity, greed, and foolish talk. He then lists a comparable list of put ons that reflect the new life we have in Christ.

To the extent that we allow closets in our lives where the light of Christ has not penetrated, we prevent Him from entering that space and the less space we give Him the more our growth is stymied. The greater the space we give him the more our growth flourishes.

Here is a truth. All of us have areas where God is talking to us about putting something off so that He can fill more space in our lives. Often they are the very things that wake us up in the middle of the night whether worry, sin, unforgiveness, anger, or any number of issues. What He wants is to give those areas to Him, allowing Him to fill that space and every time we do that we give Him more of ourselves, put off more of ourselves, and experience more of Him. It is removing barriers to growth - and it is a life long process that brings us more and more of Him.

What is in the way of your growth today? An unforgiven relationship? Lack of trust that God can provide for your needs? An area of sin hidden in a locked closet? A lack of thankfulness for God's provision for you? Whatever it is, take Paul's advice, and put it off, so that you can put on those things that are of Christ's character and so that He can fill you with more of Himself. Every time we do that we grow!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Long View and Short View in Ministry

How often have I read the words of Paul to Timothy, "For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear" (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

Reading through my evangelical lens I just assumed that the modern day application would be liberals who don't take the Bible or its truth seriously. Now I am not so sure! I wonder if we evangelicals are guilty of the same thing - teaching what we know our folks want to hear rather than the whole counsel of God - some of which even we don't like to hear because it forces us to examine our lives in light of pure truth.

All of us know the pressures that public businesses feel to "meet the quarterly results" so that wall street is happy. Often the long view of serving customers or even building a strong company that will last is lost to the short view of corporate returns.

What does this have to do with ministry you ask? I wonder if there is a correlation between watering down the gospel to be "relevant" - often more pop psychology to make our people feel good than the gospel which connects them with the Lord of the universe and our desire for results in the church - the big N: Numbers - by which we measure our results.

It is not often that I find a reason to quote The New York Times in this blog but in an editorial regarding clergy burn out, guest writer Jeffrey MacDonald says this: Churchgoers increasingly want pastors to soothe and entertain them. It’s apparent in the theater-style seating and giant projection screens in churches and in mission trips that involve more sightseeing than listening to the local people.

As a result, pastors are constantly forced to choose, as they work through congregants’ daily wish lists in their e-mail and voice mail, between paths of personal integrity and those that portend greater job security. As religion becomes a consumer experience, the clergy become more unhappy and unhealthy.

And not only clergy become more unhappy and unhealthy - those they serve do as well. Short term results in the church - the hunt for success in weekend attendence is not compatible with long term spiritual results which the Lord of the Church is looking for - spiritual transformation where I live daily in grace, start to think like Jesus, bring my life priorities into line with His, and relate to others as He relates to us. It is transformation of our hearts, minds, priorities and relationships. And that takes time, an understanding of the whole counsel of God, deep relationships among believers and the desire to allow all of God's truth to soak into all of who we are.

Jeffrey MacDonald points out that The trend toward consumer-driven religion has been gaining momentum for half a century. Consider that in 1955 only 15 percent of Americans said they no longer adhered to the faith of their childhood, according to a Gallup poll. By 2008, 44 percent had switched their religious affiliation at least once, or dropped it altogether, the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found. Americans now sample, dabble and move on when a religious leader fails to satisfy for any reason.

In this transformation, clergy have seen their job descriptions rewritten. They’re no longer expected to offer moral counsel in pastoral care sessions or to deliver sermons that make the comfortable uneasy. Church leaders who continue such ministerial traditions pay dearly. A few years ago, thousands of parishioners quit Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minn., and Community Church of Joy in Glendale, Ariz., when their respective preachers refused to bless the congregations’ preferred political agendas and consumerist lifestyles.

Fighting this trend is not about being hard or harsh in our preaching. It is about honestly teaching the whole counsel of God and starting from His truth that is applied to our lives rather than starting from our lives and using the Bible like a self help manual. The Bible was meant to introduces us to the Lord of our lives whose transformation of our lives brings us into closer alignment with Him and that process is often not fun or easy. But the end result is true freedom and joy.

Rather than taking the short view of consumerism in our ministries we are reminded by Paul that "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Further he says, "Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct rebuke and encourage with great patience and careful instruction" (2 Timothy 4:2-3).

This is the long view of ministry. It is the Biblical view of ministry and it is the way to legitimate spiritual transformation.

MacDonald has it right when he says, Ministry is a profession in which the greatest rewards include meaningfulness and integrity. When those fade under pressure from churchgoers who don’t want to be challenged or edified, pastors become candidates for stress and depression.

Clergy need parishioners who understand that the church exists, as it always has, to save souls by elevating people’s values and desires. They need churchgoers to ask for personal challenges, in areas like daily devotions and outreach ministries.

When such an ethic takes root, as it has in generations past, then pastors will cease to feel like the spiritual equivalents of concierges. They’ll again know joy in ministering among people who share their sense of purpose.

I think we need to ask some serious questions as to whether we take the long or short view in our ministries. Whether we have been subtly sucked into Wall Streets view of success (all in the numbers) or are driven by the values and ethics of Scripture which is about long term life change from the inside out. What Paul said about tickling of ears is not just for the liberals. It is for all of us who proclaim the word on a regular basis - he was writing, after all to Timothy and warning him not to fall into the trap.

Lulled into complacency by our comfort

Dr. Woo in Surgery

Memorial service in Kabul for Dr. Woo

Guest writer: Michael Johnson

Julie Burchill writes for The Independent the British newspaper. For the August 11, 2010 edition, she commented on the critics of British soldiers’ role in Afghanistan as well as the sacrifice of Dr. Woo, one of the doctors murdered recently while volunteering to bring medical care to the citizens of that nation. She writes rather caustically, but clearly; People castrated by comfort and consumption of course feel worthless when they look at Dr. Woo or our soldiers. A man who has nothing which he cares about more than his personal safety is a miserable creature who has no chance at being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.

Dr. Woo’s sacrifice was particularly significant in that she was not on duty for her nation, but for His Kingdom. Are our decisions about our faith made from the comfort of our couches of conspicuous consumption? Are we really willing to make the difference we claim we should for Christ, or is it just religion as usual? Reporting in Dr Woo co-founded an charity called Bridge Afghanistan and raised thousands of pounds for emergency provisions for flood victims, education projects and medical supplies.

Her medical convoy was travelling through Badakhshan towards Kabul on Wednesday after spending three weeks in the mountainous terrain of Nuristan where the medical team were delivering medical care and supplies to the people living there. Local police said about 10 gunmen robbed the group and killed them one by one. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the killings. A spokesman said the foreigners died because they were ''spying for the Americans'' and ''preaching Christianity''.

To add to the tragedy of her death is the romantic side the Telegraph reports that Dr Karen Woo, 36, British medic killed in Afghanistan was due to return home within days to get married, it emerged.

Have I been castrated by comfort? What does my faith cost me? Dr. Woo was willing to pay all. She did.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Expectations for Leaders

What are the expectations of leaders in your church or organization? Have they been clarified and do you remind them of them often? The more clarity you provide your leadership community (whether volunteers or staff) the better they will be able to lead and contribute to the health of the organization. How leaders lead, the commitments they keep or don't keep impact the ethos and culture of the organization. Defining healthy expectations contributes to a healthy organizational culture. In addition, staff take their cues from the behaviors of leaders for better or worse.

These are the expectations that ReachGlobal (RG) has for its leaders.

 Stay current with Jesus

 Annual KRA’s with accountability

 Monthly Personal Retreat Day

 Annual Planning Retreat

 Schedule your priorities first


 Model the leadership you want to see in others

 Respond to issues quickly

 Deliver on promises made to staff and others

 Communicate vision and mission to your team regularly and clearly

 Live, communicate and be a champion for all four sides of the RG sandbox

 Develop your area of responsibility for maximum impact

 Find and develop new areas of ministry opportunity

 Seek to influence national leaders intentionally toward healthy ministry

 Ensure and be accountable for the health of the teams under your leadership


 Ensure that staff members (reports) have what they need to be successful

 Clarify expectations, empower and hold accountable

 Be accountable for budgets

 Provide regular, clear, honest feedback to your direct reports

 Monthly meeting with all direct reports by phone where necessary and in person where possible. Review KRA’s, encourage, coach and equip. Monthly short report from all direct reports with priorities for the following month and update on the past month.

 Individual coaching and equipping plan for all direct reports

 Annual development plan for the team you lead in line with priorities of EQUIP and their leadership responsibilities.


 Monthly meeting with your supervisor

 No surprises. Keep your supervisor appraised of bad news quickly or key developments quickly

 Your primary team is the senior team you are on. Your secondary team is the team that you lead.

 Be a champion for RG as a leader in RG

Leaders in RG can expect their supervisors to regularly ask them about these kinds of issues as they go to the heart of the kind of organization we want to be. Have you clarified your expectations of your leaders?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

What is the Gospel worth?

What is the gospel worth?

Ten Christian workers answered that question by giving their lives this week in Afghanistan – shot one by one by the Taliban. They made the ultimate sacrifice as they ministered to the “least of these,” the poorest of the poor in rural villages accessible only on foot.

Tom Little along with his wife and daughters had lived in Afghanistan since 1979, even staying during the years of the Russian invasion and the rule of the Taliban. Tom and his wife, Libby, raised three daughters in Afghanistan. Tom was the program director at the National Organization for Ophthalmic Rehabilitation, NOOR, in Kabul and his wife teaches at an international school in Kabul.

Each of these servants of God knew the risks of serving in war torn Afghanistan. They went where others would not go because it was too dangerous. They ministered to people that many would not minister too because they were too poor. They went places most would not go to because it is too remote and the conditions too harsh. They understood that there is nothing more important in this world than sharing the good news of the Gospel – Emmanuel – God with us with those who have never heard that there is good news.

They followed the call of God – a call higher and more sacred than any other call. They understood God’s love for the “least of these” and that in ministering to those who don’t know Jesus, they became the hands and feet and voice of a God who loves every man, woman and child on this hurting globe. In staying even during torturous years of war and Taliban rule, Tom and Libby fully identified with those they served.

There are heroes in this world. They are not those who the world usually identifies as important. They are men and women who follow God’s call on their lives no matter what the cost.

Please pray for the families of these ten men and women who paid the ultimate price. Pray also that their sacrifice would move those they ministered too to look to Christ. From the blood of martyrs comes the growth of the church. May their example and lives raise up a new generation of missionaries who will follow Christ wherever He may lead. 

Friday, August 6, 2010

Organizational Humility

Humble individuals are a wonderful treat to find. They are non-defensive, open with others, have nothing to prove and nothing to lose, understand their strengths and their weaknesses, love to empower and release others and have an inner strength that comes from their understanding of themselves and who God made them to be. 

True humility is the foundation of cooperation with others - understanding that we need others to complement our strengths and weaknesses. And it is a cooperation of respect and openness that recognizes the God given gifts to others and that we are better together than separate.

There is a need in Christian ministries to apply those same principles to our ministries and to develop a sense of organizational humility. Like individuals, organizations can be characterized by pride or by humility. How many ministry leaders in churches or other ministries communicate the message that we are special, we are better, we are the best or we are on the cutting edge?

Really? We may be special in some way, better in some things, hopefully on the cutting edge of something but so are our so called competitors. Is it this pride that keeps ministries from working more closely toward common objectives, that keep us siloed and protective of turf? Are we unwilling to share our gifts and expertise as well as learn from the gifts and expertise of others?

In the mission world (and church world) this pride and lack of humility often keeps us from working in creative ways together. It promotes competition among God's workers (I wonder what Jesus would say about that) rather than a kingdom mentality (it is all about Him). We have learned in ReachGlobal how much other ministries have to offer us, how much we don't know, how much better we are in partnership than alone and how much broader the family of God is than we often think. But, we must constantly work on this because the natural tendency of ministries is to go it alone rather than take a posture of humility, knowing that we need others to be the best that we can be.

Like people, every organization has strengths and weaknesses. Like individuals we complement our strengths and make up for our weaknesses in working with others. While we should be proud of our organization for what it represents, our humility should make us open to what we can learn from others. And prevent us from lifting our organization up by diminishing other organizations (or churches) around us.

Organizational humility is an attitude of graciousness toward others, thinking cooperation rather than competition, knowing we can and should work with others and refusing to life ourselves up at the expense of others.

Keepers of the Brand

Every ministry has a brand! It is made up of its mission, core convictions and ministry philosophy. The better that brand is understood by its leaders, members and constituents the more powerful it is as a unifying factor. When the brand is not understood or is foggy, that power is diluted.

Leaders are by definition the "keepers of the brand" with the senior leader leading the way. He or she is constantly communicating, reinforcing and living out the commitments of the brand. They do this in a number of key ways.

Common vocabulary is key to your brand. The Central Ministry Focus, for instance in ReachGlobal, the organization I lead is that we are all about developing, empowering and releasing healthy national workers. The three words, "Develop, Empower and Release" are constantly used by all leaders and are common vocabulary that defines our brand as a mission. Another phrase that is known by most is "We don't own anything, control anything or count anything as ours." This is part of our philosophy as a mission that exists to empower others and not control. It is central to who we are and the common vocabulary communicates that principle.

In your own ministry, have you developed a common vocabulary that defines who you are? It is a powerful way to communicate your key convictions and to inculcate that understanding among your constituency.

Leaders are those who clearly articulate the brand by developing this common vocabulary. They spend considerable time thinking about how they can best communicate a clear, consistent message that sticks with those who hear it and is instantly understandable. And then they repeat it often - in writing, in person and in presentations. Those who know me have heard me say often, Do not underestimate my resolve. I am committed to those principles that drive ReachGlobal and that phrase articulates that conviction that we will deliver on the promise of the brand. It is a reminder to those who hear it that we take our convictions seriously and we will move in the direction of those convictions. Leaders articulate the brand by clear, concise statements that reinforce the convictions of the organization constantly.

This becomes most powerful when the commitments of the brand are directly tied to decision making. Part of our brand story as a mission is that we are committed to healthy people serving on healthy teams under healthy leadership to plant healthy churches. This is the culture we must have if we are going to be successful. But it has implications. If a team is not healthy we will do everything we can to bring it to health because unhealthy teams cannot produce healthy churches or disciples. It would be easy to ignore an unhealthy team. To do so, however, would be to violate the commitments of our brand and to communicate that we are not really committed to what we have articulated.

Often in decision making we will go back to the commitments of our brand and ask the question, is what we are doing consistent with our convictions. When members of the organization see alignment between the brand message and decision making, they know that we are serious about those convictions.

What is the test of whether we have articulated our brand well? It is when everyone in the organization can articulate it. When the common vocabulary is known by everyone and everyone can articulate the core convictions of the organization, you know that you have been successful as a keeper of the brand. This is true in the local church, in mission organizations, other non-profits and frankly in the business world.

This morning as I was wondering if I should actually get out of bed at an early hour to finish up some projects, the words Just do it, came to mind and I popped out of bed. Thank you Nike - your brand is well known. How about you? Is your brand well known? If you are the leader or in leadership, how are you doing as a keeper of the brand? Or do you need to clarify the brand first? A brand is only possible when there is missional clarity but with missional clarity the brand is a powerful reinforcer.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Crack in the Rock

Guest contributor, Ellen Conserva. Ellen ministers to at risk women and children at a ministry center in Thailand.

There is a new baby at Agape. He is 9 months old and really sick. He is barely able to hold his head up. And oh so thin. It's amazing, really, how huge the human skull is on a baby, when there is no fat on the face or hair on the head. It was obvious that he was not thriving and whoever was taking care of him before his arrival, was not coping with parenting, or even realizing that this baby has HIV.

Recently, I made it a point to go in and hold him, as I wasn't sure how long he would be for this life. He was sleeping on his side, propped up all around. So I started whispering to him and stroking his arm, his skin leathery and moving like it isn't attached to anything, as if it is just draped over the bone. His eyes flickered and I picked him up. He was so awkward to hold, spindle-like limbs jutting out all over. He opened his eyes and looked at me with no expression and then started to cry. I kept talking quietly, telling him he was going to be okay now, he would get better, and how I was sorry he was so ill. He cried harder and I pulled him into my chest, trying to make the most bodily contact with him that I could. I whispered, "I love you, little darling." He cried louder. I rocked and swayed and he writhed and wailed. He seemed to have this expressionless sort of look on his face, even as he cried. So, I put him down again, on his side, propped him up the way he was, and he stopped crying. He let out a little sigh and fell back into a contented sleep. He was much happier in his sterile crib than in my warm and loving arms.

This didn't surprise me much, just confirmed to me what he is lacking in his life. Human touch. Gentle words. Real love. It was as if he was crying out to me, saying, "Are you kidding me? Don't hold me. Don't talk to me so sweetly. Don't love me. I have learned from birth how to make myself content and to live without this gentle touching and lovely whispering. Don't throw off my groove. Don't start making me believe in something or someone who will love me like that because it's just setting me up for disappointment. You are really irritating me here. Put me down and return me to the world I know, the place where I have adapted. It isn't the best, but it is the safest. Leave me alone." I will not, of course, leave him alone. I will go back again and again and try and pull him out of that place where he thinks it is so much better.

We can be like that with God, can't we? We become so enmeshed in our own world. In our own place of darkness or sin or bad habits or wrong thinking. We believe things about ourselves that are not true. We push away things in our lives that would be good for us, but we prefer the bad familiar. We see what could be a blessing in our lives, but it seems like too much hard work to reach out and take it. We hear the voice of God, telling us where we are going wrong, but we have this amazing ability to rationalize our sin, make it seem like it isn’t that bad.

And God whispers...and we swat at our ears and tell Him to leave us alone. He pulls us closer into Himself, but we resist and kick out with our pathetic self-will. We cry out that WE know best, that it's easier to cope with the little bit of what we have than to readjust and surrender to His love. He pulls and He pulls. And we push and we push.

This reminds me of when Moses asked to see God's glory. And God said that He would cause all of His goodness to pass in front of Moses and that He would say His name out loud. But before God passed by, Moses had to be shoved down into a crack in a rock. And God had to cover Moses' head with His Hand. And God said, "After I have passed by, I will take My hand away and you can look at My back. But not My face. No one looks at My face and lives." So God passed by and as He did, He spoke words to Moses. He talked about who He is and how He feels about Moses. And He mentions His love several times, how it is abounding and how He maintains it. Moses had to hide because God is so overpowering. So bright. So fierce. So shocking. God doesn’t dumb Himself down or use a dimmer switch with His love and glory. It just come at us with all barrels blazing. His love is long and tight and His words of endearment keep flowing from His lips and He never runs out of words to express how much He loves us. And He never lacks ways to show us, either. And He longs for us to know this and to see Him, even if it is only His back.

Just like the sick baby. I know what he needs. I know what is best for him. I know I can help him. But he thinks he knows best. He thinks he has what he needs to survive. But the truth is, he will die unless he allows us to help him bond with human love. When he comes to realize what true love is, his face will change from being dead and cold to having a radiance about it, like most children have. I long for that day. I want to be a part of that love process.

And just like me. I think I know what is best for me. I know what I need. But I don't know what I need like God knows what I need. God told Moses the things he needed to hear. He showed Moses just a flash of His glory. And it was enough. When Moses went back down the mountain, his face was radiant. He had been in the presence of God and he knew how much God loved him.

As I continue to grow and learn in the crack of my rock, I want to feel comfort from the pressure of God's Hand on my head as He passes by and whispers truth about me and about Who He is, and about how much He loves me. Kicking against God only makes Him hold me tighter. But it doesn’t stop Him from wanting to show me His glory. He wants to be seen. And I am the vehicle He chooses to use. When see God, I radiate God. And His Glory is made known. Even when I am in the crack of a rock.