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BHAGs and Good Habits

We all remember the late Neil Armstrong for his first steps on the moon back in 1969. Maybe you also remember President Kennedy announcing in 1961 the ambitious goal of sending an American to the moon before the end of the decade. Only the construction of the Panama Canal and the Manhattan Project were comparable in scope to the goal Kennedy challenged us with that day.

Today we call a paradigm-shifting goal like that a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal). Or if it’s January, we may call them “New Year’s Resolutions.” Politics, ministry, and our personal lives are full of them, but BHAGS and resolutions rarely work.

Seth Godin explains that the reason they don’t work is because they don’t change habits, and habits are where our lives, careers, ministries and even our country are made. If we want to get in shape, forget the resolution and get to the gym every single day. If we want to transform our church, don’t focus on a more inspirational Sunday service, get disciplined to do the gritty shoulder-to-shoulder work it takes to change lives.

Audacious goals, resolutions, and inspirational messages are great. However, as Godin suggests, they may be a distraction from the thing that really frightens us – a shift in daily habits that would mean a re-invention of how we see ourselves.

Ministry can always benefit from better habits. Everyday habits. Do that first.

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Dave was a talented and charismatic who had seen his church expand to over 1,000 members in four short years. We met to brainstorm ideas on missional ministry and changing lives. But after a brief discipling discussion he stunned us by saying, “People don’t want to grow. I’ve invested all I have with minimal life change. I am done.”

He felt alone with no answers and no hope.

Avoiding burn requires collaborative teamwork and creative problem solving. But what does that look like?

Perhaps to understand the essence of team building and creative thinking ministry teams should spend time in the presence of improvisational jazz artists. This is the suggestion from Dr. Berenice Bleedorn, founder of the Institute for Creative Studies.

Dr. Bleedorn has observed that after establishing the melody, each jazz trio member takes a solo that improvises and elaborates the melody while the other members play quiet support. Their quiet, intuitive teamwork is a model for the unity of differences.

Could organizations, and yes ministry, really learn something from a jazz trio?

Dr. Bleedorn discovered these team dynamics at the heart of great jazz…and I believe at the heart of great ministry teams as well:

  • Listen carefully to everyone else. Be supportive.
  • Be sensitive to the moods of others.
  • Balance the leadership and followership. Give everyone a chance to “solo.”
  • Trust your intuitions.
  • Risk expressing your ideas, even when you’re not sure of them.
  • Be “playful.” Lighten up and think smart simultaneously.
  • Be open to new, experimental patterns and directions outside of the “square.”
  • Mutual love and respect help get the job done.

It all sounds like 1 Corinthians 12 & 13 doesn’t it?

Could your ministry team, your workplace and even your home learn something from jazz?

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We’ve all heard how the 18 – 29 year old “Mosaics” love God and hate the church. But does anyone know why? In his book You Lost Me, Dave Kinnaman reveals these six reasons:

1. Overprotective. The impulse towards being “in but not of the world” defines this generation. They want to re-imagine, and they want to be entrepreneurs and innovators. The church is seen as a creativity killer where risk taking and involvement in culture are anathema.

2. Shallow. Easy platitudes, proof texting, and formulaic solutions have anesthetized many young adults, leaving them with no idea of the gravity and power of following Christ. The Christianity they have received gives them no sense of calling or purpose.

4. Repressive. Religious rules feel stifling to their individualistic mindsets. They see the church as repressive.

3. Anti-science. Many young Christians have come to the conclusion that faith and science are incompatible. Yet, they see the critical nature science plays in their world.

5. Exclusive. This generation esteems open-mindedness, tolerance, and acceptance. Thus, the church’s claims of exclusivity are a hard sell.

6. Doubtless. They do not feel safe admitting that faith doesn’t always make sense. They find the church’s response to doubt trivial and fact finding, as if people can be talked out of doubting.

These are crippling perceptions. How do you think the church should respond?

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In his new book, You Lost Me, researcher David Kinnaman shares why the church is losing the 18 to 29-year-old generation. He reports that 60% of these once predominately churched kids are leaving the church…many for good.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Kinnaman’s research reveals that we can reconnect and rebuild trust with young people if we commit to these three things:

Relationships – They long for real, honest relationships and real conversations with older people. Last year a group of young men at Purdue University where I’m involved with a campus ministry asked how much time I was willing to spend with them. I asked how much time they wanted, and they replied, “As much as you’ll give!”

Career – Many young people are over-stimulated and overwhelmed by our digital world and struggle to find purpose in it. They are confused and desperately need help connecting their faith, life purpose and career.

Wisdom – This is the most exposed generation to date. Many have traveled and studied internationally. All have been exposed to diverse religions, value sets and family structures. They long for perspective and are drawn to older people who will help them discern wisdom from shallow facts.

The future of the church in America rests on the boomer’s willingness to invest and reconnect with this vulnerable generation.

Are you in?

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Living Well

Thanks for your patience as I took a break from blogging after my cancer experience. There was a lot to catch up on and so many thoughts to sort through.

One question I’ve been pondering is, “How do you live well?”

After receiving my diagnosis, the question that I wrestled with was, “How do you die well?” If dying from cancer would be my last lesson for my family and friends, then that lesson needed to be a grace-filled one.

I was recently sharing my cancer story with a large group of college students, and I asked them what attributes they thought were necessary for dying well. They quietly pondered the question, then offered these answers:

  • Hope
  • Faith
  • Self control
  • Perseverance
  • Thankfulness
  • Courage
  • Grace
  • Excitement

Their response gives some great insight. Pondering death has a way of clarifying what’s most important.

At a church planter’s conference in Orlando last week, we were told that in order for us to live well, God would “sift” those who are called to His purpose. He will sift us to develop a useful Christ-like character.

ImageIronically, the character traits they listed at the conference were very similar to the attributes on the list above from the college students.

Dying well and living well. In the end, there really shouldn’t be a difference.

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I am Convinced


Ten days ago I shared how God fulfills His promise to show up when we’re in big trouble. That was the first big lesson from my journey with cancer. The second lesson became clear when others showed up as well.

The apostle Paul gave us this promise: For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

I love how Paul says that God will surround us with His love through our most vulnerable times. And I’ve learned that He does, but nothing like I expected.

I thought God might reach down and wrap His arms of love around me. I assumed this was something between me and Him. You know, like your best friend.

But it was so much bigger.

What I discovered was that God’s love showed up through people. Ordinary people like you and me. People who have their own pain but by God’s grace reach past it.

I’ll never forget the friend who offered to cancel his family vacation in Mexico to be at my side. Or those who showed up to quietly sit with Annette during surgery. There were many others who connected regularly until they were sure I was back on my feet. Add to that thousands of Caring Bridge visits and hundreds and hundreds of guest comments, emails, texts, calls, and letters.

As my son Clint said: “Our family is not special or privileged above others, but the efforts and prayers of you all were special. How pleased must God be to see you all supporting us in our time of need.”

As Jesus prayed in Gethsemane, “I pray that they may be one…”

Because of the obedience of others, I felt a oneness. I was one with them, but more importantly, I was one with God. And I am convinced that nothing can separate us because God is love, and His people are as well.

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Our Prince of Peace

It’s rare to receive a death sentence. It’s even rarer to receive a death sentence and survive. With survival rates in the single digits, people considered my “Pancreatic Cancer” diagnosis last month as nothing less than a death sentence. And I did too.

I’ll never forget that night, driving to each of my kid’s homes to drop that death sentence on them. I knew that as the leader of the family I had to be strong. I had to show faith, hope, love, and courage.

But these Hold Me Jesus song lyrics from Rich Mullins express the real thoughts ricocheting off the walls of my heart that night:Image

Well, sometimes my life 

Just don’t make sense at all

When the mountains look so big

And my faith just seems so small

So hold me Jesus, cause I’m shaking like a leaf

You have been King of my glory

Won’t You be my Prince of Peace

We often wonder in times like that if we’ll be left shaking like a leaf. Will God actually show up and be our Prince of Peace?

My “death sentence” has taught our family that He will.

He equipped us to peacefully accept His lead, regardless of what was to come. Miraculously, I also escaped with a cancer-free, fully-functioning pancreas.

In all this, I learned that God fulfills His promises.

He has promised us that we never again have to be a slave to fear (Rom 8:15). He promises that if we call upon Him in the day of trouble, He will deliver us (Psalms 50:15).

He only asks that we follow Him and give Him the honor and glory (Psalms 50).

To Him are all the praise, honor and glory…today and forever.

Our family hopes you have a wonderful “New Years” and 2012 is filled with an abundance of joy and peace.

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