GLS Final Thursday Session: Andy Stanley

Unknown-3I missed the two afternoon sessions and heard they were both exceptional, so I’ll be chasing footage when its available.

Final session of the day: Andy Stanley. 

– ‘There’s no such thing as just a youth pastor.’ Thank you for saying it, even if it was somewhat of a recovery statement. Youth Pastors are essentially the “Lead Pastor” of a church of teens and parents without the resource and power (and frankly, attention) of a lead pastor. Tough and essential role in any church.

Guiding Question for the Talk: ‘If we had it to do all over again, what would we do all over again?’

– Autopsy your success. Too often we only autopsy our failures, but it’s vital to ask, ‘why is this working?’

– Why did our organization grow so fast? We had a uniquely better product. If you have the only hotdog stand in town your hotdogs don’t have to be that good. Andy then proceeds to acknowledge the global nature of the summit by referencing various food stands around the world and gives a much needed shoutout to Ugali. I say “much needed” because…..have you tried Ugali?  It needs a shout out.

– ‘Uniquely better’: it does what it is supposed to do better than the competition.

I squirm at marketplace metaphors for church. I understand what Andy is saying here and frankly, I consider Andy to be one of the very sharpest minds in the church today, but ‘product’ and ‘competition’ to me speak to what is wrong with the western church. 

We are in grave danger when we shrink the grand gospel of Jesus down to product language and in my opinion, we just feed the beast of consumerism by saying it that way. Also, other churches are not our competition. We stand together against the ‘competition’ of evil and darkness according to Paul. Having said that, no one can deny that Northpoint grew rapidly and reached 50,000+ people because no one else in town was doing what they were doing and because they were innovative, many, many now know the gospel. 

– ‘All of our churches look like music venues.’ Yes. What will the next generation of churches look like? When can I get back to House for All Sinners and Saints where we sit in a circle and worship with a cappella liturgy? 

– About Northpoint: ‘We are not unique anymore which means we are not uniquely better anymore.’

And here, in my opinion is where Andy struck gold:

– Someone somewhere is messing with the rules to the prevailing model.

– Every industry has shared assumptions. Shared assumptions get you into trouble. Which means every industry is stuck (not broken) and it may not be stuck in a bad way, i.e., some things work, but all the same prevailing models have shared assumptions and consequently things continue on unchanged, but somewhere, somebody is pioneering new approaches.

– Discovering uniquely better is virtually impossible. Recognizing uniquely better is accessible to many.

– Uniquely better is often the byproduct of circumstances that success organizations are trying to avoid.

– Multi site began as a solution to a problem , now it is a strategy, not a solution to a problem.

– The more successful you are, the less likely you’ll recognize it as better because it will play off different assumptions and different rules.

– Create a culture to recognize rather than resist ‘uniquely better.’

Continue reading “GLS Final Thursday Session: Andy Stanley”

GLS Session 3: Marcus Lemonis

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I had not heard of Marcus Lemons before and I really appreciated his first 10 minutes where he shared openly about his own vulnerability and modeled the power of self awareness. His point was the importance of vulnerability and self awareness in business. Having made a point I strongly agree with, he then proceeded to violate 3 of the cardinal sins of public speaking and by his 3rd "sin" I was ready to drive to Chicago and pull him off the stage.

1st sin: Don't ever call someone out for being asleep in your audience UNLESS you are a college professor who enjoys ribbing your students. BUT, if you are a professional speaker talking to professionals, it is a cardinal sin. Was the audience member really asleep or was he looking down? Or praying? Or maybe he was asleep because he'd had a rough night or travelled a long distance. Which leads to the second sin:

2nd sin: If your primary point is the importance of vulnerability, you can never force someone to be vulnerable. Having shamed a guy for seemingly being asleep in the audience, he then forced him on stage. The man was very gracious, waiting patiently while Marcus made his point. He then told the man to "share something with me that you've never told anyone." He then told the man to ignore that anyone else is in the room. He then handed the man a microphone. Nothing reminds you that you are NOT "the only person in the room" like holding a microphone. He then prompted the man several times to speak louder into his microphone. The man then graciously shared a raw story of tragedy from his life.

Vulnerability involves trust. If you're creating a culture that invites vulnerability, you cannot demand it. You have to create a space of trust and then invite people to step into it. By definition, you cannot push it onto someone. Marcus did not invite this man in, he coerced him. I was mortified and that is when my arms folded over my heart and I stopped caring what Marcus had to say.

3rd sin which became the unforgivable sin of public speaking:

Marcus told people to stand if you had someone working on your team that you wish wasn't on your team. He then publicly shamed people who didn't stand for not being honest. But let's say you lead an organization of 50 people and you stand. Now many of the 50 people are seeing you stand and are wondering, "is it me?" Now you have unnecessary repair work to do. You're left with a mistrustful and potentially hurt team because a speaker pulled a stunt. This isn't vulnerability, this is stupid and offensive to the good people under your care. And not for nothing, it may be that the person you'd prefer not to work with is a gift from God.

Marcus then invited 3 women up on stage. He wanted them to pretend they were all his mother and he was their son and he proceeded to lead them in a dialogue where "Mom" asked "son" about his day and no matter what they said, he made sure they lost. What was the point? What target were they supposed to hit? I have no idea. Stunningly, all 3 women dealt with the situation with tremendous grace, charm and humor. They were quick, funny, not hostile even though the game they were invited to play was "you lose." I was in awe of these volunteers and how they navigated a very difficult situation with poise. Marcus then proceeded to shame the audience for laughing at the situation. But these women were very funny. The laughter was appropriate, especially considering how uncomfortable Marcus made the situation.

If you are a public speaker:

  1. If the audience is laughing and they shouldn't be laughing it is almost always your fault, not their fault. Telling them off for laughing only exacerbates the distance between you and them.
  2. If you are a person of faith and a speaker, your job is to model the gospel by serving and loving your listeners, not shaming them.
  3. Never, never lead your audience down a path only to punish them when they follow you where you asked them to. Courts of law call this "entrapment" and it is a federal offense.
  4. Always be aware that the medium is the message. If your behavior and actions are in direct contradiction to your words, people will stop listening to you. They may still sit there, or may be looking at you, but you've lost their heart.

I really liked Marcus's first segment and his overall idea, but a series of major missteps closed me to the rest of what he was trying to say.

GLS Session 2: Sheryl Sandberg

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I didn't know much about Sheryl Sandberg before her talk today other than that she is an executive leader in Facebook. Bill Hybels interviewed her in what was essentially two unique topics: gender equality and grief. I found her talk to be deeply profound and insightful. Also, kudos to Bill Hybels for conducting a powerful interview with sensitivity. 

Gender Equality: 

"When you see a little girl being called 'bossy' say, 'she's not bossy, she has executive leadership potential."

Women have five percent of all fortune five hundred CEO jobs, twenty five percent of congress. Still not equitable.

"Recognize the small and unconscious biases that we all (including women) have against women."

We interrupt women more than men. Beware assigning office housework.

We blame women for not doing housework and child care perfectly and we applaud men for doing any of it at all.  

Whoa. I think this is true. She spoke about natural guilt and how we pile it on and how our standards are so radically different. 

Grief

Sandberg shared about her husband suddenly dying on a vacation in 2015. My immediate thought was "whoa, that's not very long ago" and yet she had some amazing nuggets to share about grief and moving toward hurting people:

Sheryl's Stages of Grief:

1. Personal

We blame ourselves for things that aren't our fault and things that are our fault, but it is human to make mistakes. I blamed myself for my husband's death, even in illogical ways. "If only I had become a doctor, I would have seen the signs." Even if it is my fault, which it wasn't, there is no point in self blame.

2. Pervasiveness:

Grief invades every corner of your life until you start to believe it is everywhere. 'Everything is terrible.' Actually, my kids are alive. Actually, I have a lot of good in my life. Her friend, a psychologist invited her to consider, 'You should think about what could be worse.' It helped her get perspective on her pain.  Grief is not as pervasive as it tells you it is.

Here is why I loved this part – Sheryl was in no way downplaying how awful and paralyzing her grief is – she was actually quite vulnerable sharing her inner world, she was showing how grief can invade but doesn't get the last word. 

3. Permanence:

It won't be like this forever, but it makes you think your life will never be good again.

'Don't ask how much resilience you have. Resilience is a muscle. Ask how you can build it.'

– Many talk about PTSD. It is real and must be treated, but Sheryl wanted to talk about 'post traumatic growth' – trauma can make us grow, it's not always just stress and trouble.

– Joy is something you have to look for. 'I would have joy after Dave's death and feel guilty, but you have to go on the hunt or joy and my kids deserve moments of joy.'

– After Dave died, People were so afraid of saying the wrong thing they didn't say anything at all. Now I know how to speak to people who are hurting.

– People who are battling a huge personal challenge-  they need relief, yes, but they also need to be counted on. It was very important to me, while I was deep in my grief to be counted on.

– At the end of every day write down 3 moments of joy. Happiness is in the small things.

Final Question from Bill: "How do you grow as a leader?" 

"If you want to grow as a leader, make it easy for people to give you real feedback about yourself. People aren't used to giving candid feedback to the people they work for. You have to build an environment where people can be honest so you can grow."

GLS Session 1: Bill Hybels

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I don’t know Bill Hybels, we’ve never met, but if he were Kevin Bacon, I’d be 1 degree removed from him. Many people I know and have worked for know Bill very well. I can’t speak to knowing him, but I can speak to respecting him. Here is why I respect Bill Hybels:

  1. In the late 1970s he almost single handedly started getting the church at large to consider the perspective of unchurched people. This was ground breaking and we stand on his and others’ shoulders in our endeavors to be missional today.
  2. He and his wife Lynne became students are are now leaders in conversations around diversity and reconciliation. Bill continues to lead GLS to host more and more diverse voices and this year is no exception.
  3. He always looks for a way to share the gospel, or an inviting aspect of his faith in all of his talks, especially when he knows he will be addressing people who are not church people. He did this again today very well.
  4. Every year at GLS he shares what he has been learning lately. This often involves self depreciating stories where he is not the hero. He did this again today and I always appreciate his example of being a life long learner.

Bill’s talk today didn’t have one cohesive theme that I could follow, but it was extremely timely considering our world today. Here are some highlights and quotes:

First Topic: Civility and Culture of Respect:

‘Armed with enough humility a leader can learn from anyone’
“Am I a leader or am I just a trouble maker?” Hybels at 10. If I had asked myself more reflective questions at aged 10, I’m sure I would be further along.
– In the next 7 days: write or call the people who poured into you. Also, renew our covenant to take the extra few minutes to notice and encourage younger leaders.
Worldwide issue: leading in a deepening divisive environment. Increased disrespect for women, widening gaps between rich and poor. Increased division and disrespect. Bill spoke very eloquently and carefully about our political and media divisiveness without being partisan. I was struck by how important this talk was and at the same time how elementary it is. The elementary nature of it is its own indictment on our society. Bill himself stated, “I teach my grandkids this stuff!” And yet more than ever, adults need to put it into practice. 
– People of faith do not get to choose who we respect. 1 peter, ‘show proper respect to everyone.’
  1. set the example of how to differ without demonizing
  2. Spirited conversations without drawing blood
  3. Not interrupt and not dominate the conversation
  4. Limit volume level, refuse to use incendiary or belittling words
  5. Courteous in word and deed
  6. Never stereotype
  7. Apologize immediately when they are wrong instead of denying or doubling down
  8. Form opinions carefull and stay open minded to better information.
  9. Show up when you say you will show up, do what you say you will do
  10. Set rules of respect and enforce them relentlessly.
CEO of AT&T, ‘ I am not asking you to simply tolerate each other. Tolerance is for cowards. Work hard to move into uncomfortable territory and seek to understand each other.’
2nd topic: Succession in leadership
Who? Who is the successor and who decides who the successor is?
When?
How?
Phases of transition:
Planning/internal/external/transition
Final Questions: 
Are we getting better as leaders or are we just getting busier?
Every day practice chair time: read, reflect, pray, surrender,
For business leaders: ‘At a certain point, mere financial success should bore you…God created you and your life and business can be a change maker in this world.’

Bibliotheca vs The Message

 

Bibliotheca: a 5 volume Bible designed flawlessly so the reader simply reads the text of the Bible. Everything about it is beautiful, from the color scheme to the binding, the font and the weight and tone of the paper. The editors removed all chapters and verses, all study guides, all distractions. The translation is a refreshed version of the American Standard Translation, a very old translation, first written in 1611 and updated over the years until 1901. Bibliotheca eliminated the Shakespearean language, but retained the formal poetic verse and the “weight” of the approach. Bibliotheca was released in 2016.

The Message: Part translation, part interpretation of Scripture written by Eugene Peterson. Peterson saw how his congregation struggled with scripture reading and he sought to offer a translation that kept the energy and life of the original languages. The Message removed verses, but kept chapters in tact. Peterson began with the Psalms and then New Testament and eventually translated the entire Bible from the original languages into his unique voice. The first books of The Message were released in the early 1990s with the full Bible being available by the end of the millennium.

When I read Bibliotheca, I lose track of time and read more chapters than I ever did with a typical Bible. The designer hit his target with the goal to remove distraction and simply offer the words. With other Bibles, I arbitrarily stop at a particular chapter. With Bibliotheca, I read until I am done. The language is a challenge and sometimes I have to fight it to stay focused. The design and weight of the book all aid in the experience. I feel like Ezekiel seeing a heavenly vision of grandeur, describing the awesome wonder of a majestic King. I can request an audience with this King, but I don’t just stroll in. I certainly don’t wear shorts. Formal attire, a gift in my hand when I greet him. I enter and bow and wait for him to speak. God is transcendent.

When I read The Message, the language makes me think about my assumptions. It wakes me up and causes me to consider. The language is energizing and fresh. It feels like the Bible knows exactly the human experience. Sometimes I find the loose translation distracting and fear that Peterson put too much of himself into the text. Reading The Message feels like Jesus just moved into my neighborhood and he brought his toothbrush and pajamas with him (to quote the wonderful Lew Swedes.) My dear friend has popped over unexpectedly for a good chat and he is right here with me. God is imminent.

1 Corinthians 13 sample in Bibliotheca

And moreover a most excellent way am I showing to you.

If I speak with the tongues of men

and of angels,

but have not love,

I have become a sounding bronze or a clanging cymbal.

 

1 Corinthians 13 sample in The Message:

But now I want to lay out a far better way for you.

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

One is lofty and reverent, the other is earthy and accessible. I believe we need both and one without the other is missing a fundamental piece of God’s character.

The transcendence and imminence of God.

Secular Church?

The Denver Post recently published a fascinating article on a new “Secular Hub” – a gathering of atheist, agnostic and humanists who crave community, but not God.

“There was a small group of us looking for the type of community that a church provides,” Sannwald said. “Churches are great places to find friends, to find comfort during difficult times and to meet others. But none of us were religious, so we didn’t want to go to a church.”

The full article is here.

I totally get it. Humans need relationship, none of us can thrive alone. We are interdependent creatures which is why people find common interests, join service organizations, get with neighbors and participate in church. Many people find meaningful relationship and community outside of church, some tried meaningful relationship inside church and came away burned. Still I am struck by the irony of this particular gathering that want some of the benefits of church participation without the “God” part of it.

It makes me wonder if this group of people seeking church-like-community-without-God have paused to ask where their desire for community comes from in the first place.

God is the source who gave humans the desire and need for authentic relationship. The pang of loneliness we all feel and the impulse to form meaningful relationship is itself a sign of God’s image. And God’s image, according the Genesis, is imbued into every human being which is why we crave relationship in the first place. It is a distinctly human experience and a sign of a loving creator God, which is why I believe the most meaningful relationships are forged once you’ve established a meaningful relationship with your creator.

Church, no doubt, is a warts and all experience and for too many people has caused deep and unnecessary pain, but all the same I don’t believe you can bypass the Creator to get to what God created: the innate need in every human to connect with another.

 

TBT: 2 Minute Unity, 25 Minute Unity

christian-unityUnity between churches is challenging and time consuming but is also at the center of Jesus’ prayer in John 17.

As a general rule of thumb, if Jesus prayed for it, we want to be part of it.  Collaboration between churches is exciting and powerful, but if you’re not there yet, here are two easy-peasy steps any pastor can take toward true unity with other churches.

2 minute unity: Take 2 minutes in your church service to pray for other churches in your city by name.  We’ve been doing this for a few years now.   Continue reading “TBT: 2 Minute Unity, 25 Minute Unity”

Cutting Room Floor: 24,500% Forgiveness

We’re spending our summer following along with Peter as he follows Jesus, from the moment Jesus calls him, through Acts and then finishing in 1 and 2 Peter. Since so many sermons study a “point in time” in the life of a follower, but can often take that point in time and preach it as if we should live that way every day, all the time, we thought it would be helpful instead to take a long view of the ups and downs of a follower of Jesus over his entire lifetime.

We love Peter because he was a public learner. Partly because of his personality – he blurted out what he was thinking without much filter. I can’t relate to that at all can totally relate. But also because he was the spokesperson for the disciples. Often Jesus would correct Peter and we get to listen in. Also of note, Peter seemed freakishly comfortable saying, “No, Lord.” An oxymoron if ever there was one, but one that all of us think or say under our breath or with our fingers crossed.

So this week, “Lord how many times do I need to forgive? 7 times?”

“Not 7 times, but 70 times 7 times.”

A few thoughts that didn’t make the sermon:

  • First of all, waddup, NIV11? Talents and Denari are now silver coins and bags of gold. First you remove NIV1984 from my trusty Bible software so I can’t access that excellent translation, but I’m tiring of how far you push dynamic equivalence. With google, people can sort out the definitions for themselves.
  • Jesus talks about little children, then “little ones” which scholars think is referring to brand new believers. Should we not lead astray the little children or the little ones? The correct answer is “yes.”
  • Children bookend the story about forgiveness. There are many benefits of approaching God as a child. In the message we focused on two: how easily a child can move into wonder and astonishment and how a child can enjoy the same thing over and over again without tiring of it. In contrast an adult needs some things taken off our plate before we can open up to wonder and we quickly tire of repetition. Which leads me to one of my all time favorite quotes:

 Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. – GK Chesterton

Litmus Test for Any Church

litmus-test

The Litmus Test: Can I bring my unchurched friends to this church?

Will I have to prepare them before hand or can they just show up?

Will I have to translate for them so they can participate without feeling like an outsider?

Will I have to apologize to them afterward?

Will they encounter Jesus when they come?

The apostle Paul said that the gospel is a stumbling block.  It sure is.  It always has been an anathema to the human condition.  It is bad news before it is good news.  But the church ought not be a stumbling block.

The church ought to be as welcoming as Jesus.  And people ought to be able to belong before they believe.  How’s your church doing on this litmus test?