This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       Saving Retirement: Jeff Haanen on the state of retirement. This is a very helpful read. He says, "Some are now seeing retirement as a social construct that allows them to take an intentional 3, 6, or 12 months of sabbatical rest to prepare the heart for a new season of fruitfulness (Lev. 25). Rhythms of preparation, worship, feasting, learning, simplicity, remembrance, and service are chosen over consumption, travel, or a premature jump into a new field."

2.      Why Treating Your Spouse Poorly Can Be So Easy: Dave Harvey considers his sin against his wife, and his compounding sin even as he sought forgiveness: "Several years ago I became aware of a subtle, destructive habit. Whenever I sensed I had sinned against Kimm I would go to her, confess, and seek to resolve the situation. Looks pretty good when I put it that way, doesn’t it? But I came to realize that my goal was far from noble. I wanted a quick and efficient restoration of our relationship so I could stop feeling bad and get on with 'more important things.'” 

3.      Heroes, Villains, and Guides: Glen Elliott ends his reflection on leadership with these important questions, " Be honest with yourself. What are you seeking? What’s your view of being a leader? Who are you really in your leadership role? Are you seeking to be the hero or intentionally choosing to be the servant who guides others to success?"

4.      Why Tithing Isn't a Pinnacle Virtue or Legalism: Randy Alcorn pushes on some significant barriers in our hearts, "So to those who say all New Testament offerings are freewill, I say fine. My question is, even if we’re convinced tithing is an antiquated practice that doesn’t apply to New Testament believers, if Old Testament saints could rob God by withholding freewill offerings, can’t we do the same? If not, why not?"

5.      The Relationship Timeline Continues to Stretch: Fascinating data that shows a few interesting trends including the fact that the time between meeting and marriage has nearly doubled in five decades, and how the average couple now lives together for over three years before marriage.

6. Romano Tours: This hilarious sketch by Adam Sandler is helpful truth serum for us as we head out on vacations this summer: “if you’re sad now, you might still feel sad then… you’re still going to be you on vacation.”

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      Poll Shows that Americans Like the Idea of the Bible, but Don't Actually Read it: Lifeway reports, " About half of Americans (53 percent) have read relatively little of the Bible. One in 10 has read none of it, while 13 percent have read a few sentences. Thirty percent say they have read several passages or stories."

2.      More Than a Quarter of the Deaths in Holland are Induced: This sobering report by John Burger finds that, "Fifteen years after the Netherlands decriminalized euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, more than 25 percent of all deaths in the nation are induced, rather than by illness or other natural causes."

3.      My Declaration of Faithful Disobedience: Dr. Wang Yi, Chinese pastor who was imprisoned in December, wrote this manifesto. Please read it. Among the many jewels in the letter, Yi writes, " As a pastor, my disobedience is one part of the gospel commission. Christ’s great commission requires of us great disobedience. The goal of disobedience is not to change the world but to testify about another world."

4.      The Importance of Clarity in Leadership: My friend and pastor Glen Elliott with a great post: " There’s too much noise and too many distractions in our world and anything short of being crystal clear won’t be heard. More than ever, folks want and need the clarity of a compelling vision, mission and purpose. And great leaders provide that."

5.      Hearing His Voice: Please watch this marvelous story of an unreached people group who are introduced to the Word of God. It's 25 minutes of encouragement.

Compensating for Our Weaknesses

Compensating for Our Weaknesses

I have slow feet. One of my favorite sports to play is basketball. I’m a decent player; over time my game has improved. I’m a better shooter, ball handler, and passer now than when I was when I was younger. But I’ve still got slow feet. If I play you and you have any quickness at all, I’m going to give you the three point shot and do my best to close out on you if you take it. Otherwise, you’re just going to go right around me to the hoop every time.

I compensate for my weaknesses on a basketball court. If I’m lucky and you haven’t played me much, I hope that you won’t know about this weakness. I hope that you don’t have quickness and a three point shot.

Boxers who have been hurt do the same thing. They might drop their gloves to compensate for a bruised rib or over-rely on their dominant hand if their non-dominant shoulder is hurt.

We all have weaknesses and insecurities. Where are your weaknesses? How are you compensating for them? How are you closing yourself off relationally or spiritually from having those insecurities addressed?

Most of us try to hide and compensate for our weaknesses. We are afraid of what others will think of us or we are embarrassed we haven’t been able to get ongoing sin under control. This is one of the great lies of the enemy: that masking our inadequacies is the best way to deal with them, that sharing them will make things worse, and that we can fix them on our own.

Chocolate Chip Cookies for Appetizers

Chocolate Chip Cookies for Appetizers

Ben works at a local sandwich shop called Baggins near our church. Every time I set foot in his Baggins I know I will leave happier than when I walked in. Baggins gives away a free freshly baked chocolate chip cookie with every purchase. Brian takes that a step further.

After you order, it probably takes five minutes for your food to come out. I’ve never been to Ben's Baggins and not been offered a warm chocolate chip cookie by a smiling Ben before my meal is up. Chocolate chip cookies as appetizers. Yes, please.

There are several other Baggins locations across town. But there’s only one Ben. Offering cookies to customers while they’re waiting for their order is his idea. Brian moves through the tables with a smile and a tray and asks how your day is going. He asks customers if he can refill their drinks. This isn’t a sit down restaurant. Ben doesn’t get tipped. He’s tipping the customer.

Do you know what restaurant I frequent disproportionately? Baggins. I’ve joked with our Exec Team that we need to have Ben come in and train our Welcome Team. I’m only half-joking. There is something powerful in his combination of kindness and hustle. Something inspiring about his level of ownership. In fact, it was only recently that I realized Ben wasn't a manager. I just assumed he had to be.

When people interact with me, do they leave feeling as special as Ben makes me feel?

Who We Pray We Will Be

Who We Pray We Will Be

In this brief series I have shared how significant the process of creating our staff culture document was for our staff. The document represents who we are when we are at our best. In that sense, it is a hope, it is a prayer we have lifted up to God. “Lord, by your grace, shape us to be this kind of team,” we have offered up to God.

My wife and I were recently doing couples counseling with a couple who had experienced such a series of letdowns in their marriage they were fearful to commit to even the most modest of changes for fear of failure. But, whether it is physical health, or your organization, there is no hope for change without the risk of the offering of prayers and dreams for what you want to become.

Below is our staff’s prayer for who we desire that God would shape us to be. You will see the value stated first, then a brief statement of what we believe that value is, and then ways we can measure that value. We are working on a longer document currently where we want to share stories of ways our staff has watched that value lived out as a team. This is a living document and likely will look different in six months than it does today. We see that as a good thing.

By his grace, we have already begun to see the small works of his transformative power among us. We have worked hard to press this into our lives and work together. I encourage you to take that risk with the team God has placed you on. If you have a staff culture document, I would love it if you would share yours as well.

Choosing Our Values

Choosing Our Values

Like individuals, every organization has a unique beauty. But like individuals, no organization is without warts. The sooner you can look your organization in the mirror and make an honest appraisal of your beauty and your warts, the better. It’s a dead end to either become obsessed by your warts or to become infatuated by your beauty.

By God’s grace, New Life’s staff culture is more beautiful than when I arrived two years ago. There are lots of reasons for that, but none more significant than the process we went through a year ago to create a staff culture document and then to begin to invest time and energy toward making strides toward our staff culture document.

The process of choosing those values was messy, but the mess was important. Ultimately the process took just less than three months. I share our process not because I think we navigated the process perfectly or that we’ve arrived or that I would recommend the same exact process for another organization, but because there were important points of learning along the way for us that I hope can benefit you.

1.       We committed to a process

Not everyone was thrilled that we were taking a significant amount of time to walk through developing a document that, to some, either didn’t seem to offer much hope for change, or was so obvious it didn't seem to need to be stated with a document. But everyone agreed that for it to truly be our staff's document, we all needed to take ownership. Furthermore, we agreed with the simple ground rules that our staff culture values would be those which represented “who we are at our best.” That spoke to the pessimists in the room, who might be tempted in such a document to focus on the warts.  And it spoke to the optimists in the room, who might be tempted to include values that are great, but aren’t reflective of who we are.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       Three Predictors of Porn Use: Jay Stringer explains, "Perhaps you’ve found yourself not able to turn off your allure to porn. If so, a far more beneficial approach to recovery than combating lust is to focus on the themes that drive and necessitate your use of pornography. Until these themes are transformed, you will find yourself in the same, pernicious cycle of pornography use."

2.       How to Heal the Damage Caused by Family Conflict: Mark Gregston wisely reflects, " Not following up on hurtful actions of confrontations to either correct the mistakes you’ve made or affirm the relationship is what allows conflict to cause damage to your relationship with your child.   Remember that you’re not only resolving issues that you have with your child, but, more importantly you are setting the example of conflict resolution and teaching your child how to admit fault, assume a position of humility, and ask for forgiveness for any wrongdoing; all characteristics in a person’s life that are more caught than taught."

3.       5 Honest Struggles Church Leaders Don't Want to Admit: Carey Nieuwhof with a good reminder of the lies leaders can easily get entrapped by, "Greater faithfulness should result in greater impact in ministry. Pursue God, and pursue a great mission. Both are critical. But God doesn’t reward the most faithful with the best results."

4.       The Best Preacher in the World: David Murray says, " Every church needs two preachers. We need a human preacher, one who is visible, audible, tangible. But we also need a divine preacher, one that is invisible, inaudible, and intangible. I’m speaking of the Holy Spirit, without whom the work of the human preacher is in vain."

5.       Girl Scout Marketing Meeting: Jon Crist will have you laughing at the silliness of the Girl Scout's marketing plan.

Breakfast is Served

Breakfast is Served

Culture eats strategy for breakfast.

Just about a year ago we went through an exercise as a staff that has proved one of the most important things I’ve done on staff at any organization. It was messy and it took way longer than we thought it would take (about two months), and the end result wasn’t shocking or ground-breaking, but despite all of that, the exercise was a fulcrum point for us as a staff and as an organization.

What did we do? We created a staff culture document, which named our values as a staff. In the third post, I will share the full document, but in this post, I will share the values we chose and why I am convinced staff values are so important. In the next post I will share what the process looked like.

Our values are:

  1. Humble
  2. Loving
  3. Prayerful
  4. Hard Working
  5. Fun
  6. Collaborative
  7. Trustworthy

We are far from the first organization to create a staff culture document and our values are not unique. In fact, there may be organizations out there who might share our exact seven values. But the process of putting the document together was invaluable for us as a staff. And the values themselves have become anchoring points for who we are and who we aspire to be.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       Are you Addicted to Your Phone? Research finds that 40% of cellphone usage is compulsive. I'm guilty as charged: "Finding that the average user unlocked their phone more than 10,000 times a year — or about 28 times a day — the researchers identified about 4,000 phone interactions a year as being “compulsive” (i.e., the owner had no particular act in mind when engaging). Equally eye-opening was the finding that the highest decile of smartphone enthusiasts — or the top ten percent of users — opened their device 60-plus times every 24 hours."

2.       The Dangers of Success: Paul Alexander captures some of the most significant dangers of success succinctly. One of those are our motives: " It’s easy to hide our motivation and heart in the apparent external success of the churches we’re building. I’m not saying every church leader has poor motives, far from it! But it’s easy to ignore motive when you’re experiencing success."

3.       Leadership Comes Back to the Home: Rich Holdeman on the significance that the office of elder is reserved for those who manage their household well, "Good managers know the people that they manage.  They know their strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, fears and aspirations.  Simply put, good managers put the people under them in positions where those people can grow and succeed.  Really good managers do this in such a way that when things go well, the people under them get all the credit.  Conversely, when things do not go well, good managers take the heat.  Because good managers have the well-being of those they manage in mind, people love to work for them."

4.       In Defense (Somewhat) of Self-Help: Samuel James with a fair critique for those of us who consider ourselves above the self-help genre, "For all my Christian culture’s scorn of self-help, couldn’t we at least have talked about actually living life in a non-theoretical, non-gospelly cliche way? One of the things I am having to slowly unlearn is the idea that having good theology is the most important thing in life. I cringe even as I write that sentence, because for years to even think a sentence like that indicated, I believed, a willingness to embrace bad theology."

5.       Pano Photography Awards: Spend some time with this jaw-dropping collection of photographs. What a world God has created!

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       Netflix Thinks You're Bored and Lonely: Trevin Wax pushes back on the way our culture thinks about boredom, "The entertainment industry expects us to see boredom as bad, which is why advertisers, sponsors, filmmakers, and game-makers collaborate to create shows, movies, and games that will capture our attention and keep us preoccupied. There’s money to be made in eliminating boredom. But is boredom always a problem, or could it be a possibility? Talk to people whose job it is to make things with their hands or create things in their head, and they’ll tell you that great things happen when your mind runs free."

2.       Ruth Graham Didn’t Waste Her Life: Dave Boehi reflects on the lessons we can learn from the beautiful marriage of Ruth and Billy Graham. He reflects on Ruth’s sacrifice, “One writer for The Washington Post wrote, ‘What a sign of those times, one might say. Or, how sad. The world will never know what else Ruth Graham … could have accomplished …’ What the world often fails to understand is that God often calls people to set aside their own plans in order to follow Him … and then He uses them in greater ways as a result.”

3.       Evidence of Evangelical Political Pragmatism: A discouraging survey I recently came across. Self-described evangelicals' position on how important a politician's morality is has shifted dramatically since the 1990s. And not in a good way.

4.       High-Stakes Leadership: This Read to Lead podcast with Constance Derickx is loaded with good stuff. Derickx definition of courageous impatience and patience particularly struck me.

5.       Why (almost) No One Wants to Host the Olympics Anymore: The 2004 games garnered 12 bids from around the world. Zeeshan Aleem reports that the next two summer and winter Olympics received a total of two bids each. Why? Former cities who hosted the Olympics are littered with unsightly abandoned facilities and a huge price tag for the honor: "Pyeongchang, South Korea, built a brand new Olympic stadium to host the Winter Games this year. The 35,000-seat stadium cost $109 million to build. And it will be used just four times before it’s demolished."