What Discovery Church is to Me …

Today, I start my 3rd year here at a Discovery Church. What a ride it’s been. It’s also comes at a great time where we just celebrated one of our largest Easter weekend on our campus! Wow, God is truly gracious!

As I reflect on my time here at Discovery, I am grateful for:

  • working alongside incredibly gifted and talented people who are team players and not in it for their name or fame
  • volunteers and leaders who when I thank THEM, they insist on thanking ME for allowing them to serve
  • a place where I can trust to bring my unchurched friends and they won’t feel like they are ignored but mindful of them
  • my community group where my wife and I get to do life together with and pray with … truly one of the best groups I’ve been a part of
  • incredible environments where my kids not only love attending but absolutely love to serve and volunteer, even as 10, 11 and 14 year olds
  • my boss and pastor, Mark McKinney, who is an amazing model of integrity and humility, and truly the best boss I’ve ever had

Thank you, Lord, for the priviledge to be used by You and for blessing our family with Discovery Church. And thank You for Your Amazing Grace in my life!

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Why Organizations Are So Afraid to Simplify

Read a great article by Ron Ashkenas on Harvard Business Review and it has great insights for the church as most churches have so many different programs and events. That’s because the gravitational pull for a church is to become more complex over time, to offer more entry points for people. But the byproduct of that is that its hard to see what the focus and vision is. It also makes it very difficult for a church attender to understand what their next steps are because there are so many. The most frustrating thing is that when a church has many programs, it seems like the same people go to all of them and the majority of people are not involved in any of them. But, because the church focuses on many things, the quality of the programs are not where they should be. Personally, that’s why I’d rather be a part of a church that does a few things well than many things mediocre. And the programs that the church doesn’t do, they can partner with existing para church or non-profit organizations that do it very well. That’s definitely easier said than done as the organization has to have a laser-focused strategy for this.

Why Organizations are So Afraid to Simplify by Ron Ashkenas

While most managers complain about being overloaded with responsibilities, very few are willing to give up any of them. It’s one of the great contradictions of organizational life: People are great at starting new things — projects, meetings, initiatives, task forces — but have a much harder time stopping the ones that already exist.

Take this example: The CEO of a large consumer products company was concerned that the organization was becoming too complex and unwieldy — which was adding to costs and slowing down decisions. After a long discussion with her senior team, everyone agreed to identify committees, projects, and studies that could be stopped across the firm. However, when the executive team reconvened the next month to review the ideas, everyone pointed out activities that other teams should stop instead of opportunities in their own domains. They then spent an hour justifying why everything that they were doing was critical and couldn’t be stopped.

There are several deep psychological reasons why stopping activities is so hard to do in organizations. First, while people complain about being too busy, they also take a certain amount of satisfaction and pride in being needed at all hours of the day and night. In other words, being busy is a status symbol. In fact a few years ago we asked senior managers in a research organization — all of whom were complaining about being too busy — to voluntarily give up one or two of their committee assignments. Nobody took the bait because being on numerous committees was a source of prestige.

Managers also hesitate to stop things because they don’t want to admit that they are doing low-value or unnecessary work. Particularly at a time of layoffs, high unemployment, and a focus on cost reduction, managers want to believe (and convince others) that what they are doing is absolutely critical and can’t possibly be stopped. So while it’s somewhat easier to identify unnecessary activities that others are doing, it’s risky to volunteer that my own activities aren’t adding value. After all, if I stop doing them, then what would I do?

The final reason that unnecessary tasks continue is that managers become emotionally attached to them. We see this often with "zombie projects," activities that are seemingly killed or deprioritized but somehow keep going because managers just don’t want to let go. Once people have invested in creating projects, committees, or processes, they feel a sense of ownership. Getting rid of them is like killing their own offspring.

Given these powerful underlying dynamics, what can you do to stop excessive activities in your own organization? Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind:

Separate cost-reduction from work-reduction. Since people are naturally (and understandably) protective of their livelihoods and careers, it’s difficult to ask them to do things that will result in the loss of their own job. So if cost-reduction is a key driver, try your best to eliminate jobs first. Only then should you work with the "survivors" to eliminate the unnecessary work.

Make work elimination a group activity. While managers are hesitant to point out stoppage possibilities in their own areas, they often can see opportunities elsewhere. By bringing teams together across different business units and functions, you stand a better chance of surfacing activities that can be brought to a halt.

Insert a "sunset clause" in the charter of all new committees, teams, and projects. Instead of swimming against the tide in trying to stop ongoing endeavors, make the shut-down process a natural event in the life cycle of organizational activities. If people know from the start that there is a beginning and an end, then managers will start to expect that things will be turned off at a specific time and can plan accordingly.

All organizations need to periodically hit the "off" button on activities that add unnecessary costs and complexity. Doing so however requires that you deal with the psychological dynamics that make it easier to get things started than to get them stopped.

Do you think churches and organizations should simplify?

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Participation Without Involvement Breeds Cynicism

We all have a gravitational pull toward cynicism to the things that we are "a part of" and I believe Regi Cambell identifies why:

To watch this principle in action, go to any homeowners association meeting. Whether you like them or not….whether you agree with them or not…those people involved in leadership who put in all the time and really care about the neighborhood…they will rarely be cynical. It’s those who just show up for the meetings but do little else that are the cynics.

I first discovered this truth in church-world. We had been involved in our church for years, but little by little, we’d moved on from this ministry and rotated off that committee. We found ourselves being cynical about the very things we used to be involved with. When we were involved, when we had a stake in the decision making, it was all good. But as we slid into passive participation, our hearts were lost and we became cynical. We found a new church.

The principle comes from Scripture, where the Lord said (in Matthew 6:21) "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Our treasure is our energy, our caring, and concern for our church, business or organization. When we invest the "treasure" of our energy, our hearts follow. Whatever we invest time and energy into, we will care about. When we stop investing and become participants, we’ll care less and become more cynical over time.

Involvement says "I’m in." "This is partly my deal. I care about this. I’m not just doing the minimum…I’m going above and beyond. I have pride of ownership." Participation says "I’ll probably be there. I hope it’s good, but if it’s not, so what? I don’t have a dog in this fight."

When you’re involved, it’s "we"…it’s "my church", "our company". When you hear yourself start saying "they", you’ve probably moved from involvement to participation.

Let’s bring this home. If you lock your wife out of your family finances, she’s going to become cynical about the way you manage the money. If she’s involved, she’s going to feel more supportive of the decisions and more committed to making them work.

If you announce that you’re playing golf on Saturdays, was she involved in that decision or was it just announced to her? Is your wife cynical about your love for golf? There might be a clue here.

The next time you find yourself sour and cynical about something, check your level of involvement. It might be that putting in a little more of your "treasure" will bring a change in your heart!

What are you participating in that you should either quit or become more involved?

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Drive Conference 2013


I went to the first ever Drive Conference at North Point Community Church in 2005. Since, then I believe I’ve only missed one Drive Conference and have attended all the other ones. I was going to miss this year as well, but because they offered the online experience for the first time, I was able to "attend." Thank the Lord, as it was exactly what I need … I was inspired yet again and reminded that we’re on the right track!

There was many things that I learned and re-learned. But this blog post shares many of the learnings that I would have shared. So, hope it’s helpful to you:

On the Weekend Experience

1. We don’t tailor content of our services for unchurched people, but we do tailor the experience. This is such a huge and important distinction. Opening up your service to the unchurched doesn’t mean dumbing it down.

2. Nothing should offend people in your weekend services except the Gospel. Often people get turned away not because of Christ, but because of people’s bad attitudes or strange preferences for certain kinds of music or culture.

3. A parking team is not about ‘parking’ guests, it’s about welcoming them. Even if you don’t have a "parking problem", your welcome should start when your guests pull into the parking lot. Greet them personally and help them start their experience well.

4. Everyone has an approach to their weekend services. If there is a conflict between your goal and your approach, your approach always wins. Everyone has a template for their weekend services. If your template and approach aren’t getting you to your goal, change it.

5. If you start (a message or event) with common emotions and common experiences, not everybody agrees with your point, but everybody follows you there. Brilliant.

6. People learn best in emotionally charged environments. So engage their emotions early – with a fun opener (Andy referenced the 101st anniversary of the Oreo recently. They gave away a prize of Oreos and milk to an attender – cool). Or let music prepare people’s emotions.

7. We leverage common experiences and emotions, not belief systems. When you’re reaching unchurched people, don’t start with disagreement (belief), start with agreement (common experiences and emotions) and then get to belief later.

8. The more time you can spend in planning a service or experience, the more personal it becomes. Planning is the friend of the Holy Spirit, not His enemy. Often "I’m relying on God" actually means "I didn’t prepare".

9. Our goal is not to be creative, but to leverage creativity for the sake of the mission and vision. Bingo.

10. A clean environment communicates that we’re expecting you. I wish this was in the Bible. Then I could preach at people about it. But it’s not. So quoting Andy will do.

11. An orderly environment communicates you know what you’re doing. I wish this was in the Bible too. Clean and orderly communicates so much about you and so much about how you value the people you’re welcoming.

12. People stop attending church because they disengage, not because they disagree. HUGE insight. Very few people walk out your door because of disagreement. Many leave because of disengagement.

13. Attention span is determined by the quality of the presentation. With all the talk about diminishing attention spans, this is a clear reminder than 5 minutes of boring is 5 minutes too much, and 1 hour of gripping feels like not nearly enough. Pastors, before you use it to justify a 60 minute message, just make sure you’re that gripping.

14. A goal is something you accomplish. A win is something you experience. So true!

15. Creativity works best in the context of predictability. Creativity has constraints, but like obedience to the law, eventually the constraints bring a new kind of freedom.

Other Gems

1. Public loyalty buys you private leverage. Criticize privately, praise publicly. Your boss and colleagues will respect you. Flip it and they’ll fire you or never trust you.

2. Your direction, not intention, determines your destination. This principle came up numerous times. It’s just true. Good intentions amount to little.

3. Evaluate everything you do against your mission. This was from a session I attended led by Diane Grant. Diane is Andy’s Executive Assistant but a super strong leader in her own right. She owns this principles.

4. Great opportunities are a chance for a vision to drift. Again from Diane Grant. Exactly. And an opportunity does not equal an obligation. Stay true to the mission.

5. The loudest critics in the church are people who have become missionally disengaged. Clay Scroggins, a campus pastor at North Point, shared this nugget. So true. Why listen to people who are missionally disengaged give you feedback on your mission?

6. Kids begging their parents to go to church beats parents begging their kids to go to church. Invest in your family ministry environments. Chad Ward, UpStreet director at one of the North Point campuses shared this. So true. Get the kids, and you’ve got the parents.

What principle or learning strikes a chord with you?

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Why we should care who the Pope is …

Ryan Fitzgerald makes a good point in the question of why should we care who the Pope is:

Travis Scholl, writing for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

Should non-Catholics care about the pope?

I think the short answer is yes. Because, in many ways, for better and/or worse, Christianity still goes through Rome. And there is no more visible representative of worldwide Christianity than the bishop of Rome. That may make a great many Christians (and non-Christians) squeamish, but it is what it is.

I believe most people’s impression of who God is has been directly impacted by their experience with the church and I think all press on Christianity, good or bad, impacts the ability to be effective for churches. That’s why the more I read about Francis I, the more excited I get for what it means for the Church. It seems that the new Pope’s brand is humility which is a fresh face for Christianity! Here is a great WSJ article on his humility.

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How to Attract Leaders Who Are Better Than You

Just read a blog post by Cary Nieuwhof on How to Attract Leaders Who Are Better Than You. It’s a great read:

This week I’m sharing leadership lessons I’ve picked up from North Point Community Church.

The Drive Conference is a leadership incubator and being a partner church of North Point has helped our team see and experience world class leadership development up close.

After yesterday’s post about what I learned from North Point on team alignment, I want to share another defining characteristic of North Point’s leadership: how to attract leaders who are better than you are.

North Point has done this so well. *Andy Stanley is one of the best communicators and leaders in the world, but his bench goes deep – very deep. *

** For 11 years, he worked with Reggie Joiner, a world class leader in his own right who leads the now-global Orange movement designed to help churches and families partner together to influence the next generation.** (Hint, if you haven’t registered for next month’s Orange Conference in Atlanta, do so now. It too is a world-class leadership incubator). While Reggie is one of the best examples of Andy’s ability to attract and work with exceptional leaders, he is not the only example.

At North Point (and at Orange) you run into dozens of people who could be running very large organizations of their own but who have chosen to work as a team together. In many respects, I feel the same way about our team at Connexus.

*Everybody else could be working for someone else and be making a huge impact there. *So how do you get them to work with you?

As Andy often says, he’s the leader because he was first. Andy honestly believes there are other leaders who are better than him in many roles at North Point. It’s an incredibly humble stance, and it’s allowed Andy to assemble a top rate team.

In my almost 7 years around North Point culture, here’s what I’ve learned about attracting leaders who are better than you are:

1. Deal with your insecurities. Insecure leaders will always feel threatened by people they think are ‘better’ than they are. Get counselling. Get coaching. Do what you need to do. Realize you have greater value to any organization if you can assemble a great team than if you want to be the team. Don’t cap your organization’s growth or mission because you are insecure.

2. Give away responsibilities, not just tasks. When you trust your team, it ushers in the opportunity for greatness. If everything has to cross your desk, you will only ever lead a small organization (because your desk isn’t that big). Make fewer decisions every year. And get people who make better decisions than you do.

3. Share the spotlight. If you have to be front and center all the time, you have a problem. Pushing other people into the spotlight is the hallmark of great leadership. Study both Andy Stanley and Reggie Joiner on this by the way. They are both incredible at it.

4. Make it your job to help them succeed. What if you stopped trying to win and actually just spent your time trying to help other people succeed? If you do that, by the way, you might just end up being a little more successful too.

5. Create a culture of freedom. The reason many leaders are afraid to release leaders in freedom is because they haven’t done the tough work of aligning the organization. If you have a highly aligned team (here are five thing I’ve learned about team alignment from North Point), you can release them to do what they are called to do. High capacity leaders do not like to be controlled.

That’s what I’m learning about attracting leaders who are better than you.

What insights would you add? What are your struggles when it comes to attracting high capacity leaders?

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Five Love Languages of Pastors

How do you love your pastor? Do pastors have love languages? Here’s a good blog post about it from Thomas Rainer:

Five Love Languages of Pastors

With apologies to Gary Chapman for playing on his well-known "Five Love Languages" theme, I asked 24 pastors how a church member might speak to each pastor in his own love language. And though 24 persons do not constitute a massive survey, I was amazed at the consistency of the responses.

To fit the theme of five, I determined at the onset that I would only report the top five responses. To my surprise, there was an obvious break between the fifth and sixth most frequent responses. The five love languages thus were a natural fit.

So how can you speak a love language to your pastor? Here are the pastors’ top five responses in order of frequency. I offer a representative response from one of the pastors for each of the five.

  1. Books. "I have a limited family budget, so I can’t just go out and buy a bunch of books. But I sure do love books. One year a deacon gave me a $200 gift card to a Christian bookstore. I was ecstatic! Now the church gives me a $300 book allowance each year. I know it’s not much for the type of books I get, but I sure am grateful."
  2. Encouraging notes. "I treasure every word of affirmation I get. It helps to soothe the pain of the criticisms. I keep all of my notes of encouragement in a box, and I sometimes read many of them at one time just to remind myself how blessed I am. I particularly appreciate handwritten notes. I know the church member took some time to write that to me."
  3. Time guardians. "My most encouraging church members are those that try to help me protect my time. They do everything they can to make sure I have enough time to prepare sermons and to spend time with my family. They are able to speak to other members about my time constraints in a way that I’m not able to."
  4. Compliments about children. "There are times that I really feel sorry for my three kids. They are really good kids, but they aren’t perfect. They live in a glass house, and any wrong move they make usually gets the attention of a church member. But I have a few church members who go out of their way to tell me the good about my children. One sincere compliment about one of my three kids will make my day."
  5. Defenders. "You know, I deal with critics, and I realize that in any leadership position, you will have critics. My greatest hurt takes place when my supporters remain silent in the face of intense criticism toward me. They are more afraid of rocking the boat than speaking the truth. But I have one guy in the church who will always speak a defending word for me unless he thinks I’m wrong. Then he speaks to me privately. I could use a dozen church members like that."

Pastors, are these five your love languages as well? What would you add to the list? Church members, do you speak love languages to your pastor? Tell us your stories.

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What is Ash Wednesday?

ash-wednesday_tToday is Ash Wednesday.

What is Ash Wednesday? It’s the first day of Lent. That means there are 40 days before Easter Sunday (not counting Sundays).

Traditionally, churches have a service on Ash Wednesday and the participants are “imposed” with ashes marked on their forehead (in the form of a cross). Usually a Scripture is used from Ecclesiastes 3:20: “You’ve come from dust, and to dust you will return.” It’s a day that we remember that we are mortal. That we are nothing without the breath of God. We are just dust and we’re going to die. And yet, it’s a day that we remember and eagerly anticipate the resurrection of Easter, the good news that because we are in need of a Savior, Christ is risen. The ash represents mortality, the cross represents hope.

On this day, and for the next 40 days, remember your mortality and your need for God … so, that when Easter comes, you will celebrate the new life that God has given you.

I’m reminded of an incredible song:

Come Walk Among Us by Michael Hansen

Come walk among us
Come walk among us, Jesus
You know that we need You
You know that we need You, Jesus

You see our hearts,
you know that we’re but dust
It’s You who made us,
Lord it’s in You we choose to trust
Come Lord, come Lord

Copyright © 1995 Mercy/Vineyard Publishing. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

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Emily’s Swing in Slow Motion

So, Emily’s softball season is about to begin (tomorrow night!). She’s been playing for about 5 seasons now in Texas and California. She’s been blessed to have some great coaches, who volunteer their time and work on them. In fact, this season, Emily has 3-4 days out of the week where she has practices and games #fulltimechauffeur.

It’s also great that technology is used to help her get better. This is a video of her coach encouraging and correcting her swing. Last week, I took her to her normal batting practice where she has 1-on-1 time with the coach, and after the session, he took his iPad out and recorded her swing.  That night, I got this video. Wow, that’s awesome!


You see the coach knows that feedback and encouragement is necessary for growth. That’s true in everything that we do. I thought about that in my world. As I have the privilege of creating and designing our Sunday services with our team, it’s a reminder that we need to continue in evaluating to grow and get better.  That’s why every week, we go into much detail (sometimes painful detail) in how Sunday went. That’s why we evaluate every event and celebrate the wins in every program.  That’s why, even though it’s very painful for me, I watch myself on video of me preaching … so that I can grow. Because it makes a difference in getting better. Because our God desires the best.

As I take a step back and see Emily play, I’m amazed at how she’s just gotten better and better. And even though I can be my worst critic, I know that God’s using everything to grow me and what I get to be a part of.

How do you evaluate and get better at what you do?

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Why You’re a Lonely Leader …

Read a blog post by Pete Wilson the other day that hit home. Instead of feeling bad or guilty about loneliness as a leader, he relates it with Jesus.

Very early in my ministry I had another leader tell me leadership can be a lonely activity.

I’ve worked very hard in my life to surround myself with other leaders. I’ve worked hard to empower the people around me and build authentic community.

However, I agree: There is an element to leadership that is lonely—whether it’s leadership in a church, leadership in the workplace or even leadership in your home.

Leadership is one of the greatest privileges given to any human being. I’m sure many of us in leadership would agree leadership is one of the most fulfilling experiences in life.

But in leadership you carry a weight and responsibility that can drive you to a very lonely place. A healthy leader will allow this loneliness to drive him or her to a greater dependence on God.

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