Monday, November 30, 2009


In 1995, these guys, as high school students, sought me out to lead them. I was not prepared but agreed to it anyway. 15 years later, we are still delighted watching them make an impact.

Some people tell me that emerging generations would rather the older generation do the initiating - when it comes to mentors they say, the older should do the asking. I'm not convinced. Every time I've been asked, it's been an amazing experience.

Like the widow, you seek what you have lost. Or what you want to find.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Protect Her, Defend Her

Here is my post on Chapter 5 for the Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters group blogging project.

"Why don't we have a school dance in this middle school?"
"Because we did a few years ago and found 8th grade girls in the bathroom giving head to 8th grade boys."

If you think this is vulgar, it's okay to be offended and never read my blog again. On the other hand, if you think I made this up, I wish you were sadly mistaken. As part of a blog tour on the book Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters, I'm posting about Chapter 5 today. Read more here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Push and Pull

I sat in on a SPACE leadership interest meeting this past Sunday morning. [For those of you that might not know, SPACE was the student ministry component I helped with from 2003 to 2008.] Bittersweet - it's fun to see them continue to move ahead and a tiny bit weird to be on an insider conversation.

This is TMurray in the center - who I've written about before. She's one of the team that took over for me - creative, administrative, inviting. Although SPACE isn't one of my labors of love anymore, I'm thrilled to see their progress. Team leader applications due before Christmas [make leaders apply, lots of lead time]; some innovative summer service projects; and an ethos that continues to push students to the nations. The longer and harder we push, eventually, they will get pulled.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Influencer Par-tay

Some of you might end up at a party like this with some of these guys. Better yet, you could probably have an influencer party of your own.

L to R: Joseph Dworak, Bethel Seminary recruiter, StrengthsFinder swami; Brad Russell, lead pastor and planter of Dulles Community Church; Perrin Rogers, pastor at The Triumphant Church; Joshua Symonette, leadership consultant, connector of megaregions; and yours truly.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Book Notes - How The Mighty Fall

How The Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In - Jim Collins

Stage 1 - Hubris Born of Success
+ Neglect of a Primary Flywheel - flywheel concept
+ What Replaces Why
We're successful because we do these specific things
We're successful because we understand why we do these specific things and under what conditions they would no longer work.
+ Decline in Learning Orientation - the organization stops learning together

Stage 2 - Undisciplined Pursuit of More
+ Leaders who fail the process of succession set their enterprises on a path to decline.
+ Declining proportion of right people in key seats
+ Easy cash erodes cost discipline

Stage 3 - Denial of Risk and Peril
+ Waterline principle - boat, what is above and below - below isn't visible but will sink you
+ Discount the negative - explain away the data
+ Erosion of healthy team dynamics
+ Obsessive reorganizations - preoccupied with internal politics rather than external conditions

Stage 4 - Grasping for Salvation
+ The signature of mediocrity is not an unwillingness to change. The signature of mediocrity is chronic inconsistency.
+ Looking for a series of silver bullets
+ Grasping for a leader-as-savior
+ Confusion and cynicism

Stage 5 - Capitulation to Irrelevance or Death
+ You can be profitable and bankrupt.
+ Organizations do not die from lack of earnings. They die from lack of cash.

Well Founded Hope
"A crisis is a terrible thing to waste." - learn from the decline
The right leaders feel a sense of urgency in good times and bad.
Failure is not so much a physical state as a state of mind; success is falling down, and getting up one more time, without end.
Go ahead and grade yourself.
+ What does your team or org do to learn together?
+ Can you explain what you do versus why you do it and what conditions will make you irrelevant?
+ What do you do with negative data?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Catalyst One Day - Baltimore

Huge fun having Catalyst One Day at Grace yesterday. Loved that we could be part of inspiring and resourcing leaders around the Balt/DC area and even farther.

The content of the talks was amazing - lots of great insights. Learning from Andy Stanley and Craig Groeschel never gets old. Just as much fun was seeing and meeting all my friends [hey, I'm a WOO] from the Internets. This part is just as inspiring - these friends do what they do because God has called them and there is no other good reason.

Here are some of my selected notes:
+ Andy - Gaining and Sustaining Momentum
three components of sustained momentum - new, improved, improving
:: New - triggers momentum
Org momentum is often triggered by
new leadership
new direction
new product <-> program
Do we need a new leader, direction or product?
Momentum is never triggered by tweaking something old. It is triggered by introducing something new.
New does not guarantee sustained momentum. But new is an essential trigger for momentum.
:: Improved - new must be noticeable difference over the old.
If cost is an issue for something new, you are probably doing too much.
:: Improving
momentum is sustained through continuous improvement.
Continuous improvement requires systematic evaluation.
Continuous improvement requires unfiltered evaluation.
Continuous improvement requires that nothing and nobody be off limits. - everything is on the table.
Evaluation must be built into rhythm of your org.

+ Craig - Busting Barriers with Mindset Changes
3. think differently about the mission
we can't hurt someones feelings vs. we can't allow someone to hold back the mission of the church
roles -we hire for current instead of for future capacity
5. think differently about limitations
we can't because we don't vs. we can because we don't.
limitations -> innovation

+ Andy + Craig - Elder teams
: lifechurch:
14 people
5 staff
6 lay
3 pastors of other churches
can only fire him for big breaches - immorality or heresy - not for other stuff
no congregational vote
: NorthPoint
10-12 elders
Andy is permanent
elder selection team, only serve for a term
elders meet with andy once a month - their only job is to evaluate andy
church is staff run

"get the right people to the table to make the decisions"

+ Craig - Creating Personal Spiritual Momentum
1. do something to defeat your dark side
identify your dark side: my leadership dark side is ____
4. do something only you can do
You can only be the husband of your wife, the father of your children, only you can seek God on your behalf

+ Andy - Don't Be That Couch
[If you liked this talk, you should also read Erwin McManus' chapter entitled "Change Theology" from An Unstoppable Force. This talk also reminded me of Built To Last]
The Dip - Seth Godin
How The Mighty Fall - Jim Collins
Whereas programming begins as an answer to a question, over time it becomes part of org culture - it becomes to beat up old couch that people are emotionally tied to.
We must continue to be more committed to our mission than to our programming or our model.
"If we got kicked out and the board brought in a new CEO, what would he or she do? Why shouldn't we walk out the door, come back in, and do it ourselves?" - Only the Paranoid Survive - Andy Grove [don't you love that book title?]
Leaders must bring the underlying assumptions that drive company strategy into line with changes in the external environment.
Here are two of my big takeaways:
+ If you want to know your dark side, ask your wife. Or your family. With some healthy and uncomfortable discussion [and I know I'm better for it,] mine are probably: a high aversion to risk, not nearly praying enough, a tilted view of success, and a gradual lessening of deep friendships. Yup, that's going to take some soul work.
+ Evaluation for improvement. Consistent and unfiltered. Like the item above, nothing about what we do should be off limits when we talk about whether it is working or not. Very relevant for Ember since culture and context are high values of ours - we have core tenets but seek to engage those in very adaptable ways.

The twitter hashtag for the event was #catoneday. Also, take a look at one of the intern's posts about the day.

Thanks again to the Catalyst team. DC will not be the same because of yesterday.

[Related: My Catalyst West Coast 09 notes.]

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday Burn

::: I know prostitutes now.
EmGberg, SPACE 2005 Brasil alumn, now almost done with a semester in Cochabamba, Bolivia, writes about prostitution. Read until the end.

::: The Idea Camp - Pacific Northwest
So many great elements that Charles sees in this gathering - collaboration, a posture of learning and cooperation, practitioners of transformation. Such an inspiring community. Idea Camp DC ranks as one of the top inspirations for me in 2009. If you are near Portland, you should go.

::: 5 trends for nonprofits of the future
via @cynthiaware

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

January Ember Fun

Ember is working on a small project for January - it's a guided student missions weekend. Cultural immersion, urbanization, connecting people in our network - it's the perfect kind of fun.

A core value of this type of project is "partnership," so part of our planning process includes listening to both the team we are guiding and our hosts. Much of the current breakdown in missions sustainability is due to one side dominating how a project should be executed. Think of a wealthy American team providing labor, materials and design - those scenarios equate low ownership, not much chance for indigenous leadership development and team members missing the concept of contextualization.

Another core value is "facilitate," as opposed to lead. The main task of our guides is to set up other leaders - in this case, the students own leadership team. Catalytic leadership is subtle, challenging and non-intuitive.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Uncomfortable - Urgent - Passionate

Sharon Cohn Wu from IJM spoke at Grace this past Sunday morning as another part of our Beyond series. She had some amazing things to say in her talk entitled, "The Unfamiliar Passions of God." Three of them stuck out to me:

+ We are comfortable with our perceived limitations.
+ Enormity undercuts urgency. [like in the case of 27M people enslaved today - or any other global issue we face]
+ Brutal indifference is an essential component of injustice.

Lots more could be said about her message, like the new awareness about human trafficking given to our community, the great tangible opportunities for follow up, and what people at Grace may be doing about justice around the world and how one of my friends loved that she was dressed like Trinity from The Matrix. But those three statements are plenty enough for me - and not just about social justice.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Rock What You Got

I took KT and two of her friends to see Superchick last night. Big thanks to SMfftt who got us into the show. Amazing time - the band looked like they were having the time of their lives on stage.

I've loved their music for a few years - upbeat, catchy, inspiring. But I love their attitude even more - girls together, get out of my way, lead and impact, we can change the world. Sometimes your kids need to hear that kind of stuff from other voices.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Book Notes - The Hole In Our Gospel

The Hole In Our Gospel by Richard Stearns
Richard Stearns tells quite a story in his book, The Hole In Our Gospel. Most startlingly is the contrast between his career as a luxury goods CEO transitioned to the US president for World Vision. An amazing story really and through it, he weaves a clear picture of the world we live in, how something is missing in our concept of "The Gospel", and simple steps to catalyze change.

It's really a memoir of his career transition, which is a fascinating story by itself. His worldview, faith and the way God moves in Mr. Stearns and his family's life are both fascinating and challenging - fascinating because you see that it could have only worked out this way and challenging because I think most of us can relate. We can understand his comfortable life, his hesitancy in taking a leap of faith and the desperation we feel when we risk like that. Through it I'm reminded that like Mr. Stearns, God has an epic, distinct plan for each of us and that He is molding us specifically for that - the world is in it's most desperate hour and we are the only ones that can help.

Of course, I love the way Mr. Stearns has touched on some important global realities along his story - realities like AIDS, extreme poverty, hunger, the water crisis, technology, the Millennium Development goals, the wealth of the Western Church.... ok you get the picture. If you like some of the stuff that I post about, you'll enjoy the book too.

Of course, reading something like this requires you and I to do something about it. Mr. Stearns includes two triads as filters for thought and action:
+ Awareness, access, ability.
+ Time, talent and treasure.

Here are some choice quotes from the book:
The gospel means much more than the personal salvation of individuals. It means a social revolution.
What if there are children who will suffer somehow because I failed to obey God? What if my cowardice costs even one child somewhere in the world his or her life?
It's not what you believe that counts; it's what you believe enough to do.
Frankly, giving things to the poor does much more to make the giver feel good than it does to fundamentally address and improve the condition of those in need.
Some scientists believe that one out of every two people who have ever lived have died of malaria. [What??]

We've drifted away from being fishers of men to being keepers of the aquarium - Paul Harvey.
I love the recklessness of faith. First you leap, and then you grow wings. - William Sloane Coffin
Obedience to the Great Commission has more consistently been poisoned by affluence than by anything else. - Ralph Winter

Grace is reading through this book during our Beyond series. If you are regular around here, you would probably love this book.

Disclosure: Thomas Nelson provided me a copy of this book for review purposes.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Latest Kindling

+ K&K are adjusting well to life in North Africa. After moving across the world, the team and community you find yourself in is pretty integral to your success.
+ Catalyst One Day at Grace is sold out. If you are going to be there, I would love to meet you.
+ I had breakfast with an old friend who is on his way with his family to join a church planting team in Vienna, Austria next summer. They couldn't get support from his wife's home church [think "daughter" of the church] because their destination didn't match the church's strategy. What do you do with that?
+ The Ember team is working on our first project slated for January. Very excited to tell you more as it gets some traction. Twitter played a huge part of this.
+ Best decision I made regarding the interns: making them start blogs and write in them every week.
+ Love this thought from @davegibbons: "Success should equal descending numbers (less poverty, less homelessness, less abuse, etc.), not ascending numbers (more people, more converts, more baptisms, etc.)" via
+ I'm absolutely obsessed with charity: water these days, just about following all of their staff on Twitter. Can someone I know please get a job there?