Overcoming the Monster: What Story Are You Telling?

In Christopher Booker’s book The Seven Basic Plots, he outlines the fact that every story we tell ourselves as human beings – since the beginning of time, whether around the campfire or in a big budget superhero movie – all fit into seven basic categories:

1 – Overcoming the Monster – The protagonist sets out to defeat an antagonistic force (often evil) which threatens the protagonist and/or protagonist’s homeland. (Beowulf, Nightmare on Elm Street, Star Wars, Jaws, The Dark Knight, James Bond, Jurassic Park)

2 – Rags to Riches – The poor protagonist acquires things such as power, wealth, and a mate, before losing it all and gaining it back upon growing as a person. (Cinderella, Aladdin, Pretty Woman)

3 – The Quest – The protagonist and some companions set out to acquire an important object or to get to a location, facing many obstacles and temptations along the way. (Iliad, Indiana Jones)

4 – Voyage and Return – The protagonist goes to a strange land and, after overcoming the threats it poses to him or her, returns with experience. (The Lord of the Rings, Odyssey, The Wizard of Oz, Interstellar)

5 – Comedy – Light and humorous character with a happy or cheerful ending; a dramatic work in which the central motif is the triumph over adverse circumstance, resulting in a successful or happy conclusion. (Much Ado About Nothing, Mr. Bean, Dumb and Dumber)

6 – Tragedy – The protagonist is a hero with one major character flaw or great mistake which is ultimately their undoing. (Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Breaking Bad)

7 – Rebirth – During the course of the story, an important event forces the main character to change their ways, often making them a better person. (Beauty and the Beast, A Christmas Carol, Despicable Me).

This observation – that we find these same basic story structures all over the world, and throughout time, is fascinating in and of itself – but the thing I was pondering recently, especially since we just came through eight straight parables Jesus taught in Matthew 13 at our church, was the power of stories and their place in our lives, and more specifically, how we can leverage that to influence others in every area of life from ministry, to business, to even raising our own kids.

Trump vs. Hillary 

Let me use an illustration from American politics. It surprised everyone that Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton in the end. The media, the politicians, and the institutions were all surprised, and of course there are complex reasons why he did beyond my understanding, but I think one reason he won is because he told a better story than she did (whether that story is true or mean-spirited, etc., is again, not the point). Whatever one thinks of the content of the story he told, they must admit it was a clear, large, simple, and compelling. It was about bad guys and good guys and an old America which was perfect and wonderful, and simple solutions to get America back there again (a combination of “Overcoming the Monster” and “Voyage and Return”). And it was a story that invited people into it.

The power of story is its ability to influence and capture the imagination of millions of people, and to influence them in one direction or another. Not to equate the one with the other : ), but this is the same reason Jesus brought his message of salvation and the kingdom in the form of stories and not just prose. Stories inspire, re-frame the world, turn facts into meaning, answer our biggest questions, and in so doing, change our very behaviour. It’s why we shouldn’t just answer our kids questions with straightforward answers, but tell them stories about why the answers are what they are. Frame their lives in the context of the larger narrative of the world to help them find their place in it.

What story are you telling?

What churches, ministers, charities, and businesses need to ask when thinking about how they get their message out most effectively is “What story am I telling?” “Is it compelling, big, inspiring, and inviting enough?” “Is it clear, or convoluted and complicated?” “Is it boring or exciting?” “Am I presenting just facts, or something more – a mythology?”

I am watching the Netflix show The Crown right now. Elizabeth’s coronation as Queen is one of the most moving scenes of the whole show, and while the guests are watching it on TV, there comes a part in the ceremony when they put a barricade around the Queen so the audience can’t see and a group watching the TV ask why they blocked the cameras, and the answer one of the characters gives is telling:

“Symbol upon symbol,” he says. “An unfathomable web of arcane mystery and liturgy, blurring so many lines no clergyman or historian or lawyer could ever untangle any of it.” “It’s crazy,” one of his guests remarks.

“On the contrary, it’s perfectly sane,” he replies. “Who wants transparency when you can have magic? Who wants prose, when you can have poetry? Pull away the veil and what are you left with? An ordinary young woman of modest ability and little imagination. Wrap her up like this and anoint her with oil and hey, presto — what do you have? A goddess.”

The sub-story

As a Pastor and church leader I have the greatest story of all time to tell on a weekly basis: the story of the gospel of Jesus, and how it in many ways is the combination of all of the seven basic plots (think for instance how the story of Jesus is all about “Overcoming the Monster” of Satan, sin and death, how it is “Voyage and Return,” of Jesus from Heaven to earth, and a “Rags to Riches” story as well, with Jesus as a poor baby who is vindicated in the end). The question for a church leader then, as an example, becomes the sub-story that you invite your city, community, church, or guy in the coffeeshop into as a local expression of that larger story of the gospel.

What local monster can you overcome? What global ones can you kill together? When we do our annual Golf Tournament, this is what we do. The Monster of slavery and sex trafficking needs to be defeated and we are invited in to overcome it. What great Quest and adventure are we all on as disciples of Jesus to “get to the location” of heaven in the end, “facing many obstacles and temptations along the way”?

When my wife Erin and I lead Marriage Conferences we often end, not by cute stories and how-to’s of ‘communicating better’ and ‘having a better sex life,’ but by explaining that the most important thing for their marriage is to be swept up into the mission God has for their lives as a married couple: to together push back the evil in the world, to love and bless the poor, and to fight sin and Satan in the lives of their friends and families, and in their own hearts, and that if they are busy in the trenches doing that they won’t have time to turn the guns on each other. Usually at the end of this rallying cry people cheer and amen and clap. And when I ask them why they usually say they’ve never thought of their marriage in this context of the global spiritual war around them and their place within it before and it helps to frame their problems (usually making them look small and insignificant) and give them something to work toward together.

So, if you own a business, or lead a church, or even just a family – what story are you telling to frame your lives, your product, or your mission? Is it big enough? Clear enough? Compelling enough? And does it invite people in? If not, work hard at figuring out a way to do so. Why? Because, as Elias Canetti once pointed out, in his Nobel Prize winning book, The Voices of Marrakesh:

“The largest crowds are drawn by the storytellers. It is around them that the people throng most densely and stay longest…their words come from further off and hang longer in the air than those of ordinary people.”

Indeed.

And as a Pastor I admit, I want people to linger. I want people to stay longest, to hear the greatest story ever told and one that can change their lives now and forever. A story about a God who loves them, and died to save them. Who overcame the monster for them, so they never have to. Who turned a Tragedy into a story of Rebirth – and who now invites everyone to experience the joy of that accomplishment.

Why Church Leaders Need To Stop Hanging Out With Each Other

Quote

It is pure invention that popes, bishops, priests, and monks are to be called the ‘spiritual estate’; princes, lords, artisans and farmers the ‘temporal estate’. That is a fine bit of lying and hypocrisy.
-Martin Luther (1483-1546)

I love my friends who work in churches (pastors, directors, etc.,) but  I have come to realize that the friendships and relationships I have with those not in formal church ministry are far more important and for good reason. I will break down three reasons, and the reason I bother to note this at all is not to dis those of us who work in churches (God knows we need all the encouragement we can get as days can be dark), but because I want to encourage all of you who work hard at your normal, everyday, 9-5, shift work jobs who never get the air time you deserve. After all it is your work that supports and allows those in church gigs to have their jobs! This is for the teacher, the stay-at-home mom, and the dentist. I want you to know the crucial role you play in my life. The reasons I feel compelled to write this are mostly unknown to me except that I sense that: (1) There are some of you out there needing the encouragement right now, (2) The record has to be set straight: formal ‘ministry’ jobs (pastoring, etc.) are not necessarily the ‘toughest jobs in the world’, which is often what people working in ministry say and (3) I think vocational ministry people need to encourage you as much as you affirm us.

First, you teach me how to be a good pastor. Of course, I have a ton to learn from other pastors and church leaders in my life as I read, talk to them and get advice. In many ways, though, you have far more to teach me than they do. When I am out with people, I am always asking questions: “What would you do if this or that happened?” and “What is your opinion about X, Y or Z?” Recently, I was out with a business owner and instead of posturing myself as, “I am going to teach you things now as your pastor”, I asked him for his advice. He began his answer with, “Thanks for asking”, likely because no one working in a church had ever asked him for advice! Now, let me be honest. I don’t say this to brag or make you think I am ultra caring. In fact, it is somewhat the opposite. I think, at times, my litany of questions are self-serving. I am a student of YOU. I want to understand you on a deeper level, so I can be better at my job as a pastor, a leader, a communicator. I want to know how you–the custodian or the CEO – processes tragedy in your life, or quits smoking, or stays married. Once I understand you better, I can better explain the Bible to you and lead where I think God wants us to go.

Second, you teach me how to be a good Christian. You teach me about following Jesus in the real world versus following Him in the world of church meetings, conferences and exegesis classes. Just when I think leading a church is the hardest job on the planet, I remind myself of the cops and the small business owners and the recovering addicts who make up our church. I realize again that the real world is hard. It’s hard to show up at a person’s home and be the first to tell them their loved one has died in a car accident. It’s hard to run a business in a world full of sharks. It’s hard to stay clean and work at your sobriety in a society of accessibility. Add on these jobs to being a follower of Jesus and things get interesting and difficult and, at times, grey and complicated. As a Christian, I need to lean into learning these everyday realities. Decisions between one bad thing over another. Confusion over what God is calling us to do when there is no clear choice. God is humbling me every time I put myself in your shoes.

Lastly, you teach me how to be a good leader. In church settings, there is often a lot of theological discussion about methodology with Bible verses attached to each. There is little priority given to things essential in your workplaces and much needed in the church, especially as we try to reach post-Christian Canada, not first century Palestine. Things like: leveraging technology, ensuring we keep our staff lean and goal-oriented, executing ministry effectively, doing things with excellence and working diligently, like the men and women who we serve every day. Which is why in 2 Timothy 2:3-13, Paul called pastors to work like athletes, farmers and soldiers. Up early. Working hard. Heavy lifting.

500 years ago, Martin Luther popularized the idea of ‘the priesthood of all believers’, speaking of the average person’s work (blacksmiths, shoemakers, etc.) versus the clergy, arguing that all work is sacred work. There is no ‘Christian work’ and ‘secular work’. If a person is a musician, or a plumber, or a teacher, their work is just as important as the job of the priest or pastor to the unfolding story God is telling in the world. I believe with all my heart in the priesthood of all believers. When you are out there being a soccer mom, or running a publicly traded company, or trying to make it in show business, know that your work is fundamental to God’s will being done in the world. So, I just want to say thank you. For all you do. Waiting tables, running companies, being nurses. What you do matters, and it is not in vain. And while I hope I can teach you a thing or two as your pastor, know that you are teaching me everyday.

Be Humble. Stay Hungry. Always Hustle.

I am reading a book right now by Brad Lomenick (a leadership consultant and founder of Catalyst) called H3 Leadership. The thesis is simple. Good leadership takes 3 ingredients: Be Humble. Stay Hungry. Always Hustle.

I shared these three concepts with our staff last week.

If you are a leader, pastor, church planter, business leader, blue collar worker, or stay at home mom – these three H’s are essential to success and effectiveness in life.

Be Humble – Humble people aren’t always the quiet people. Humble people ask lots of questions, ask for help, look to always learn, investigate, find better ways, pray a lot, try not to be the hero of every story they tell, and listen to others to get perspective on themselves. They admit they don’t have answers to every question. People generally like humility more than arrogance, and are drawn to humble leaders and humble people.

Stay Hungry. This is lacking a ton in the church world. In the business world people have hunger for financial gain, a promotion, etc., but in the church world these incentives do not exist in the same way, so what I find is a large amount of people who just kind of got into ministry – sometimes because they aren’t very good at anything else. They were floaters, liked warm spaces, drinking coffee, and not a lot of heavy lifting, so… ministry! But they aren’t necessarily hungry to move forward, expand, reach more people (or do what it takes to reach more people, which is change, adapt, live with complexity and stress and challenge), so they take it slow, and coast. They are happy with who is around, and their heart doesn’t break for the lost among them. At least not enough to cause them to go the extra mile, work a little harder, or make the sacrifices no one else can make. All because many are not hungry enough. They settle, and are satisfied.

Always Hustle. A guidance counselor at a local Bible College recently told a new student that of all the churches he could work at, to avoid Village Church because we would work him like a horse. He immediately left the office and came to Village looking for a job. Why? because he knew that’s the best thing for him. He is that high quality. An H3 leader never mails it in. They always go over and above. They don’t punch clocks. They don’t ask about vacation time in first job interviews. They put their head down, and work tirelessly for the cause. And 9 times out of 10 that work gets rewarded, and they get ahead. Not because hard work equals magic, but because hard work equals better work, which usually equals getting ahead.

Years ago I asked a person working for us to go and do something that I didn’t have time for that day. They responded that it wasn’t in their job description. It took me a minute to realize that they weren’t kidding. I spent the next few weeks helping them re-think how they view their work hoping to instill in them as much hustle as possible.

The reason I would want to take the time to do that is because we don’t really view people as employees but rather as leaders. And good leaders don’t approach things like that. They stay humble, while being driven by a hunger, and hustle in all they do.

Inspired by Walt Disney himself – kind of.

I was sitting in a submarine – the Nautilus – submerged under water. Pitch black. Pale blue light. 20 people crammed in and staring out a small round window at sea life, underwater mines and Nemo. Wait. What? Sorry – I forgot. It was a Disneyland ride.

The 526061captain of the submarine came over the speaker as we came back up to the surface: “Please wait until we have come to a complete stop”. And then: “We have a number of different submarines that take our guests around, but the one you are on right now, Nautilus, is the only one Walt Disney himself boarded.”

My daughter looked at me with wide eyes. “Really dad?” “Yes, I guess so honey”. For her it was magical.

Spending the day at Disneyland inspires me in a handful of ways. To be more present with my kids. To be more creative. To run an inspiring church. To shoot for excellence and create magic for people as I serve them. Sitting on the same boat Walt himself sat on, many years ago now, stopped me in my tracks. I felt the magic. For too long I have put off what the captain’s announcement sealed: reading the best two biographies on Walt Disney himself (see here and here) . I placed my order for both today. Why?

I am inspired by him. His grand vision. His business acumen. His creativity. For me, I am interested how these things can be leveraged and used for the glory of God, to reach more and more people with the message of Jesus!

Oh that we, God’s people, could live with the same passion as this man! So that people could meet Jesus and let him transform and change every aspect of their lives. Our experiences of joy, pain, hope, and everything else that orbits these things day in and day out.

Can you feel the magic in that?

What You Can Learn From ‘The Tipping Point’

I was talking with a friend this week about one of the most talked about water cooler books of the last many years, Malcolm Gladwell’s, The Tipping Point, and was reminded of how good it was and how it helped me when I was planting Village Church. It emphasizes an important basic biblical principle – that little things matter because they lead to big things.

Why did God take the kingship away from Saul? Because he didn’t wait for Samuel. Why didn’t God let Moses go into the Promised Land? Because he hit a rock with a staff instead of speaking to it.

It’s the little things. They are everything.

What is a Tipping Point?
The Tipping Point revolves around the little things as they relate to social epidemics. What is a ‘Tipping Point’? Gladwell says:

It’s the name given to that moment in an epidemic when a virus reaches critical mass. It’s the boiling point. It’s the moment on the graph when the line starts to shoot straight upwards. AIDS tipped in 1982, when it went from a rare disease affecting a few gay men to a worldwide epidemic. Crime in New York City tipped in the mid 1990’s, when the murder rate suddenly plummeted. When I heard that phrase for the first time I remember thinking – wow. What if everything has a Tipping Point?

He says there are three things that cause something to ‘tip’:

(1) The Law of the Few: “The success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social skills.” Gladwell describes these people in the following ways:

  • Connectors are the people with a special gift for bringing the world together. To illustrate, Gladwell cites the midnight ride of Paul Revere, who was successful not because he had a loud voice or just because the message was important (the Red Coats are coming!) but because he knew everybody. He was connected.
  • Mavens are “information specialists”, or people we rely on to connect us with new information. They accumulate knowledge, and know how to share it with others.
  • Salesmen are “persuaders”, charismatic people with powerful negotiation skills. They tend to have an indefinable trait that goes beyond what they say, that makes others want to agree with them.

(2) The Stickiness Factor: the specific content of a message that makes it memorable and have impact. The children’s television programs Sesame Street and Blue’s Clues are specific instances of enhancing stickiness and systematically engineering stickiness into a message.

(3) The Power of Context: Human behavior is sensitive to and strongly influenced by its environment. “Epidemics are sensitive to the conditions and circumstances of the times and places in which they occur.” For example, how “zero tolerance” efforts to combat minor crimes such as fare-beating and vandalism on the New York subway led to a decline in more violent crimes city-wide such as murder. Here he talks of the now famous ‘broken windows theory.’

For the Christian/pastor/church planter
For a Christian in general, and more specifically a pastor, and a church planter, studying social epidemics and how they spread is pretty well mandatory if we want to be successful at spreading the most important social epidemic in history: the advancement of the gospel of Jesus. I read this book asking: How do we use these basic principles of a spreading epidemic to reach more people with the message of Jesus?

How do we make the gospel the fastest growing epidemic to bring about change the world has every seen? Such is the challenge before the church.

We use the Law of the Few, recognizing that like most things in life, the 80-20 rule is true about reaching people for Christ as well – large amounts of people are going to be reached and impacted not by the masses (for a plethora of reasons) but by a few – ‘connectors’ – gifted and called by God to reach people. For a planter, strategically, one needs to be good then at identifying, pouring into and leveraging these ‘few’ people for the cause of Christ. A hard thing to admit but just true.

We use the stickiness of the message of the Bible to reach our culture? The beautiful combination of history (reason) and art that it is. Which is why Jesus was both a great theologian and a great story teller. A Rationalist and a Romantic.

We use the power of context – including church communities, their personalities, attitudes, and behaviors, and how those all interact with and at times subvert their host culture, for the spreading of the message of Jesus.

These of course are just suggestions of how we could use the lessons of The Tipping Point to serve the God. Take them or leave them. The bottom line is we as the church should be working day and night on the small things which are going to have big impact – and pray that the message of Jesus ‘tips’ in our generation – for the glory of God and the good of people!

Successful People vs. Unsuccessful People

I saw a picture the other day on a wall that I found helpful. It had two columns comparing Successful people to Unsuccessful people. These are not gospel truths, but are true in many ways and apply to all of us whether in the church, the marketplace, or home-life as leaders who shape and influence others around us:

Successful People: Read everyday / Unsuccessful People: Watch TV every day

Successful People: Compliment / Unsuccessful People: Criticize

Successful People: Embrace change / Unsuccessful People: Fear change

Successful People: Forgive others / Unsuccessful People: Hold a grudge

Successful People: Talk about ideas / Unsuccessful People: Talk about people

Successful People: Continuously learn / Unsuccessful People: Think they know it all

Successful People: Accept responsibility / Unsuccessful People: Blame others for their failure

Successful People: Have a sense of gratitude / Unsuccessful People: Have a sense of entitlement

Successful People: Set goals and develop life plans / Unsuccessful People: Just go with the flow

So: evaluate yourself (not others) on how you are doing in these areas. I know I can get better at all of them.

3 To Do’s when you’re confused

1999 was a confusing year for me. I started the calendar year thinking film school, started school in a Public Relations degree track at a local college, and by mid-September was studying theology at a school in the city. In college I went from a Youth Ministry major to a passion for scholarship so that by the time I finished I was moving out to B.C. as a two year stop on the way to be a professor – which became (so far) an 11 year stop on the way to planting a church.

Life can be confusing.

Lately I’ve been talking to a lot of people in life who are stirring and feeling lost in regard to their job, calling, ministry, etc. There is often a disconnect between their PASSION (what they want to do) and their GIFTING (the way God’s wired them). This is a frustrating place to be and finding a meaningful vocation in life is about living in the sweet spot of where those two spheres connect.

For those in this place one of the best resources I can offer is the author Gordon T. Smith. He is a great writer and thinker around issues of discernment and calling in life. This book – Courage and Calling helps bring clarity to our lives as we seek out that sweet spot.

Smith says there are three basic callings we have in life – a calling by God to himself, a calling to a particular vocation in life, and a calling to this or that at a given time.

Many of us are searching for our calling in life and it takes courage to NOT do things we aren’t called to just because we are passionate about them, or to bear down and DO something we may not be all that passionate about, because God is clearly calling us. If however we do stop and follow what God is calling us to vs what we are calling ourselves to God will reward our courage and use us in the world.

How do we find where PASSION and GIFTING connect? In my life I’ve found a few ways:

1. Pray and listen to God’s voice
2. Ask and listen to the people around you
3. Be patient and don’t force yourself into roles

Why Patience works

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience” -Galatians 5:22

One of the keys to being successful in life – in family, business, leadership, etc., is patience. It’s not often a characteristic that is highlighted about people but it is an essential part of being effective in life. Next week (Tuesday, Sept 1) we as a church are hosting our first ever golf tournament to raise $200,000 for enslaved Dalit children in India – to give them a hope and future. We are excited about it. We have had to open up a second golf course for this event because of the amount of businesses and people wanting to be a part of it! Here is the amazing thing. The first time the idea came across my desk was fall 2013. Two guys from our church came into a room with a full presentation about what it all could look like and how we could do it. Seed planted. But it wasn’t the right time.

We needed to let it sit and germinate. We needed more team members who knew what they were doing, the church was focused on other things at the time, etc., So we put it on the shelf and let it mature.

Patience. It makes things better than they would have been.

+ God spoke to me very clearly about planting a church in April, 2007. We didn’t start Village Church until January 2010, and we weren’t an autonomous church until 2014!

+ We were without a second full time Pastor until we were a church of 1200 people, and even now we have far less Pastors compared to almost every other church our size. We are constantly looking and adding, and evolving as a leadership team, but the reason for the slow addition is because we want to hire the right people. Every time. That sounds idealistic, but that’s okay. Because if you have patience, you can make it a reality.

It may mean we can’t add a plethora of ministries as quickly as we would like. It may mean we have to stretch our hours a bit here and there, or not do it quite as well as we could, but that’s okay, we just won’t do it, or we will do it at the best level we can until that time comes.

+ All the business owners I know have patience to ride out the hard times. The times they made that bad call. The hard years where money was sparse and their marriage was getting tougher. The time they couldn’t find a good manager. The time they bought something at a low price to sell it at a higher one but had to hold on to it for 5 years until that time came.

Patience. In a culture of now it grows us.

When a business, or church, or leader lacks patience, they try to force things to happen, and that is never good. I don’t play many sports, so I don’t use many sports analogies in my writing or preaching, but humor me. There are two games I do know: golf and poker (don’t ask me why I know a lot about the second one). In both games, if a player doesn’t have patience and allow things to come to him or her a bit, they start to force stuff. They get behind in a hand, or a few strokes behind the leader and try to force a shot or bluff at the wrong time – and it usually goes bad. Every great player talks about letting a tournament or a round, etc., come to them, and not forcing it. It usually happens when we are behind. We try to manufacture stuff, and it doesn’t work.

The Apostle Paul knew what he was talking about when he said one of the things the fruit of the Spirit brings about in our life is patience. In a culture of now! we have to be people who often times slowly and methodically keep moving forward. Today may be an awful day, but don’t give up. Have a long term view of life. Meaning isn’t found in the next 15 minutes, but in the next 60 years.

I met with a young Pastor a short time ago, who wanted to start a church. I assumed he was coming to us so he could intern for a few years as he was quite young and had almost no experience in church ministry. I asked him how many times he had preached. “Five” he said. “Five times?!” I said. “Yes.” “Would it surprise you if I told you I didn’t plant a church until i had preached every Sunday in front of a university crowd for five years? You aren’t ready.”

He may be ready in three years. Maybe ten. I don’t know. The question is: does he have the patience to find out or will he force it?

My Interview with Larry Osborne

Every leader needs mentors in their life. One of the men I have the privilege to have in my ia3skcyx633hcqyvsw92_400x400life is a great leader (and man) – Larry Osborne. Larry is the Lead Pastor of North Coast Church – an innovative and inspiring church of about 10,000 people located in San Diego, California.

He and his staff have served us as a church staff so well over the years. I got the opportunity to interview him recently about leadership, mission, and his personal life with Jesus.

1. What are some of the biggest challenges you are facing right now in your Pastoral/leadership ministry?
I think the greatest challenge I face pastoring in a large and growing ministry is distinguishing which opportunities and needs have our name on them. In a sea of great opportunities and challenges it’s always easy to lose focus. There are lots of good things and important needs we must say, “No,” to in order to focus on what God has called us to do. That’s always hard to do.

2. What are some of the secrets you’ve learned to being healthy in leadership?
Three stand out. (1) A genuine team approach to ministry that allows others to speak hard things into my life (and push back on my ideas). (2) Building and maintaining consistent margin in my life in order to provide the breathing room I need to respond to opportunities, crisis, or simply the leading of the Lord. (3) Never forgetting my wife and kids as my top ministry priority. Everything and everyone else is second.

3. What do daily and weekly devotions look like for you?
For my personality, too much structure weighs me down. So my devotions tend to ebb and flow with life. I do far better with blocks of flexible and spontaneous time. A structured or scheduled time in morning, evening, or any other time has never worked for me. Instead of drawing me closer to the Lord, it’s always sucked the life out of my walk with him.

4. What would be two pieces of leadership advice for pastors or marketplace leaders?
Pastors: You have nothing to prove and no one to impress. Do the best you can under the circumstances then take a nap.

Marketplace Leaders: Never forget you are in full-time ministry – serving on the front lines. Your calling is a high and might one.

5. What are you most passionate about right now? What are you hopeful about in regard to the church?
I’m passionate about mentoring and raising up the next generation of pastors and leaders. The church is in great hands. The Lord is raising up a bunch of great young leaders across the country.

6. What do you think the greatest challenges for the church in the next 5-10 years will be?
How can we stay faithful to scripture without being written off as bigots. Tolerance no longer means you have the right to be wrong. It now means everyone is right. That obviously doesn’t jive with scripture. Speaking truth into a “tolerance culture” is not going to get easier with time.

7. What would be one or two strategies for reaching and transforming our cities and impacting our country?
We’re big on community service as a credibility builder and door opener. I can’t imagine Jesus just preaching the gospel without also ministering to people. It’s what drew the crowds and gave his message credibility. We try to follow the Jesus model. Heal and preach.

For instance, we average over two service projects a day in our community. In addition, every two years we close down the church for the entire weekend and head out for a massive Weekend of Service. Our last one was in April. Twelve thousand of our folks completed 600 projects at 118 sites with a value of over $2,000,000 in goods and services.

That opens doors that would otherwise be slammed shut. Schools and city government leaders that used to want nothing to do with us now call us for help. That’s a big change.

8. Who has been the greatest influence/mentor in your life? What did they teach you?
My main mentor was a man named, Wally Norling. His fruit grew on other people’s trees. And that’s the most important lesson he taught me. It’s about the kingdom – not my castle.

 

Larry is the author of some amazing books – the most recent being a very relevant book right now called Thriving in Babylon which I would encourage you to grab on your Kindle or old school paper book style here.

Disneyland disaster! (or, why you should be trying to fail)

Failure is good. If you are not failing you are not trying. You are being too safe. You are too afraid of criticism. All those famous entrepreneurs we talk about (Jobs, Musk, Branson) all failed in huge ways throughout their lives. Let me give you an example in the spirit of July. 1151266.jpg

Disneyland.

It opened on July 17, 1955. Life Magazine did an article recently where they pointed out that: “The brand new park featured a Frontierland complete with a Davy Crockett museum, an Adventureland with hydraulically operated jungle animals and Sleeping Beauty’s castle, which would soon include a model torture chamber.”

The $17 million park, built on a 160-acre site, was “the most lavish amusement park on earth,” but its opening day was a disaster. Traffic was backed up for hours, delaying celebrity guests. The temperature crept above 100 degrees, causing heels to sink into soft asphalt, while a plumbers’ strike decommissioned all water fountains. Oh, and there was a gas leak, too. Practically everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. (See here)

After a bad opening day did Walt Disney and his team just pack it up and go home? Did they whine and throw up their hands in defeat? No. They woke up the next day and made it that much better. They learned from their mistakes and made adjustments.

Be encouraged today to take the failures and discouragements you are facing – in ministry, business, raising kids, your marriage, etc., – and wake up today ready to change and make adjustments. And know that failure is a core part of success in life, so when it comes, expect it, adjust and keep going.

If you’re not failing, you’re not leading,or being original and likely not making the world a more exciting place to be!