Posts Tagged: Leadership

What the Church Can Learn From: “The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos & the Age of Amazon”

I love business books. Not because I’m in the business world. Not because I have a desire to be in the business world. I love business books because I learn about leadership, organization, systems, vision, management, etc.; all essential things for a pastor to know and grow in.

Yet while I love consuming business books I’m simultaneously saddened by them. I am saddened because I read stories of men and women that were and are willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of their vision. They devote their money to the business (most of the great companies had someone that devoted their life savings in the beginning) their time, all their thoughts and energy. This saddens me because I wonder why every single pastor is not willing to do the same for their church or churches.

I am saddened because I read about how vision and mission drive the direction of these companies & these leaders. While I see so many churches being driven by tradition and “sacred cows.”

I am saddened because I read about leaders that are constantly looking to grow, to improve, to be the best in their field; yet so many pastors are content. They don’t read books, go to conferences, seek mentorship, look for the best in their fields to get better; so many are content with status quo & so many churches let them be, or don’t know that they deserve better!

All of this saddens me because we serve a cause much greater than any business, Jesus’. We have a power on our side much greater than any man made method or model, The Holy Spirit. We have a mission much more important than money, the Salvation of humanity!

We could learn a lot from our secular, business world counterparts, and every time I read a business book I learn much and I am grateful.

The-Everything-Store-Jeff-Bezos-and-the-Age-of-Amazon

Here are some ideas I gleaned from the most recent book I partook of: “The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos & the Age of Amazon” by Brad Stone.

  1. Balance between the member & the not-yet member: Amazon’s passion is customer service. They are vigilant about retaining their committed customers (members), even willing to sacrifice revenue at times to avoid making the member (customer) feel unappreciated or uncomfortable. Yet, they never take their eye off their ultimate goal which is to win other people to their “family.” To create new “fans” of Amazon. They work to keep both of these goals in harmony with one another. I find that many churches struggle with the balance Amazon has seemed to achieve. In the larger churches I’ve worked at and been a part of I’ve found that they tend to be imbalanced towards the ability to gather and attract new people, all the while the already committed members are silently slinking out the back door without any real notice or fanfare. Because of our system in the North American Division and maybe even around the world we’re allowed even encouraged by the example of our World Church to inflate reality. We broadcast that our membership numbers in North America are 1.2 million members yet we know that truly only half, if even that attend church on a consistent basis. This creates a system where we care about the growth of that number, not the retention of that number. We never see the article on the cover of the Review, “Membership at 1.2 Million…But We Have No Idea Where 623,000 of Those Members Are.” So our larger churches a lot of them are like our organization. On the other hand I’ve worked at smaller churches that seem to enjoy their close knit of community so much that they don’t really have a great earnestness to attract new “customers.” New disrupts what is and disrupting what is, is tantamount to apostasy. And while they won’t brag about their numbers, they will brag about how they know everyones name in the church; of course you do it’s not hard to know 30, 40, even 75 names. Obviously both cases are not the universal absolute; I’ve seen large churches that are great at retention & small churches great at evangelism. But Amazon shows me how we all are better off with balance towards both!
  2. Word of Mouth Evangelism: Jeff Bezos’ goal is to one day be able to completely eliminate Amazon’s marketing department and just grow by word of mouth. In fact Bezos believes that the best “evangelism,” the best way for a company to grow is when the customer shares their experience with a non-member through word of mouth. The church needs to develop the same attitude. In fact Amazon is so committed to their committed customers with the belief this commitment will be rewarded with those people being personal evangelists for the company. Our churches and church members need to embrace this same idea as the best form of evangelism. Bring a friend to the “store” please!
  3. “Complaining is not a strategy” & Hard work is strategy: The former is a direct quote from Bezos, and I love it! Nothing changes with complaining! If someone wants a change they should apply the latter lesson from Amazon, “hard work is strategy.” If you want things to be different then they should work hard to be a part of the change they want to see. Oh how this could be learned in the church; less letters, less emails, less phone calls, more active engagement to strategically move things in a positive direction! This applies to Pastors as well, far too often we spend more time complaining about our bosses than really working for positive change. I’ve found that most folk I have worked for if they see a pastor working hard and committed to the growth of God’s Kingdom, then they’ll reward this and give greater ear to the ideas of those hard working pastors. “Complaining is not a strategy.”
  4. Innovate, Innovate, Innovate! : Normal human beings fear change. In church though a far greater fear should be stagnancy, and without change, which comes from innovation a stagnant and eventually a dead church will be the ultimate result! Innovation is not the creeping compromise that folk think it is. There were many that were not comfortable with the innovations that HMS Richards was initiating through his radio ministry Voice of Prophecy back in the day. There was an overall fear of technology and the potential evils of associating with the radio & eventually through George Vandeman the television mediums. You know who may be utilizing these mediums of technology most in 2014 within the Adventist Church? Groups like Amazing Facts & the 3ABN folk. Isn’t it funny, what was once thought as potential evil liberal compromise is now widely embraced, endorsed, and funded by those within our church that are perceived to be of the more conservative bent. Jeff Bezos said, “What is dangerous is to not evolve.” I would say to that a very loud “AMEN”! And I hope all the church echoes that “amen.”
  5. Imitate What Works: “We watch our competitors, learn from them, see the things that they were doing for customers and copy those things as much as we can.” -Bezos. Our church (Seventh-day Adventist) is far too scared of imitating the methodologies of those outside our own movement. If it is not challenging our theology & it is working elsewhere we should grab it and run with it! In our church we’ve incorporated many an idea that came from a business book I read or a church growth book I read from authors of another denomination. In no way has this watered down our theology, in fact what is most often communicated to me is that our church has become more (for lack of a better term) “conservative” in my tenure at this church. We don’t imitate theology, but we do imitate some methodologies, obviously within reason. We also try to learn from our fellow Adventists, another area I feel we have drastic deficiencies as a church. Sharing, receiving, and implementing the best practices even within Adventism.
  6. No One is More Important than the Vision: In Amazon’s culture what this means is that no one gets to keep their job simply because they were there from the beginning. No one gets to keep their job because it is going to cause tension to replace them. No one gets to keep their job for doing an adequate job. The vision rains supreme and if folk don’t want to run with the vision then the vision will move on without them! Many a church is hampered by a person that feels entitled to a position, entitled to be the road block to change. There is only one irreplaceable person at Amazon, Jeff Bezos; and there is only one irreplaceable person in the church and that is Jesus. Any pastor, any teacher, any administrator that is not charging ahead with the vision should be removed. Any elder, deacon, or treasurer that is not on board with the vision should be willing to step aside. This doesn’t mean that they see all eye to eye. But the overall vision and mission of Jesus “to seek & save the lost” if that is not embraced and pursued with reckless abandon then in the view of Amazon it is time for change. I think this view would move the church forward too.
  7. Take Little Steps Every Day to Get Better: I think in the church there are far too many “major” initiatives, I’ll include myself in that theory. In this book one of the ideas I appreciated was the idea of incremental changes made daily to try and get better, to try and be the best they could be. It hasn’t been the big moves we’ve seen like Kindle or Amazon Prime that have pushed Amazon to the top, but the daily unseen changes that have pushed Amazon up the retail mountain. Bezos demands of himself daily growth and expects nothing less of those around him. What would happen if every pastor, every conference administrator, every elder, every Bible Worker, every departmental director, every teacher, ever member said I want to learn one thing today that will help me to be a better witness for Jesus than I was yesterday. I think that would revolutionize the church a lot more than initiatives like “Let’s Talk” or even “Revival & Reformation.” These have there place but I fear they are too often strategies that help the membership to hide the fact that far too many are ok with status quo.
  8. It’s Okay to Be Misunderstood: I would love to see more pastors live by this principle. I think far too many of us worry about what others, primarily our church members think about us. We capitulate to the complainers. We don’t step out for fear of losing our job or our influence. Amazon has been misunderstood at the point of every major positive step they’ve ever taken. They’re okay with that. They’d rather be misunderstood than being bold for their cause. Pastors wouldn’t it be better for us to be misunderstood than to be stuck in the rut?! Now let me share one caveat; pastors, don’t use this as an excuse if everyone misunderstands you! If you look around and realize no one is following, it’s no longer about being misunderstood, its just about being a bad leader. But don’t back down to the few, run with the many even if it means, being misunderstood!
  9. “Make History!”: Jeff Bezos wants to “work hard, have fun, and make history.” I want to be a part of a history making movement. The church is of no value if it is not making history. In our world, in our communities, in the individual lives of our people and the people we are reaching.

These are some of the things I learned from the book, “The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos & the Age of Amazon”

I hope they’ll help you in your ministry, in your church, in your life.

Why the Recent Rhetoric in the Church Makes Me Want to Shout About “SPIRITUAL FORMATION

So today I was listening to a book on tape, in this book on tape there was a chapter heading, “Spiritual Formation.” I listened to the entire chapter and guess what? Afterwards I didn’t want to go and empty my mind, burn incense, light candles, chant in repetition or deny the infallibility of the Bible. In fact the authors description of “SPIRITUAL FORMATION” made me want to read my Bible more, spend more time alone being guided by the scriptures to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit. He impressed upon me the need to have a consistent devotional time, and that part of Spiritual Formation included being willing to be more generous with my money to the cause of Jesus, particularly the local church…can you believe such heresy? I say tongue in cheek!

At the end of the chapter the thought that came into my mind and started to drive me crazy, “There are so many in our church that would have shut the audiobook off, or closed the book (if they were actually reading it) the moment they heard/saw those words, “Spiritual Formation” and they would have missed out on some great counsel! Why? Because over the last 3+ years many in the Adventist church have taught our people to be scared of words and phrases, like: “spiritual formation,” “liturgy,” and “kingdom growth.” Even “meditation” is being spoken of like all meditation is bad…I sure hope the folk that believe that fallacy never read the writings of Ellen G. White, there are over 800 references of “meditation” or “meditate;” and oh boy they better not read the Bible either, since there are a good thirty times meditation is mentioned in that GREAT book.

Why would I even say that? Because I really believe some would be shocked! They’d be shocked because we don’t teach them to read and to study and to discern truth for themselves, we teach them to be scared of certain words and so many of the sermons I’ve heard say, “Spiritual formation is evil. It is about meditation, and mantras.” And therefore meditation is wrong, even when there is a very good kind of Biblical meditation, but these people don’t know that, all they know is what we’ve told them to be scared of. We’ve taught them to be scared of words, just like the pharisees taught the Jews to be scared of Jesus because He used the words, “I Am.”

In preaching in this manner and writing EXTREME books on this topic not only are we teaching our people to be scared of words, we are also teaching them to be very judgmental.

I was given a CD of a fairly popular and well known speaker amongst Adventists, he is one that frequents many camp meetings. I’d heard him on a couple different occasions and was usually blessed by his messages. Then I received this CD and I listened…what I listened to was fear mongering and a call to judge, not to judge on actions, not to judge on doctrine, just to judge based on words. This preacher was speaking of a pastor of a mega-church and pointing out all the areas he was in error; which by the way, how far have we fallen when we think that is an acceptable topic for a Sabbath morning service? Anyway, he then said this, which blew my mind, “When you hear our preachers (Adventist preachers) use the term ‘Kingdom Growth’ you know they have been under the influence of (name of the Sunday preacher here) and you need to be on guard.” REALLY? REALLY? This semi-well known pastor with at least a moderate amount of influence told a bunch of folk to judge their pastors based on a phrase, “Kingdom Growth.” I’ve been using that phrase as often as I can ever since; yep, there is a rebel in me.

So we’re teaching our people to be scared of words. We’re teaching our people to be judgmental based on phrases. We’re also teaching our people how to be mere reflectors of man’s thoughts, rather than true discerners.

I was at a camp meeting. The evening speaker delivered a wonderful message, but he went on a tangent. In this tangent he began to condemn those associated with spiritual formation (he didn’t give context to this), he just used those catch words of course. But what drove me even more crazy was at the end of this little tangent he said, “that is why we shouldn’t be reading anything outside of Adventist literature.” REALLY? REALLY? I love this man, he has been a blessing in my life, I don’t know him, but I’ve read his books and listened to his sermons. But REALLY? I couldn’t take it so I confronted him afterwards, “How could you say that?” I asked. Well in the course of the conversation he acknowledged we should, and he even quoted Mrs. White referencing her statement about our need to be well read in the literature of the age, and how of course he didn’t mean don’t read anything outside of Adventism (he has a doctorate from a non-Adventist university). I asked him then why he said it, he didn’t have a great answer, something to the effect of wanting to protect the people. That is not protection though, it is dumbing people down. To this man’s credit he corrected the statement in his seminar a few days later and acknowledged that is not what he meant; unfortunately there were only 150 people at his seminar versus the 2000 that heard his original statement.

We’re teaching our people to be scared of words. We’re teaching our people to be judgmental based on phrases. We’re teaching our people how be mere reflectors of man’s thoughts, rather than true discerners.

But maybe most of all we’re teaching people how to miss the good and beautiful truth completely. The pharisees were so focused on all the potential negatives that could happen around the Sabbath day that when someone, Jesus Himself, actually showed up on the scene keeping the Sabbath they way it should be kept…they missed it completely! I worry that we are teaching our people to focus so much on the negative that they may actually miss a lot of good when it is being done right in front of their eyes.

Someone smart in my life said, I’m not sure who said this to me (maybe it was David in our Faster Pastor episode on Christmas), but whoever it was this is brilliant, “Words and symbols only have as much meaning in your life as you allow them to have.”

Our church needs to learn this! The words Spiritual Formation or any others like this only have the meaning that one attaches to them and if we attach all kinds of fear, judgment, and ignorance to them that is exactly the meaning they’ll have in people’s lives.

But maybe some people out there are using those same words and they are doing a great job of teaching about Bible Study, Sacrifice, Prayer, Service, Repentance, Tithing…but our people will never know; cause they’ll close the book the moment they see the buzz words our church has decided to condemn and attach unnecessary negative value to over the last 3+ years.

Lord help us to spend more time teaching people about the beautiful truths of Jesus and in the glorious light of Jesus’ truth maybe we can trust them to be able to discern error for themselves.

 

 

Please Count!

Whether it is self preservation or ego that makes us do it, most pastors/members I know fudge slightly on the high side when it comes to their church attendance numbers. I don’t believe people do this maliciously or to intentionally deceive but innocent or not this self-deception regarding church attendance numbers is detrimental to the growth of the church.

If we don’t know our actual numbers we can be deceived about the health and growth of the church. I first realized this when I was a member of a very large church many years ago. To my casual eye and I am sure to most the members eyes this church seemed like a healthy growing church. There always seemed to be a healthy number of folk filling the pews each week. The foyer seemed crowed before and after church. The quality of the service was great. If someone had asked me, “Are you a member of a growing church?” I would have responded with a firm, “Yes!” But one day I thought to myself, “I don’t remember seeing very many baptisms at this church in the last few years.” And I began to question, “Is this church really a growing church?”

I decided to do a little research and what I discovered was this: at the beginning of the year we had just finished the church membership was 3000…now a couple months into a new year the church membership was…wait for it…3003. The church had grown by a net gain of 3 people in more than a year. I was astonished, I was disappointed, I was sad. I thought I was a member of a growing church. What I discovered is that I was a member of a very kind, a very busy, a high quality church…but not an evangelistic, growing church.

When we count (this is especially for the pastors) we are forced to take a true account of whether or not we are leading our churches to be healthy growing communities. If we don’t count, we can remain deceived; thus limiting the urgency to develop the evangelistic fervor needed within every church.

Now there are always those that will resist the value of counting.

They will say:

“Numbers don’t matter!” I would respond, “That if we see each number as representing an individual that Jesus died for, then they certainly do matter!!”

They will say:

“We shouldn’t be driven by numbers!” I would respond, “I agree. We should be driven by the heart of Jesus wanting to reach lost sheep. And one of the only ways to know if this is happening is to count.”

They will say:

“Numbers are relative.” I would respond, “They are indeed! A church of 16 that adds 3 new members in a year should celebrate. A church of 3000 that adds 3 new members in a year should recalibrate.”

Please count! Count every Sabbath to see if you are growing.

Then after you finish counting, start analyzing. There is no point in gathering data, unless you’re going to use that data to help improve in specific areas.

Due to the fact that we don’t just count at our church, we also analyze; these numbers take on extra value to our ministry. Let me give an example.

This past year, 2013, our average attendance was 356 individuals attending per week; that was an improvement of 16 people per week over the previous year. We are growing. Not as much as I believe we could, but we are growing. There is more though to those numbers than just growth; as we analyze the numbers we see that our 1st service grew by an average of 15 people, and our 2nd service grew by an average of 1. This has helped us to have discussions about what is appealing to people about first service and what may be unappealing to folk about second service? What are the demographics of the two services? Is the 1st service growth new member/visitor growth or long time members just choosing to go earlier in the day? All this is looked at because we count.

Also because we count we have found that we are unhealthy as a church in some areas. Last year we baptized or brought in through profession of faith 60 new people. Yet our average attendance for the year was only up 16 people per week. Our attendance definitely increased after all those baptisms, but that means we were actually a little below the previous years averages prior to the baptisms. Why was this? What was happening? Also, are we keeping all our new baptisms? Yes, for the most part we are. Then that means previous members are no longer attending as much? Who? And why not? We discuss this, look at this, try to work on this, and we know about all this; why? Because we count.

Another area counting has helped is that based on the data collected the past five years, analysis tells us  there are 4 months that are exceptionally high months of church attendance & three months that are exceptionally low in attendance. So what do we do with this information? We schedule for our strengths. We don’t actually try to improve the attendance for the months that are low; five years is enough to show us that these are months that folk just don’t attend church. Rather than wasting time trying to get people there those months we accept reality and instead focus on growing the average months the rest of the year. We also take advantage of the exceptionally high months by making those services as evangelistically appealing as possible. How many churches plan big events in months that are traditionally low and then wonder why no one showed-up? Too many I’m afraid! Why? Because they don’t count.

Has this made you decide to count?

I hope so, because…

…a lack of counting will lead to acceptance and even an over glorification of the status quo.

A lack of counting can prevent growth.

A lack of counting thwarts strategic planning.

A lack of counting may cause you to miss the members that are missing even though you’re adding new folk all the time.

A lack of counting is dangerous and hopefully after you’ve read this blog…

…a lack of counting is something you’ll never have to worry about again!

Please count! It will make a difference!

 

Help! Adventist Ed is Dying!

I haven’t blogged in quite a while & I haven’t written a blog on one of my most passionate topics in a while, so I am going to do both now!

Adventist Education…

Over the last two plus years I have had the opportunity to serve as a member of the Pacific Union Conferences’ Executive Committee. Every committee we receive reports. Reports on baptisms, tithe, race demographics, education. Let me just say all of them are scary sad…well the race demographics are good if you’re not Caucasian, us white folk need to learn how to share Jesus…but that is another topic for another time…but the rest are frightful.

The statistic that saddens me the most, because I credit Adventist Ed and praying friends and family with leading me to Jesus, is the consistent decline in Adventist Education primary & secondary enrollment! Consistent decline, not an aberration, a trend, a consistent trend. And from what I hear it’s not just our Union in North America that is experiencing such declines.

So what do we do? Well take ‘em or leave ‘em here are 13 of my thoughts on what should change in Adventist Ed in no particular order.

  1. We should go back and analyze all the principles of the book “Education” by Ellen G. White and ask ourselves, “is our school applying and living by all these principles. Some methods may be different, but are all the principles from this book being incorporated and maintained within our schools?”
  2. As parents we should never criticize the teachers in front of our kids! And even if we side with our child we should not do it in such a way that our children will learn to disrespect their teachers. Just within the last 5 years I have found out there were times my parents went to bat for me with a couple of my teachers. I’m actually glad I didn’t know this then; if I had I might have been even more disrespectful than I already was. In our home the rule always was, the teacher is ALWAYS right, even when they aren’t, because he/she is the teacher. Unless they ask you to do something immoral or they physically abuse you, they are the teacher. Period!
  3. We need to remember that our education system was established to serve the church, not the other way around. What do I mean by this? Our schools were established to develop missionaries (in whatever field God lead them in to) for Jesus through the church. This means that the children were taught that the value of a career was only found in as much as it gave opportunity to lead people to Jesus and connect with His body, The Church. This also means that schools should not have their calendars dictate the calendar of the church, rather school calendars should be built in such a way as to decrease the time students and their parents are away from their local churches. Third, schools need to recognize that the growth of the schools is dependent upon the growth of the church, thus a financial system should not be put in place that would hamper churches from providing ministries and training that leads to growth.
  4. When I was a child many of the teachers in the schools also taught Sabbath Schools. Now almost not a one can be found. To at least some extent this may be in part to number 2 above; if you’re criticized by parents at school why would you want to come to to church and be criticized as well? That is a fair enough point, but often the reasoning I hear that teachers don’t teach Sabbath School is because they need a break from the kids. Again though the counsel we received in the founding of our education system was that school teachers should also instruct on Sabbath mornings so that children would see their teachers in service to God & His church. Yes, it is hard and wearisome, but maybe that could be lessened by the following…
  5. Decrease the busyness! This needs to happen in church and school. We are doing far too much of unnecessary things! I speak with parents all the time that are run ragged (and their pocketbooks are shrinking) by all the extra events they are taking their kids to at our schools. Both church and school need to impress upon families the value of being at home and spending time in a home environment. This can’t happen if there are a million different activities happening week in and week out at both church and school. Also, our teachers are then exhausted and the last place they want to be on a Sabbath is with the kids…but that is exactly where they need to be on a Sabbath, at least for that one hour of Sabbath School time.
  6.  We must change the way finances are managed within our schools it is a stress that pastors nor teachers should have to deal with, in fact here is the counsel given, “This matter should not be left to ministers or committee men, who have no time to take this burden. The teachers are not to be left with this responsibility. These matters of school business call for talent which has not been provided (she is saying not provided by the conference which she says it is their duty to provide).” 2TT 474
  7. Of course we must also acknowledge if we are in financial difficulties why that is, “If our educational work had been carried on in accordance with the instruction given for our guidance, the dark shadow of heavy debt would not today be hanging over our institutions.” 2TT 474. This is a repeat of number one. If the system as a whole is suffering then the system as a whole must have gone off course at some point. Let’s get back to the basics of who we are what we’re about.
  8. We need to stop trying to raise money through gimmicks: raffles, benefit concerts, special meals, etc.. We should do as was done in the Bible, place the need before the people and then pray for God to sustain. By doing the events above we actually make it harder to receive the next time. We are teaching our people to give only if they have received.
  9. Devalue sports! I am one that absolutely loves sports! I played organized sports all the way up into my first year of college. In our schools though sports has become of far too much value. These “friendship tournaments” are not so friendly. But even if they were, they are just another thing that take away from the true purpose of our schools, which is not competition but service to Jesus. You want to take kids away multiple weekends a year, take them to serve the poor, not serve themselves in sports. Take them to spend time in nature or at prayer conferences. Not sporting events that we try to make pseudo Jesus centered by having a church service with all the teams on Sabbath morning. I again love sports, I don’t mind folk playing sports, but in most of our schools where one maybe two days a year are given to “community service days” isn’t it shameful that one to two days A WEEK are given to sports either through games or practices? Also, am I the only one that finds it sad that we can afford an abundance of sports activities yet most of our schools are now lacking those who teach outdoor education: gardening, camping, whatever? Isn’t it sad that most our schools no longer have true home economics instructors, true librarians, true shop and wood working teachers? Is anyone else depressed that there aren’t high quality bands and choirs in ALL our schools? But hey, we have sports. This saddens me.
  10. We need to stop being silos! Churches and church members need to affirm ADVENTIST EDUCATION, not a particular school! By the way churches should stop being silos too! A pastor that tries to make a member feel guilty for going to another Adventist church should go into a closest and pray ’till their priorities are straightened out. But I digress…the question shouldn’t be, “which Adventist school are our kids going to?” The only important question is, “are they attending an Adventist school.” And guess what, this includes home schooling! Adventist parents that home school should be as soundly affirmed and prayed for as those that teach within our school systems! (And Adventist teachers that teach outside of our Adventist schools should be affirmed and prayed for as well since they are local missionaries in a foreign field!) I believe we have devalued Adventist education by fighting over schools! When you make the thing of value the institution, the structure, the building, the location, rather than the message and the movement, then ultimately that value will fade; because the only people that value institutions, structures, buildings, and locations are the people that built those institutions, structures, and buildings. Teach people to value a philosophy, affirm the ideals of Adventist Ed above all, criticize no one, and all our schools will ultimately benefit!
  11. Pay teachers more! I wish somewhere along the way we had created a system where every time the health institutes fork out higher salaries for their administrators they had to at the same time set some aside to increase the pay of our Adventist educators. I pick on the Adventist health system b/c they are paid a lot more than the rest of us and thus must have the money somewhere.  But somehow we need to compensate teachers better…
  12. That said, I think we should screen better for teachers as well…a pastor has to explain his/her calling, talk about their faith in Jesus, share his/her commitment to the teachings of our church, discuss their views of evangelism and reaching people for Jesus all before we are hired (and yes I know some bad ones are still hired). Having a Dad that was a teacher in the Adventist Education system for 35 years. A sister that has been in the Adventist Education system for 13 years. Having dated some teachers pre-marriage, I can guarantee you these questions are not often if ever asked. Even having two former teachers on my church staff, I have been told that they were never expected to know what we believe and why we believe it, they were never even firmly taught what we believe and why we believe it…well they had to know that the Sabbath was the Sabbath & we sleep when we die, but as far as the expectation of really teaching our students what we believe and why believe it. They were not held accountable on church attendance. They were not asked about their personal daily devotions. They were not asked if Jesus was their absolute best friend. If Adventist Education is truly about educating for eternity, shouldn’t these things come up?
  13. Last but not least, to make it a nice even 13…our schools should be prayed over in every single Adventist home!

Take ‘em or leave ‘em as a parent that will soon have three kids in Adventist Ed, these are my thoughts.

P.S. I would encourage everyone to click on this link and buy (after Sabbath of course) the documentary “The Blueprint: The Story of Adventist Education it is wonderful! In spite of all our difficulties I still think Adventist Ed is the best option, but we could be so much better and not dying a not so slow, but oh so painful death!

 

Our Growth Part 3

In this final post of this blog series on the growth of The Visalia Seventh-day Adventist Church I will be looking at some of the specific things we will be focusing on moving forward in order to place us in the best position to continue to receive & handle the blessings of God’s growth in this community. This blog will probably we a little more specific and not as broad as the other two, but I believe there are still principles that I’ll be sharing that can be applied in any and all settings.

In part 1 we looked at some of the principles behind the growth of the Visalia SDA Church.
In part 2 we looked at some of the reasons why we didn’t grow more over the last five years.

And now for the third and final part (Sorry it took so long, I got sick and then the holidays but here it finally is):

What about the next five years?

Prayer. Yes, I want to start in the exact same spot I started the other two lists. It is vital for our continued growth that we continue our focus and emphasis on the power and importance of prayer. We will continue to look for ways to facilitate more prayer, encourage the participation in corporate prayer, recruit more prayer warriors. I’ve spent quite a ‘bit of time on this subject in the other two posts so I won’t say more here, simply this has to remain a priority. It can’t be something we did and then move on from!

What happens when I’m gone? This has been a question on my mind a lot lately. I’ve observed far too often within our denomination that a church may be doing well, then the pastor leaves and everything slows way down or even ceases completely until the next pastor rolls around. Attendance drops, evangelism is nonexistent, the church goes into maintenance mode. I am asking myself heading into 2014 and beyond, “if this is my last year at this church are we in a position to thrive in the absence of a Senior Pastor or under the leadership of a new Senior Pastor?” I want to be thinking and working on behalf of my successor. I want to make sure that when I’m gone systems are in place that are not pastor dependent. That a clear vision is established which is owned by the membership of the church and not just in the heart of the leader, a vision though that is based on principles that should be universal and embraced by all Seventh-day Adventist ministers, thus flexible to the ideas of the new leader. As leaders I think it is our responsibility to think about the well being of our churches not just when we are here but after we are gone as well. We need to think about our colleagues that will come after us and what we are leaving behind. So this is a goal we’ll be working towards.

Sabbath School: Sabbath School, you know that time that is the least attended activity at church (in North America)…oh wait sorry, that is the prayer meeting, the second least attended activity at church (how depressing and pathetic both those realities are!), it has been a burden on my heart recently. The scriptures say this, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman who needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15. This text of course has been applied almost exclusively to the idea of personal Bible study, and personal Bible study is very important! But as I was taught in Seminary and as I have read in Christian literature, most of what was learned and understood Biblically in the Biblical era was not done in isolation! In fact Jesus when He was a boy in the temple was participating in a Bible study. A discussion on the scriptures, questions asked, answered, leading to more questions (“Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.” Luke 2:46, 47). We don’t do enough of this anymore! Sabbath School is a venue in which this should be done. I’ve also been convicted about this based on the reality of where the Seventh-day Adventist Church is growing significantly in the world. As I’ve had privilege to do a little traveling, what I have observed is that Sabbath School is well attended in the countries where our church is really thriving, in fact in some of these places Sabbath School attendance is higher than church attendance. Our Sabbath Schools in the United States may not look like theirs overseas, but the principle I believe still can be applied. Good things happen when folk get together to study the Word of God, emphasis on together, and the sermon time does not count, that is one person who has studied sharing with others what he or she studied, upon which most will go home and still not study it out for themselves to see if he or she was accurate in their studies. We need Sabbath School and I have a desire to see it thrive in my churches (The Ark & Visalia SDA). I’m not sure how yet, but this will be a focus!

Lost Sheep: I’ve heard it said that if we reclaimed all those that have simply stopped associating with the Adventist church our membership would be double in the United States. Here is the sad truth if we reclaimed those that just don’t attend, then our attendance would be double for sure (yep only 50% actually much less on average of the Seventh-day Adventist Church membership attend church from week to week). Here is something Jesus said, “These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying:

“Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” –Matthew 10:5-7.

We know that Jesus had a passion for the Gentiles, we know that He had a special plan for reaching them (read the book of Acts), but I also see in scripture that Jesus had a special burden in His heart for those that were raised in the truth, had known the truth, and yet were not walking with Jesus. I haven’t, in fact I still struggle with this burden, but I want to be like Jesus and I feel that I should have a deeper commitment to reaching this group of folk, “the lost sheep of Israel” aka former or inactive Adventists. This will be a special focus for us in the years ahead. We have already seen some success in this area without being intentional about it, I want us to be intentional and see what happens!

Getting beyond 10%: You may have heard the statistic, 20% of the people do 80% of the work. The new reality in churches is that 10% of the people do 100% of the work. We must help folk to understand that one of the privileges of membership is responsibility! I don’t find a single story in all of scripture about a true disciple of Jesus that went to church once a week and then went home, had lunch, took a nap, did yard work on Sunday, went to their paying job during the week, clean the house Friday, and back to church Sabbath and considered this an acceptable pattern for a follower of Jesus. There is not a story in scripture that even remotely follows that pattern, then why on earth do so many of our members find this type of Christianity acceptable blows my mind! Yes that is a rebuke to any that may be reading this and saying, “hey that sounds like me.” Jesus said very clearly, we are to feed the hungry, care for the sick, visit the imprisoned, shelter the homeless. He also said we are to “GO” and witness. Paul said that we are all members of one body, and just as one body has many parts we are all separate parts to the same body and that a part is not actually part of the body if it is not functioning. And James said, that if our faith doesn’t display itself in actual works for the Lord then we really don’t have any faith. And in the book of Revelation the folk that are the marturos–witnesses. I want to know exactly how many of our members are actually serving Jesus in a proactive intentional way and then I want to grow each year on that 10% or so that it is and see lives saved and thus the church grow!

Small Groups: This is different than Sabbath School, though part of this can occur at Sabbath School time. But if we’re going to get bigger then we must simultaneously get smaller or more connected, this will only happen through Small Groups. The book of Acts is very clear, there were two aspects of the early Christian Church “house to house” gatherings and larger “temple” (corporate) gatherings (Acts 2:46). Ellen White wrote this,

“The formation of small companies as a basis of Christian effort is a plan that has been presented before me by One who cannot err. If there is a large number in the church, let the members be formed into small companies, to work not only for the church members but for unbelievers also.” (Evangelism p. 115).

A church will grow if the members are split into small groups to worship and serve together. I have yet to see a thriving small group ministry in a Seventh-day Adventist church. If you are reading this and you are in an Adventist church with a “thriving” small group ministry, please contact me! But we will continue to work at it. I believe there is plenty of evidence Small Groups are Biblical!

I am sure there are a million more things we could work on, but if this is my last year in Visalia (which I pray it is not) this is the direction I pray God will get us moving in.

Thanks for taking the time read these three blog posts. I pray that they have been beneficial to you and that you will be able to apply for sure the principles and possibly even some of the specifics that we have been focused on here in Visalia.

Remember The Church is the Body of Christ which means if your church is lifeless, if it isn’t growing, it isn’t functioning, it isn’t reaching the lost, and loving on everyone, well then it is not really the church and it is definitely not the body of Christ. But don’t despair make a decision now to see that begin to change. Even if you are the only one in your church that is committed to see your church become the Body of Christ again, Jesus will honor your commitment and work with you to bring that desire into reality!

Keep praying, keep studying, keep serving. May Jesus be glorified through the Seventh-day Adventist family!

Our Growth Part 2

If you did not read yesterdays post, I would encourage you to go and do so now. Yesterday, I shared with y’all some reasons I believe our church was put in a position to grow over the past five years. I didn’t get too detailed but tried to stay broad enough so that individuals could apply the principles to their own church as needed.

In today’s post I want to share with you the reasons why I believe we didn’t grow MORE. Yep, we had tremendous growth for an English speaking Adventist church in North America, but was there something left on the table? I’m convicted that there was. So here is the underbelly of our church; I pray this post will help y’all to avoid some of our same pitfalls or maybe to be honest with yourselves about where your church is lacking in order that things may be changed and Jesus may be glorified.

Why We Didn’t Grow More:

Prayer! Yep, that is right prayer! I said yesterday that our emphasis on prayer was the primary factor regarding our church growth. How then can prayer also be something that kept us from growing? Well, prayer didn’t keep us from growing, more accurately a lack of prayer I believe kept us from growing. Our prayer ministries has expanded in tremendous ways over the last five years. We’ve moved from a handful of prayer warriors to 70+ prayer warriors. Yet, it still seems like we are so far from where God wants us to be. Read this quote from Ellen White:

As a church, we have received great light. This light the Lord has entrusted to us for the benefit and blessing of the world. To us has been given the ministry of reconciliation. With power from on high we are to beseech men to be reconciled to God. We are encouraged to pray for success, with the divine assurance that our prayers will be heard and answered. “If two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of My Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:19, 20). “Ask of Me, and I will answer your requests.” The promise is made on condition that the united prayers of the church are offered, and in answer to these prayers there may be expected a power greater than that which comes in answer to private prayer. The power given will be proportionate to the unity of the members and their love for God and for one another.—Letter 32, 1903, p. 5.

Mrs. White is writing about the growth of The Seventh-day Adventist Church and she says, “The promise is made on condition that the united prayers of the church are offered, and in answer to these prayers there may be expected a power greater than that which comes in answer to private prayer.” This past year I have had the privilege to do ministry on both sides of our country, in the summer I was in New York City and in the fall I was in Hawaii. While visiting both of these places I attended churches that I have read about and heard about…non-Adventist churches. In New York I went to prayer meeting at The Brooklyn Tabernacle, in Hawaii, I attended New Hope. What impresses me so much about both of these churches is their commitment to prayer…not the leadership talking about it, not books being read about prayer, the people actually coming together to pray. While Christina and I were there on the island there was a major issue taking place and New Hope called a prayer meeting…THOUSANDS showed up to pray. In Brooklyn I arrived early, were the stories true? Do people really come out to prayer meeting early just to pray? Yes they do, hundreds and hundreds of people were there starting at 5 p.m. to pray, even though the actual prayer meeting doesn’t start ’till 7 p.m.. I don’t agree with what these two churches teach on several points, I didn’t love the worship style at either, though I was blessed by both, but I would not dare to denigrate their growth because I saw with my own two eyes memberships that were committed to prayer…not the few…the majority. Could it be God is blessing these churches walking in some errors because they are “united in prayer”? I trust what Mrs. White wrote & believe our church would have grown more if the majority, not the minority of our membership were united in prayer!

 

Staff Transitions. When good staff leave, even if those transitions were necessary in some way there is going to be a time of unsettlement within the church. As I stated in my previous post I was blessed the moment I arrived at Visalia to work with people extremely gifted in their areas of ministry. But as is often the case there are differences with transition of leadership and sometimes those differences can not be reconciled. Well we went through that in back to back years and it caused some unease within our church. Which is an absolutely normal response. We saw over the second year of transition our only down year in local giving (this year we’ve recouped what we were behind last year and increased local giving by more than $100,000). We had another transition this past Spring, but that was due to a relocation and transitions like that seem to be much more readily accepted. This probably isn’t one that anyone can necessarily avoid. Staff transitions are a part of life within and without of the church, the previous administration shared with me that in his time as Senior Pastor two individuals that had been here prior to him transitioned out under his leadership, and I’m sure when God decides to move me on there will be other transitions in regards to our team then as well. For the purposes of this blog I would say that in times of transition growth may slow, but don’t panic! Stay the course, be faithful, God will see you through.

 

Our growth. That is right I believe our growth stifled our growth. Let me give you three examples of how I saw our growth stifle growth. First, we were not equipped to handle some of the growth that occurred and thus rather than having opportunities in place for these new people to immediately begin evangelizing their friends and family…they sat and in some cases their enthusiasm waned. This was a leadership failure that we have tried to rectify in our most recent wave of growth. Second, our members became content. There was a time when a large percentage of our members were inviting friends and family to attend our church on a regular basis. I think when we grew & became crowded folk no longer saw “the need” and their evangelistic fervor began to dissipate. Third, we didn’t adjust quickly enough. You may have heard of the 80% rule, if your parking lot or sanctuary is 80% full then growth will be stifled. At the peak of our early growth (we are picking-up momentum again) we didn’t make room for the people quickly enough. We eventually started a second campus & a second service but we did it all, especially the second service about a year too late! Our hesitancy caused our growth to sputter. Y’all if you’re growing and your room is filling-up don’t get scared of the naysayers, ACT quickly and decisively.

 

Sin. Sin has prevented us from growing more in the last five years than we should have. And I won’t point the finger anywhere else on this one as I don’t know anyone else’s heart but my own. I have come to firmly believe that the sins of leader effect the corporate body. Now I’m not talking about occasional misdeed here and there, I’m talking about cherishing pride. Holding resentment & bitterness in ones heart. Neglecting personal private time with God in prayer and Bible study. Not having enough faith in the vision God has placed on my heart. Laziness. Fear. Over the course of the last five years I have gone through stages of these areas, and while I am not consciously aware of these sins influencing my decisions or limiting growth, based on my knowledge of scripture I believe they all have at times. Leaders your church can’t grow unless you’re growing in your relationship and love for Jesus!

 

Facilities. I already mentioned above the 80% percent rule, Dr. Russell Burrill writes that in the Adventist Church this rule is not just limited to sanctuary seating & parking space, but also to Sabbath School space, especially within the Children’s departments. Well we have more than exceeded the 80% rule. It used to just be our Cradle Roll and Kindergarten classes that were packed to the gills, but now Cradle Roll through youth is full, we have even run out of room for conducive adult studies. If Dr. Burrill’s statement is accurate, which I assume it is as it was based on research, then our growth has been stunted a little from that every single year.

 

A lack of volunteers. We have great volunteers, some of the most amazing people I have ever had the opportunity to serve with, a huge reason for our growth over these years. But we don’t have 100% or even 80% or even 50% of our members volunteering; I would say we are more around 33% of our members regularly volunteering or giving at least 1 hour in a month (it should be 1 hour a week to really thrive). I think this is a fairly simple truth: if you want your church to grow get more people serving! That is easier said then done, at some point it has to be a member standing-up and saying, “here I am Lord send me!” Service to the Lord is a heart thing and since each member is a part of the Body of Christ, if the heart (the members hearts) is not pumping out blood (actively, regularly serving) the body will not operate at maximum efficiency. Most our churches are not operating at maximum efficiency! With each member that gets involved the church has a little better shot of increasing its growth. I’m sure that this is one area that minimizes the growth of every church, because I know of NO church where 100% of the members are involved in service to Jesus. We must not accept this though, we must be committed to the ideal; continuing to struggle, urging, and even pleading when necessary for more help from the laity.

 

These are the reasons I believe over the last five years we have not grown more. I pray that the points made in this blog will help you as you help to put your church in a position to receive the Lord’s blessing of growth! Tomorrow I’ll be posting on what specific things we plan to look at in the years ahead to continue and exceed our current growth.

 

Thanks for reading and please share with your friends and pastors if you think it will be a blessing to them!

 

 

 

 

They Hear Your Words, But They Do Not Put Them Into Practice

Could there be any more depressing of text to the heart of a preacher than Ezekiel 33:30-32?

“As for you, son of man, your people are talking together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, saying to each other, ‘Come and hear the message that has come from the Lord.’ 31 My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to hear your words, but they do not put them into practice. Their mouths speak of love, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. 32 Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice.” –Ezekiel 33:30-32

One of the most painful things for myself and I am sure other pastors as well, is to observe folk that “like” our sermons but don’t take them beyond the walls of the church. Ezekiel in this text is told that the downfall of the people of Israel is in part due to the fact that they listen to the words of God but fail to put them into practice. How many of our churches are struggling, how many of our homes are falling apart, how many lives are personally crumbling because of the very same reality in our day?  In fact this is such a key point of the text that God tells Ezekiel this twice,

“My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to hear your words, but they do not put them into practice.” 

Then again…

“Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice.

What an indictment of the church in North America! What an indictment of the Laodicean Church in North American!

But wait pastor, before we agree to quickly!

Something that is even more disappointing and indicting is this: I think there are actually pastors that preach expecting people to hear their words, but never put them into practice. There are pastors that prepare like they are just filling time. Pastors that study like they have nothing new to learn. Pastors that pray for habit not for conviction. Pastors that step into pulpits each week because it is their job, rather than their Divine calling.

As a preacher I want to say to all congregants, and hopefully this is true of your pastor as well:

  • I don’t want you to “like” my sermons. I want you to apply them.
  • I don’t want my sermons to generate accolades, I want them to generate life change.
  • I don’t want you to remember the funny, I want you to remember the Biblical.
  • I don’t want you to follow me, I want you to follow Jesus.

If we are, if I am preaching sermons that are only worth a surface level appreciation, if I am preaching sermons that are only worth a pat on the back, if I am preaching sermons that only entertain & do not take you to the Bible then tell me/us so that I/we can change.

The church in North America is dying…not a slow death…a rapid death! We are falling like Israel! In part because, “They Hear Your Words, But They Do Not Put Them Into Practice!”

Congregants be accountable–say, “Enough is enough! I will not pass through another sermon, another Sabbath, another worship service unchanged, without application to my life.”

Pastors be accountable–say, “Enough is enough! We will not prepare one more message, preach one more sermon, teach one more lesson without the expectation of life change amongst God’s flock.”

Enough is enough for all of us!

 

Elder Ted Wilson: Unwilling To Sit On the Sidelines

So I am currently in New York City for NY13 the worldwide thrust of the Seventh-day Adventist Church to reach New York City. I have to admit I came here with some skepticism, not sure what I would be doing or why I am here. But I came, because I was asked and I felt it an honor to be requested to represent the North American Division in this initiative, so here I am.

And I have been taking mental notes some good some not so good…

A good I have observed is our evangelistic speaker for these meetings, Elder Ted Wilson.

What I am so impressed with, as are so many others, he is fully engaged in this initiative!

Something I keep hearing over and over again from people that have been serving the Adventist Church a lot longer than I have is, “Isn’t it great to see a General Conference President preaching and leading a full campaign!” People that have served in the General Conference offices for a number of years are expressing their appreciation of Elder Wilson not just casting the vision, but actually helping to carry out the vision of reaching New York. As one GC official said, “He could do what has been done,  set the vision and say ‘now go do it.’ But he is actually out there with us.”

What I am seeing is that Elder Wilson isn’t content to sit on the sidelines, he is passionate about reaching New York City. He is not going to tell others to follow the counsel of Ellen White to minister to this the most diverse city in the world, without also doing it himself. He isn’t just someone that goes around and talks about what should be done and the ministries that should be done he is actually doing those ministries and doing very tangible things to make those ministries a success!

Unwilling to sit on the sidelines.

He, and his wife Nancy, are even attending the classes for the Field School daily. He said, “I have a lot to learn.” So he is at each class learning.

As I watch Elder Wilson, I think back to the last time we were at some meetings together. A very different environment. The Pacific Union Special Constituency Session on the bylaw changes regarding the ordination of women within that Union.

That day as I once again was observing our General Conference leader, I was disappointed that he was there. It wasn’t because I have a different point of view on the topic and disliked that he disagrees with me, (I’m actually one of those folk that thinks its okay to disagree and state it with conviction trusting that we can both still love Jesus) I was disappointed because I felt that it wasn’t a very presidential move of him to be there when the whole world knew that he would get voted down. It felt to me like a very unsound move politically.

But as I think about Elder Wilson’s presence here at this event I think I understand more and actually now respect his presence at the former event.

Here is what I am concluding: If Elder Ted Wilson is passionate about something, if he is convicted about something, he is not the type to just sit on the sidelines and let everyone else do the work.

He was/is convicted on his position regarding women’s ordination. He is convicted on his position regarding reaching New York City…

…In both instances he acted on his conviction.

Unwilling to sit on the sidelines.

I don’t believe it is fair of me to affirm one and renounce the other.

I admire, I appreciate, I trust a leader…

…who stands for his convictions no matter how politically painful it may be to take on Union that has clearly stated their views.

….who preaches a full evangelistic campaign just like the rest of us pastors do, no matter how exhausting it may be.

I admire, I appreciate, I trust Elder Ted Wilson…

…not because we share all points of view in common.

…because I know his convictions by his actions.

He is a man unwiling to sit on the sidelines.

And that is a leader I can follow!

October’s Top Posts:

Here are the top ten for the month of October. If you haven’t read/watched have a look now. Be blessed and share with a friend!

  1. Faster Pastor Episode #2 Unity in Diversity with a full month to run and the little pick-up from the blogs Spectrum & Advindicate moves up from #4 to #1.
  2. The Ordained Women Pastors of China made me cry both times I watched it!
  3. Daily Disappointment a little piece I wrote as I reflected on the great disappointment of 1844
  4. Pastor Dwight Nelson’s Sermon “A Mighty Throng of Women: A Second Look at Male Headship” our third video is #4 this month.
  5. Donkeys, Elephants, & a Lesson Learned at Chick-Fil-A last months top post remained in the top ten this month.
  6. What U2, Bon Jovi, & AC/DC Teach Us About Church I wrote this blog more than a year ago, but my readership was much less then and so I reposted it this month & I guess enough folk hadn’t read it so it made it back into my top 10.
  7. Introducing Speiro Media Ministries thankful for the many that have supported this endeavor and praying many more will jump in!
  8. I Love Dayton one of my favorite blogs I have ever written. Probaly because of the deep nostalgia associated with this city and great love I have for Ohio/the people of Ohio and all they did for me in my life!
  9. Faster Pastor Episode #3: Training Journal Apps. This one is all about running.
  10. The Pink Slip another blog I wrote almost 2 years ago that I re-released brings up the tail of the top 10 posts for the month of October.

 

Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive

I recently listened to the book “Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive” by Patrick Lencioni. I have previously read, “Death by Meeting” and “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” both books by Lencioni and both books I would highly recommend.  Once again, Lencioni doesn’t disappoint!  “Four Obsessions” is an excellent book and here is a quick summary of the Obsessions, to find out how to implement them get this book.

 

  1. Build and Maintain a Cohesive Leadership Team: A cohesive team trusts one another, engages in constructive conflict, commits to group decisions and holds one another accountable. Lencioni emphasized that one of the best ways to build this team is to have the culture setter/vision setter of the organization (in a business a CEO in a church the Senior Pastor) do thorough interviews of all top management and staff.  And that this individual would then have final say in hiring.  Within a church structure this would probably look like the Senior or Lead Pastor interviewing and deciding on other staff, and also Elders or other key leaders of the church.  This process would then trickle down from there, since at every level this interview process would take place with the overseers of each ministry area examining things based on the culture and vision that has been put forward. Lencioni also here talked about really knowing people on the staff. Not just information, but their personality triggers as well. I.e. the Meyers-Briggs test.
  2. Create Organizational Clarity: Healthy organizations clarify topics such as identity, core values, strategies/process, goals and roles & responsibilities. In thinking of a church it is amazing how many people have a different picture of what the church is. If 10 people have 10 different views regarding the identity of the church then there will be 10 different directions the church is working.  In the same way if there are 10 people with 10 different ultimate goals then focus is split amongst the team and growth is not achieved because each person is working toward their own goal and not for a cooperative goal and direction.
  3. Over Communicate Organizational Clarity: Healthy organizations align their employees by repetitively and comprehensively communicating all aspects of organizational clarity.  The question is can every single volunteer and staff member clearly express the organizational clarity above?  Identity? Core Values? Strategies/Process? Goals? Their role & responsibilities?  And for a church since we are a family can our members then repeat the same clarity? Lencioni wrote that in communicating, “you should feel like you’re beating a dead horse.”  In other words just because you think you’ve been clear, you really haven’t.
  4. Reinforce Organizational Clarity Through Human Systems: Organizations sustain their health by establishing simple structures around the way they make decisions, evaluate job candidates, manage performance, and reward employees. This one is the most important in mainting the other three. Everyone is reviewed quarterly.  Turning in a report of 1 page with four questions: “What did you accomplish?” “What will you accomplish next?” “How can you improve?” “Are you embracing the values?” I have to admit I love this one…in fact I love all four obsessions!

As I listened to the book it was very clear that these were not just obsessions, in fact a better word I believe would be “DISCIPLINES!” It takes discipline to operate in this way.  It takes discipline to transition into this format.  It takes discipline to stand up for a system like this that doesn’t accept status quo or people giving less than their best. It takes discipline to follow through. It takes discipline to not compromise because you “like” someone or are their “friend.”  Of course being a disciple is in part to have a disciplined life. 

I see definite areas where I as a leader need to grow in all four of the disciplines!  And where I need to challenge the team we have here at Visalia Seventh-day Adventist to rise to this level. God is the best, He gave us His best in Jesus, and He deserves our best!