A Lesson In Grace/Building a Legacy of Grace

Bear with me through a little Bible pilgrimage to illustrate a point about grace.

A man named Boaz displayed grace as the kinsman redeemer of a widow named Ruth.
So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. Then he went to her, and the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. (Ruth 4:13)

Boaz became the great-grandfather of a man named David.
Salmon the father of Boaz, Boaz the father of Obed, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David. (Ruth 4:21-22)

David displayed grace to a man named Mephibosheth.
David asked, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” (2 Samuel 9:1)

Of course, the lineage continued to Jesus, the author of grace.
(Matthew 1:1-17)

I wonder if all those human examples of grace started here:
Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab (Matthew 1:5)

Do you remember Rahab?
Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. “Go, look over the land,” he said, “especially Jericho.” So they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there. (Joshua 2:1)

Here is my conclusion:
Rahab, the prostitute, received grace from the Israelites. Boaz was raised in grace because he had a mother who knew it firsthand. David was a man of grace, because it was in his heritage.

Here is my challenge to me:
I have been given much grace in my life, from God and others.  If I pass it on to others will I establish a legacy of grace in the generations to follow me?

Here is my challenge to you:
What legacy of grace will you leave?

Bill Gates Dumps Facebook

D23318-3I thought this was an interesting post from Mashable.  Apparently Bill Gates actually had his own Facebook account and tried to be real “friends” with people.  When he couldn’t keep up, he dumped his account. Read the story HERE.

I’m actually impressed that he would try.  At least he doesn’t hire someone to be friends with his friends.

That makes me wonder, do famous people like this have close friends?  Do you think it would be hard if you were Bill Gates to trust why people wanted to be your friend?

Come on Bill, I’ll be your friend!  For free. You seem like an alright guy…a bit geeky maybe, but in a completely good kind of way.

Is Social Media Ruining Culture and What To Do About It?

As an avid user of social media in my work, people seem to enjoy sending me negative articles on the rise of social networking and its negative impact on our culture.  Yesterday I posted similar thoughts with an encouragement to develop a personal social media policy.  Read that post HERE.

The critics of social media claim:

  • Social media promotes the person and only builds another’s ego
  • Wastes time
  • Is not real ministry or work

I am reminded that everything good can be misused.   The key in using social media, in my opinion, is finding the right balance.  Here are a few suggestions I recommend:

  1. Have a purpose for social media.  It could be fun, business, or both, but know why you are using it.
  2. Limit to 2 or 3 mediums at most. I use Twitter, Facebook, and my blog.
  3. Learn enough about the medium to use it effectively.
  4. Discipline yourself so the practice does not control you.
  5. Figure out how to simplify.  Use tools such as Tweetdeck, synchronizing various mediums, etc.

Social media is a part of modern culture.  If the church or business ignores the world of social networking it will ignore a major portion of its target market.

Developing a Personal Social Media Policy

iStock_000009648196XSmallMost businesses are being forced to think through and add a social media policy to their human resource policies.  The rise of Facebook, Twitter and other social networking choices means the workplace is being impacted greatly by social media.  Individuals represent their organization even during their personal time and that needs to be considered in employee management.

At Grace Community Church we are adding a policy this fall, but I suspect ours will be less strict than some businesses I have seen are considering.  We actually see a huge benefit from our people being involved in social media, especially at a personal level. It is still important that our staff represent the church and Kingdom well, so I think it is important that a person develop his or her own social media policy.  Having a personal social media policy builds accountability, structure, discipline and purpose into the time spent social networking.

Here are a few of the things I have in my own social media policy:

Determine why I am participating in social media
– A person could choose to participate for fun, networking, businesses or marketing, but for me personally my end goal is Kingdom-building.

Decide in what social mediums I will participate – The fact is there are more choices than there is time available to do them all. I have chosen to limit my time to Facebook, Twitter, and my blog.  Right now these seem to have the best impact on accomplishing my purpose, but if that changes I plan to change with the culture.

Learn about my choices – I do not have to be an expert in my three mediums, but I need to know enough about them to be effective at accomplishing my purpose for being involved with them. .  Occasionally I have to learn new techniques to keep up with these mediums.

Organize my time on the front end – I have learned to connect my Twitter to Facebook, so that I actually spend little time on Facebook. I use Tweetdeck to organize the Twitter followers I learn from the most.  I automate Tweets for times I am unavailable.  It is important that I keep my time manageable for effectiveness in accomplishing my purpose.

Discipline myself to follow my own plan - I have to continually remind myself of my purpose and not allow social media to control my time.  I use it instead to help me control my overall purpose in ministry.

Do you have a personal social media policy? How does yours differ from mine?

A Pet Peeve About Customer Service

This post will allow me an outlet to express my frustration at the rude customer service I had in a local business recently.  It was very obvious the employee did not want to be at work that day, nor did it appear he or she wanted me as his or her customer. (I am trying to protect the identity.) Thankfully I held my composure, I am not naming names, and I protected my witness. I even prayed for the employee as I left.  It reminds me though of an important principle of customer service.

One rule of customer services that is also a pet peeve of mine is that when one is in a role of providing service to others, he or she must put their game face on before he or she shows up to work.  I posted a blog recently about a restaurant that can be inflexible.  You can read that HERE. If a waiter or waitress here is having a bad day you will most likely know about it, but you will continue to frequent the restaurant. (I must say, however, that I have yet to experience bad customer service here, but they could and I would keep coming back.)

For most of us though, we need better customer service than this.  We must train our employees and volunteers to represent the organization well by putting on a smile, leaving personal problems at home, and being ready to assist our customers or clients with a welcoming attitude.

I understand all of us have bad days and our organization (church) is especially one place hurting people should feel welcome, regardless of their ability to smile that day, but serving in a front-line position in any organization represents the organization’s vision, character and reputation to the community at-large.  That is too important to not do it well.  If an employee or volunteer’s emotional state keeps them from at least providing reasonable, friendly service, the person should consider excusing themselves from responsibilities that day.

Thanks.  I feel better.  What is your pet peeve about customer service?

One Secret To Our Success At Grace Community Church

theGbwI had a great conversation with one of our original core members this morning as he stopped in to say hello.  We were reminiscing about the first four years at Grace Community Church.  Our anniversary is in September.  God has continued to amaze us with His presence.  Last Sunday we had a 43% increase in attendance over the same day in July last year.  Wow!

I think my friend nailed one of the reasons for our growth.  He told me he had a bad experience in his last church and because of that was anxious to begin a new work where drama, tradition, committees, and anything that hindered reaching people for Christ was kept to a minimum.   He also told me that before he started he had told his wife, “Honey, we got to make this church work, because if it doesn’t, we don’t have anywhere else to go.”

After a good laugh-out-loud moment, we concluded that he was onto something.  Everyone in our original core knew what it was like to feel like an outsider, to wonder if there was something more to the church experience, or to have struggles in life that seemed unbearable.  We knew how it felt to hurt and we were ready to build a church for other hurting people or people who wanted more from their church experience; people with whom we could easily identify. We still attract similar people today…and we love them when they come!  (When we were planting I called it a “holy discontent”, but then Bill Hybels wrote a book by that same name.  Good book too.)

Thank you God for life’s struggles that can be used to make us better and help us reach others that struggle with life.

Developing Your Personal Leadership Style

I write a lot about leadership principles.  The bookshelves are full of leadership books.  There are wonderful principles about leadership that can help a person be a better leader.  I would encourage every leader or aspiring leader to continually learn from great leaders and attempt to develop and grow their leadership skills.

One principle of leadership that must be understood, however, is that every leader must develop his or her individual leadership style.  All leaders need to have a style that is unique to them.

Leaders should not use individuality as an excuse for inadequacy and excellence should be a standard for all leaders. There are key leadership principles, especially Biblical principles that no leader can ignore, but the goal should never be to carbon copy another person’s leadership style.  Just as every individual is unique in his or her personality, every leader will have uniqueness in his or her leadership style.  Great leaders figure out the style that works best for them to produce the greatest results.

Have you been trying to be someone else with your leadership style?

How I Prepare a Sermon Message

I frequently get asked the same two questions about my message preparation:

How long does it take?

An average message takes about 20 to 25 hours from start to finish. I am a slow processor and I like to sit with things in my heart and mind a while before I put them on paper.

How do you go about putting a message together?

Most of my messages are birthed the same way.

  • Need: We plan series months in advance based on the perceived or realized needs of our people or the directions we sense God wants us to take the church.
  • Bottom-line Idea: I need to land on what the central point of the message is before I can go much further with the message.  Hopefully this happens weeks before the week I’m crafting the message.
  • Notes: After I know where I am headed I begin to keep notes on paper, on my computer, on my iPhone, and in scrap pieces of paper in my car or on my desk. These could be Scriptures, illustrations, or thoughts about the central idea.
  • All notes are eventually transferred to my Evernote file.
  • Study: I begin to study passages surrounding the theme/bottom-line I feel God is leading me towards.
  • Passage:  Preferably a week or two before the message is written I land on the passage of Scripture I feel God is leading me to use.
  • Study: I spend more extensive time studying the specific passage I am using in my message.
  • Point of Desperation:  Usually the week I am writing the message nothing I have written so far seems to make sense any more.  I almost always reach a frustrating point where I am forced to cry out to God for help breaking through the mental and spiritual blockage.  (I wonder if this is God-designed?)
  • Breakthrough:  God always seems to provide the breakthrough I need to move forward towards a completed message.  Sometimes it takes longer than I would like, but He always provides.
  • Outline:  I begin to outline my message with the 1)Opening Illustrations, 2)Scripture or Bible Story,  3)Closing Applications and Challenge
  • Script:  I am a manuscript guy, so the week of my message I write out the majority of what I plan to say on Sunday morning.

Of course, this whole process needs to be bathed in prayer and Holy Spirit directed, which means I need to spend quantity and quality time alone with God if the message is to be meaningful.

Pastors, how does this differ from the way you put together a message?

I Am A Teacher, Not a Know-It-All

899171_16345967I am a teacher, but I am not without flaw.

One common misunderstanding is that those who teach principles are perfect at implementing those same principles in their life.  Hopefully before someone agrees to teach on a subject they have a certain “expertise” in the area he or she teaches, whether by education or experience, but it is probably false to believe he or she is perfect in every area they claim expertise.  Obviously teachers are to be held to a higher standard (James 3:1), but just because someone teaches does not make them perfect at the subject they teach.

For example, I teach some principles I do not yet live out fully and perfectly.

  • I teach on marriage, but my marriage is a continual work in progress.
  • I teach on parenting, but each new age creates a new learning curve for me.
  • I teach on leadership, but I still have so much to learn about the subject.
  • I teach the Bible, but there are those I teach who know some passages better than me.

I believe and aspire to the principles I teach, and I do have education and experience in each area, but I am still very much a work in progress.

Do not make the mistake of believing that just because someone teaches good principles that they are fully implementing them in their life.  Hopefully they are attempting to, but you may be disappointed if you look for perfection from the teacher.

What qualities do you look for in a teacher?

Communicating the Personal Vision Within My Head

One of the greatest challenges I feel the pressure of regularly is putting the big picture vision I own in my head into an easy to understand, explainable format for people who do not live the vision of our church 24 hours a day and 7 days a week as I do.  This is what God has called me to do, but others have their own calling and responsibilities in life.

It is hard for those we lead to get inside our head, but if we want to earn and keep trust and credibility in our leadership, then we must learn to share broad visions in terms, which can easily be understood.

I realize that is precisely the idea behind vision and mission statements, but even those are broad statements.  There are plenty of resources for communicating the overall organization’s vision.  I am referring to the dreams I am currently dreaming and the specific goals and objectives that we want to attempt as an organization.   In order to share my heart for the more detailed levels of our ministry requires more diligence in communicating on my part. Many leaders assume others are following, but later realize their followers never fully understood the personal vision of the leader.

This is a work in progress for me, but here are my current thoughts of what I must do to continually communicate my personal vision for the church:

  • Communicate regularly
  • Use different communication techniques and mediums for different listening types
  • Use language, which is understandable to the audience
  • Do not assume others know what I am talking about…they may not
  • Speak openly and transparently

Does anyone else understand this challenge?  Do you struggle with this too?

What other suggestions do you have for me in sharing my heart with those around me?