The Temptation to Fabricate or Exaggerate Numbers

I recently discovered that a favorite blog of mine had some artificially inflated numbers…I don’t know the author personally…and the name doesn’t matter…it’s still just as awesome a blog as ever…so I’ll keep reading…but the numbers presented aren’t the real numbers…

I discovered it by accident…I wasn’t looking for it, but there it was…something I thought was true…Based on what I had been told, I thought the blog did better than it really does…wasn’t true…

I was disheartened…saddened…confused…

Then I remembered that it’s a common temptation…one I have faced many times…still do…

Let’s admit……the world is tough…it’s competitive…and it seems that only the strong survive…

Numbers matter…right or wrong we tend to believe they indicate success…prestige…they can even indicate financial rewards…

Whether it’s in the number of sales…blog hits…or total number of pancakes eaten…we tend to think the higher the number the better…

The fabrication of numbers also happens in the church world…there is a temptation to expand numbers to impress people…to feel better about one’s self as a pastor or ministry leader…

When it comes to numbers…you’ve most likely been tempted to:

Make up…add to…exaggerate…stretch the truth…

It’s natural to be tempted…

What you and I do with the temptation says a lot about our character….

Did you need to read this post? It was a good reminder for me…

What are some ways you’ve seen numbers exaggerated or inflated?

Christmas at Grace Resource List

Looking for ways to make the spirit of Christmas come alive for your family? The staff at Grace Community Church recommends these resources and this reading plan. Enjoy a very Merry Christmas and allow some of these tools to help you keep the reason for the season fresh in your minds and homes. Thanks to Lifechurch.tv for help with the reading plan.

If you need a printable format, here is a Christmas at Grace Resources 2

Bring Your Old Bible to Church for ReWord Day

We are recycling Bibles this Sunday at Grace Community Church. Recently during a staff retreat we were thinking of ways to encourage Bible reading. We realized as we were talking that many of us in the room have many Bibles that we never use. Not having one could never be a good excuse for the church staff not to read the Bible. The more we talked, the more we recognized that there were probably others in our church with multiple Bibles they no longer use. At the same time, we are always conscious of people in our church and community who have no Bibles.

What was the solution? Have a ReWord Bible Day! This Sunday we are encouraging everyone who has one to bring in an extra Bible…the one on the book shelf, in the night stand, or in the trunk of your car. (I have one there.) We will then get them to people who need a Bible. We love the thoughts of someone reading the Bible someone else has already read.

Do you have an extra Bible (or two) laying around your house? What are you going to do with it?

When God Speaks: Answers from the Book of Job

We recently ended a series looking at the Biblical character of Job. I preached three times in this series, at the beginning and the two messages at the end of the series. Job is a complex, hard to understand book, because it forces us to wrestle with the struggles of the world. The dilemma Job faced was one we all face. How could a good, loving, all powerful God allow suffering as He does? Why doesn’t He provide us with more answers? At times, and I mean this with all due respect, God seems distant, hard to understand.

If you missed the other two sermons I shared, you can hear them HERE and HERE or watch them HERE and HERE.

This is the conclusion to the Job series.

We try each week to choose which of the three services works best. Due to recording difficulties, we captured video in one service and audio in another. Personally preferred the audio message, so you can listen to that one HERE.

7 Ways Fraternity Life Shaped Me For Ministry (Guest Post)

Recently I had the opportunity to meet with a group of my Sigma Chi fraternity brothers from college.  Some of them I have seen, but not really connected with in twenty years.  It was fun, good to remember old times, and reminded me that they had made positive impacts on my life.  I was a crazy college student sometimes, but the experience has since been used for good many times.

Right after that hang out time, I Tweeted that I should write a post about what I learned in my fraternity days that helped prepare me for ministry. I got lots of reaction, but one in particular appeared to be it’s own post. I decided to make it a guest post by the author.

Ky Bishop is currently Pastor Of Ministries at Woodlands Church in Houston Texas where Kerry Shook is Senior Pastor. He’s been married 25 years to Terri and they have 3 sons ranging from 16 to 20 years of age. Ky lists his fraternity experience as Delta Tau Delta – UTA – 81

Here are 7 ways Ky’s fraternity experience prepared him for ministry:

Don’t make a god out of the organization – It was easy to get caught up in the politics of Fraternity life; organizationally, administratively, etc., and forget that the most significant contribution to your experience were the people you met and built relationships with. The same can happen in church life.

Trust your first impressions and intuition – Listen to that “Still Small Voice” inside when it comes to making friendships and inviting them into your journey. There are a lot of  “Well Intentioned Dragons” out there.

Relational intimacy percolates slowly – Just like good coffee, the best relationships are brewed properly. Instant coffee and instant relationships might be satisfying for a moment, but the heart burn is sure to come.

Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable – The high level of testosterone in any Frat gathering can lead to disingenuous activity. However, Jesus’ greatest work was done when he humbled himself.

Engage your brain before you engage your tongue – It is easy to get in a spit fight over non-essential matters, however, the one who keeps his cool is the one who wins.

Maintain accountability – Many a lone wolf has gone out on his own only to find himself caught in the trap. The wise Pastor will always share his inner darkness with a trusted confidant.

Intoxication, immaturity and ignorance need to “be controlled” not “in control” – Those three speak for themselves in relationship to Fraternity ways. In relation to the ministry it is easy to become intoxicated with the latest fad, fancy or fetish and allow our immaturity and ignorance to rule. However, when we keep in mind that it is His Kingdom, not ours, that is being built, we will “wait upon Him”.

Thanks Ky.  I couldn’t have said it any better.

What about you?  What would you add to Ky’s list?  Were you in a fraternity or sorority in college? Give your fraternal organization a shout out and share one way it prepared (or didn’t prepare) you for life.

Great Leaders Don’t Take Opportunities Just Because They Can

Part of being a good leader is not taking opportunities even though you can. Sometimes letting your staff do something you could do, maybe even would like to do, is a better for the entire team.

When we launched our church eleven couples took a risk on a dream we felt God was leading us to pursue.  We empowered this core team to do things the way they felt best doing them, as long as they were achieving the vision we knew God was calling us to achieve.  We encouraged them to explore new ideas, become experts in their field of interest, and then released them to dream and build.  It became part of our DNA and we are still allowing people to explore new opportunities.

For example, we had ideas of what we wanted our children’s ministry to look like.  We could have even scripted it for them, but we knew that the best energies would be invested when those doing the ministry actually created the ministry. Almost five years later, there are parts of our children’s ministry I am clueless to how they are done.  Today there are new creative leaders in children’s ministry and they have implemented even more changes, but God has blessed their efforts dramatically, far beyond what we could have commanded them to do.

One of the greatest things a leader can do sometimes is to let go of the right to control.  Good leaders are willing to take a risk on other peoples ideas, knowing that in doing so, others will be more likely to take a risk on their ideas and organizational strength will be enhanced.  If you want to encourage risk-taking, dreaming, creativity and innovation, then you must be willing to empower others with opportunities you can control.

Leader, what opportunity are you currently taking that you need to release the control of to others on your team?

Have you served under a leader who was always taking the best opportunities?

7 Funniest Verses in the Bible (Plus One)

I have often chuckled when I’ve read the following verses. I’m not trying to be irreverent and hope this is not offensive, but sometimes I read the stories in the Bible and I see the humanity of people. I can hear myself making some of these statements. It brings a smile to my face and I can’t help but laugh.

Here are 7 of the funniest verses I have read in Scripture:

Matthew 15:12 Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?” (They sounded like a group who didn’t know Jesus very well at this point.)

1 Samuel 1:8 Elkanah her husband would say to her, “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?” (I can’t believe he was dumb enough to say it…actually yes I can…but he evidently said it multiple times.)

Luke 12:13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” (Imagine you get an audience with Jesus…you’ve got your one chance…He’s been teaching not to worry…what do you ask Him?)

Mark 9:28 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet and he stood up. (The disciples had tried everything they knew how to do…except prayer. Some things are just not possible apart from God’s hand upon the situation.)

Mark 9:34 But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. (The humanity…they knew Jesus wouldn’t be pleased, but they couldn’t help but compare.)

Esther 1:20 Then when the king’s edict is proclaimed throughout all his vast realm, all the women will respect their husbands, from the least to the greatest. (How has that law worked so far?)

Exodus 16:14 When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor.(And we are told elsewhere they were honey flavored. Frosted Flakes were the first cereal! They’rrre Greeaatt!)

And the bonus one:
Exodus 16:36 (An omer is one-tenth of an ephah.) (You’ve got to love a clear explanation!)

Which do you think is funny? Can you think of any you would you add to the list?

When I Say I and When I Say We

I was talking with someone the other day about my early experience with church planting before anyone was on our team.  As I told my personal story, I kept using words such as “our” and “we”.  Towards the middle of the conversation the person stopped me and asked, “Who’s ‘we’?”  I was talking about me the whole time, (although I usually just answer my wife and I) but I confused him with my verbiage.  I wasn’t trying to be confusing.  It’s just a habit I’ve formed.  I have come to realize over the years that a team vocabulary is a large part of encouraging healthy teams.  I love teams and team-building so much that I’ve disciplined myself to always talk in a collective sense.

I cringe when I hear leaders use the words “I”, “me, and “my” when referring to their team, their church or organization.  To me it always sounds so controlling, prideful, and even arrogant.  As an example, Ben Reed is our small groups pastor at Grace Community Church.  He’s an amazing leader.  I would give anything to have been where he is at his age when I was that same age.  When I refer to him, I don’t say “He’s my small groups guy”.  He’s not!  He’s our small groups guy.  I don’t want to portray to him or others that I control him. I want the perception to be that “we” together are part of a team effort.  I would be limiting his potential if I refer to him in a possessive sense.

I understand it may seem to just be semantics, but to me it’s an important issue for leaders to think through, perhaps bigger than to whom some give credence.  If we truly want to create a team environment, then we must develop team vocabularies.

There are a few times when I use the personal words, such as:

  • When offering a pointed direction… “I am asking you to do this for the team…”
  • When offering an opinion that may not be shared by others…  ”I think we should…”
  • When asking a question or stirring discussion… “I wonder if we could…”

When I am speaking on behalf of the team or referring to team members, I try to use a collective term…My advice is to default to words like “we” and “our” whenever possible…even if people have to ask you who the “we” is to whom you are referring. The more we talk like a team the more our environments will feel like a team.

What do you think?  Have you had a leader who abused team vocabulary as described?  Do you need to change the way you say things?

Two Negative Extremes of Leadership

The two extremes of leadership I see that drive me crazy are the controlling leader and the hands off leader.

Have you noticed these extremes of leadership?

Most leaders tend to lean towards one or the other extreme. I’ve even seen some leaders who live in one of the two extremes, sometimes alternating between the two. They never learn the healthy balance between the two.

Effective leadership requires a little of each extreme.  It requires a careful selection of elements of control and elements of release.  Good leaders are willing to wrestle through the difficulties and continually practice to achieve the right amount of each.

Have you seen these two extremes in leaders?

Which of these extremes do you lean towards to the most?

How do you strike a healthy balance?