Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Mistakes and Learning from Jesus

I hope you make mistakes, learn from them, and strive to lead like Jesus.

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” —Winston Churchill (1874–1965).

I recently read a blog from one of my favorite companies called Bonobos. Bonobos is a US company that manufactures great pants and polos (the standard in dress for me). Andy Dunn, the CEO of Bonobos, recently blogged about two mistakes the company plans to make only once. They over-advertised and over-promoted the product. He vowed to only make those mistakes once.

What a great challenge - Learn from mistakes (don't stop there) and take action.

Thomas Edison was interviewed by a young reporter who boldly asked Edison if he felt like a failure. Perplexed, Edison replied, "Young man, why would I feel like a failure? And why would I ever give up? I now know definitively over 9,000 ways that an electric light bulb will not work. Success is almost in my grasp." And shortly after that, and over 10,000 attempts, Edison invented the light bulb.

Seth Godin, a thought-leader maverick, bolstered this point by writing, "the problem is that you can't have good ideas unless you're willing to generate a lot of bad ones."

I struggle with failure. I hate it. I never like loosing any game whether it's Candyland or football. Consequently, I do not attempt something if I fear that I will fail. One attitude that has transformed my anxiety is called self-differentiation. Self-differentiation enables a person to not become entangled with the anxious reaction usually accompanied by a failure (or loss). Here is a short essay on the concept and how it applies to church leadership.

John Maxwell in his book Failing Forward said, "When you fall down, pick up something [learn a lesson from the failure] while you are down there."

Here are the mistakes from 2009 that I plan only making once.

1. Heed the warning label. In January, I was prescribed Transderm Scop as a precaution for motion sickness before traveling in Israel. The warning read, "Some patients report dizziness after using patch for more than 3 days." I wore the patch for 14 days (insert laughter). And although I did not get sick in Israel, I was dizzy for two weeks after the trip. The lesson learned is to heed the warning label on prescriptions. Warning signs are important.

2. Be yourself and allow people to see you grow. Do you try to prove you are better than you are? I do. When we serve that constant pressure to prove to somebody that we are a good leader or a spiritual person or an able writer, then the spotlight is on us. That same pressure also sets us up to try too hard, get in the flesh, and do dumb things. Worst of all, it keeps us leading out of our insecurities instead of true humility. The lesson learned is about daily growth and authenticity.

3. Fail. I did not ask enough questions in 2009. I only gave only obvious solutions to problems.

It is easy to associate personal feelings with your questions or suggestions. Stop living under the self imposed pressure that you should have all the answers to every problem. Share the responsibility with someone you trust.

Jesus told his self-conscious, poor, and doubting apostles that just as the Father sent him so he sends them into the world (Jn 17:18; 20:21). Jesus entrusted them with greatest of all commissions (Matt. 28). Supposedly, I am to Lead like Jesus. I am learning. At times however, I cannot entrust people beyond menial office tasks. Jesus challenges and stretches me to not self-promote and self-protect, which are the leading motivations dominating most leadership landscapes.

There is a better way to lead. Whether you are a single mom parenting your child, a navy soldier overseeing a cadre, a friend who is risking image to befriend another not in your circle, or a teacher stimulating the minds of eight graders, Jesus' way of leadership is servanthood.

I hope you make mistakes, learn from them, and strive to lead like Jesus.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Embracing a Maverick - "You can be my wing man anytime."

I have some trepidation with writing anything on the topic of leadership because I rarely feel that I have anything to say. However, something formative happens when topics that have been studied become tangible experiences. For example, a friend of mine was recently accused of an action contrary to their character. The effect of being falsely accused renewed their conviction of careful speech especially in regards to ones character.

Over the years in church leadership, I have worked with several mavericks (although I haven't worked with John McCain). The word maverick is defined by Wikipedia as “an unbranded range animal”, “One who does not abide by rules” or “one who creates or uses unconventional and/or controversial ideas or practices”. The word originates from Samuel Maverick who was considered independent minded after he refused to brand his cattle in the tradition fashion.

Mid-pack mavericks, who are typically not the senior leaders and lead from the middle of the organizational flow chart, often cause friction with other more passive leaders. Mavericks can cause friction in any organization because of their outlaw ideas which challenge the status quo. Some display the "challenge the status quo" badge proudly for all to see and recognize. If a maverick is unaware or immature, their style could result in termination or worse - isolation. Other mavericks demonstrate health and balance; knowing when to challenge and when to suspend their thought-style of leadership.

I wonder if some leaders (like me) do to mavericks what zoos do to animals. We cage the maverick until he or she is broken of their will to lead. Let me first admit that I am guilty of marginalizing mavericks and not embracing them. However, I have come to realize that mavericks are a gift to organization. You need them. Ask yourself, have I made it impossible for bright go-getters to live within the organization?

The humorous thing to me is that I have never known a maverick who needed to be convinced that he or she has something to offer their organization. Mavericks (how should say it) do not struggle for opinions. Mavericks often struggle with insecurity like most people. This means that their passion is not often pure but tainted with anger or a fear of being treated as insignificant. A good hard look in the mirror at our own faults will result in a deeper understand of humanity and has led me to embrace those with different styles of leadership. A good leader does not have to be the smartest, the most creative, or a necessarily a maverick. A good leader is involved with something they believe in. A good leader paints a picture of what could happen and goes there. When I reread the previous sentence, how can anyone not understand why a maverick is valuable to an organization.

"When we become too preoccupied with policy, procedure, and the fine-tuning of conformity to organizational standards, in effect, we have squeezed out some of our most gifted people.” – Hans Finzel, “The Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make

Mavericks are essential in every organization. Giving them the accountability, encouragement and opportunity to contribute makes all the difference.

Accountability - Mavericks need honest leaders and friends. Leaders must thoughtfully set boundaries for mavericks like who makes the final decision, when it is appropriate to challenge (i.e. all meetings are not equal opportunities), and the process for expressing their thoughts. It is helpful to utilize the "dead dog" parenting technique which says, "never tell a child (or maverick) to do something a 'dead dog' could do." For example, it is not empowering to say, "don't challenge our decision." If a dead dog can obey your guidance then you are not leading effectively.

The thought-leader maverick has responsibilities as well. First, it is necessary for the maverick to care not just for their ideas but for the goals of the organization. Second, mavericks need to earn the right to be heard. For example, mavericks should qualify their thoughts with phrases like "I'm not an expert" or "I'm new here" if either their expertise or expereince is limited. Finally, I believe it is important for mavericks to be good listeners. Being a successful listener requires attention to the speaker and asking great questions.

Encouragement - First, put them in charge of something they can really own and measure achievement. Second, listen to their ideas and give them time to grow. Finally, stoke their mind's creativity with spontaneity. For example, let them work on their own if they wish or assign a vital research and development project to them accomplish.

Whether you are dealing with a "maverick" or a "goose" (sorry for the Top Gun lingo), lead by respecting others and treat them the way you yourself would like to be treated.

Philo of Alexandria said "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle."

Jesus of Nazareth said, "In everything, therefore, treat people that same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets."

I hope as encouragement and accountability work in tandem in your leadership, it will help you as it has helped me. Of course, leadership is a journey through which we learn about ourselves and see the full capacity of the human soul at work. Keep learning. Stay humble. Look Upward to Jesus.


When God Goes to Starbucks

When God Goes to Starbucks: A Guide to Everyday Apologetics

Paul Copan recently wrote a great book on apologetics.

More than ever, tough questions from friends and neighbors naturally arise in relaxed conversations. In the relationships that I’m nurturing with seekers, more often than not, I end up having conversations about faith in neutral non-threatening locations. It is outside of the church building when tough questions are posed. Many of these emerge as slogans we are all familiar with:

Aren't people born gay?

When is lying biblically acceptable?

Aren't the Bible's holy wars just like Islamic Jihad?

Paul Copan, a professor of philosophy and ethics at Palm Beach Atlantic University, has provided a resource for answering questions like these in a casual way. He offers readers solid and caring responses to these concerns. Each chapter provides a biblical stance with exemplary thoroughness and points for countering the questions believers are faced with today. He expertly unmasks the problematic "personal autonomy" philosophy that makes "sweeping relativistic claims, but then tacks on absolute, inviolable standards at the end." Copan's skillful approach to apologetics provides ample information on hot-topic themes, but some readers may not be up to the challenge of slowly digesting his thought-provoking, weighty explanations.

Copan realizes that it isn't about winning an argument. And all of this is to be done with gentleness and respect. Personally, I appreciated his emphasis in the introduction, "And when we are talking with people in pain or when people just want to tell their stories, we should be quick to listen and slow to speak (10-11).

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Great thoughts of the week!!!

I have compiled a short list of some great thoughts I've stumbled through this week. I have read, heard, felt, and experienced all of them somehow or another...

- Successful organizations spend a lot of time saying, "that's not what we do." "That's not what we do," is the backbone of strategy, it determines who you are and where you're going. Except when opportunities come along. Except when people in the organization forget to ask, "why?" If the only reason you don't do something is because you never did, that's not a good reason. - Seth Godin

- Here's a rule that's so inevitable that it's almost a law: As an organization grows and succeeds, it sows the seeds of its own demise by getting boring. With more to lose and more people to lose it, meetings and policies become more about avoiding risk than providing joy.

- “Though expressed in a variety of behaviors,” Tim Irwin writes, “leaders fail because a lack of failure of one of these four critical qualities” (p. 17):

  1. Authenticity
  2. Self-management
  3. Humility
  4. Courage

- For critical thinkers: Let our minds be focused on the creative and on the constructive above the critical and corrective.

Monday, November 2, 2009

What I wish I knew BEFORE my first marathon!

What I wish I knew BEFORE my first marathon!

I completed the Bass Pro Marathon in 5:30:00 on November 1. Here is a course map.

The best advice I got was at the start line. I was standing next to an older gent and I was nervous as you can imagine. I asked how many marathons he had done up to this point. He replied, “6." Really, “Is this your first?” Yes, my first one. He said these words, “I wish I was you.”

The point he made was to savor the run as much as possible because there is that moment at 20 miles or 22 where you tread new territory that your body has not gone before.

One thing the marathon does is give you plenty of time alone with your thoughts. I stopped to think about my journey from being a couch potato to running in the marathon. I got on to thinking about my inspiration for all this and it all comes back to my beloved wife. None of this would have happened without her gentle unwavering support. I owe her big time.

Now on to the things I learned that no one explicitly told me:
1. Vaseline is your friend.
Use it any place that creates friction (e.g. toes, nipples, arches, stomach, butt, inside legs, etc.)

2. Don't cheat the training.
Find a plan and stick to it. I ran two 18's and one 20 miler. I needed one more 20 miler. In addition, the surface you train on matters. I trained mainly on crushed limestone. The marathon course was almost completely on asphalt.

3. Run easy but stay on pace.
Determine a conservative goal and stick to the pace.

4. Meet new people along the way.
It helps to engage other people in the same boat as you. Plus the encouragement helps pass the time.

5. And last---if both your quads cramp up and feel like someone is pounding nails into both of them at mile 20, walk it off and finish the race. Forget it about the time. Some people race to compete and some race to complete. I completed the race.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Two of Springfield's Finest People

Today was the Gift of Time Award Banquet at the Oasis Ramada Convention Center in Springfield. This city-wide banquet was sponsored by several local agencies including the Springfield Chamber of Commerce.

Out of 70 nominees, ten Springfield residents were named recipients of the Gift of Time Award for their volunteerism. Two of those ten awards went to Central Assembly members—Bruce Snavely and Judi Murphy! (Dar Matrone was also one of the 70 nominees as well; way to go, Dar!)

We are so proud of them…and the teams they represent (Oil Change, Adopt-a-Block, Food Pantry). Bruce and Judi will be in an upcoming issue of 417 Magazine.

They each represent all the servant-hearted, outreach-oriented people at Central Assembly so well. We’re very proud of Dar, Bruce and Judi! Bruce was on a much-deserved vacation this week, so Karla McHaffie received his award on his behalf. Karla leads the women’s interaction team at the Oil Change Ministry. Thanks, Karla!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Warm Fuzzy!

A Central Bible College student, Ian Bradley, sent me this picture today from room 330 in Welch. Obviously from the picture, you'll see that was my room. Needless to say I got a warm fuzzy.

Over 10 years later I pray this prayer still today, "Jesus with skin on is all I desire to be."


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Chase the Goose

As we come to Pentecost Sunday, I'm reminded how His strength does not come from something in ourselves. If we long to be used, God will give us the power. Celtic Christians had a name for the Holy Spirit–An Geadh-Glas, or ‘the Wild Goose.’ (Thanks Mark Batterson...www.chasethegoose.com). The Goose certainly hints at the mystery and the excitement of living a Spirit led life.

I love how author Henry Nouwen puts it in Bread for the Journey.

When we speak about the Holy Spirit, we speak about the breath of God, breathing in us. The Greek word for "spirit" is pneuma, which means "breath." We are seldom aware of our breathing. It is so essential for life that we only think about it when something is wrong with it.

The Spirit of God is like our breath. God's spirit is more intimate to us than we are to ourselves. We might not often be aware of it, but without it we cannot live a "spiritual life." It is the Holy Spirit of God who prays in us, who offers us the gifts of love, forgiveness, kindness, goodness, gentleness, peace, and joy. It is the Holy Spirit who offers us the life that death cannot destroy. Let us always pray: "Come, Holy Spirit, come."

Monday, May 18, 2009

Celebrating 10 years

I called a travel agent for the first time and said, "I need a special trip." Daisy and I are celebrating ten years of marriage in a few weeks. The special trip ended up being a vacation in sunny San Diego. This picture is from our dinner cruise the last night before returning to Springfield. I was amazed and what a little rest and relaxation will do for a relationship...and did I mention the absence of two little children.

Below are a few of the most important nuggets of truth that I have learned/acquired over 10 years:

1. It's alright to ask "is this person is right for me" until you exchange vows. Then the question should change to "how can I be the right person for them." - Jim Bradford

2. Spend at least as much time intentionally planning objectives and memorable moments for your family as you do for your ministry. - Jeanne Mayo

3. Get a marriage coach and listen! - Experience

Love you Daisy and may God 10 more just like the first 10!
- M

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Teamwork makes my golf dream work!

Going to play golf for AGTS. I'm not much of a golfer but we shot -5 for the day.

The last time I played was last year. I was not looking forward to seeing my own game this tournament. And at the end of the day, I didn't play the course, the course played me. I only had 4 shots that we used including a putt! Painful memory!

Having said that, I love best ball tournaments because they compensate for my weaknesses in driving, chipping, and putting. And you gotta love all monies going to a great school!

Time to Tee Off. Keep it in the short grass.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Daily Decisions and My Desk

In this most recent season, I have been working hard on several fronts. My desk has become the location of many prayers, much studying, and creative communications.

I've probably spent too much time behind the screen but I realize that this season requires it from me. This season has caused me to focus on a few statements everyday. These statements are important for me because too much hangs in the balance this year not to follow them – for God’s glory and for the sake of those who need us at our best.

1. Put your best energies into your most important relationships;

2. Put your best resources into your highest priorities;

3. Put your best attitudes into your deepest disappointments.

- Mike

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tough Transitions

Just wrote a blog about the leadership transition which Central is going through now. Check out the full blog here.

In summary though:
“What should a church accomplish during a leadership transition?”

1. Lean in to God

2. Missionally Focused

3. Servant Minded

4. Dependent upon the Holy Spirit

Spirit of God, I open my heart to you this day. Come and do in me and Central Assembly that greatest of your works — to reveal Christ’s reality and person to me and our world. Answer in me what Paul prayed: “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” (Ephesians 1:17).

Friday, March 13, 2009

A Long Trip

After watching two sunrises from our plane, Kyle, Steve, and I are so happy to finally be on the ground for the first leg of our mission. Our first two days in Sri Lanka will be filled with shooting video footage for upcoming conventions and meeting with missionary Dwight Dobson. It’s Saturday morning here in Sri Lanka. We will be leaving Sri Lanka Sunday evening (Sunday morning for you) and returning to Bangalore, India. Starting Monday we will teach 3 classes a day for 5 days straight. We feel quite safe and our trip is starting well. Thanks for your prayers for us.

Monday, March 2, 2009

High School Dating Revisioned

Sunday night Daisy and I participated on a dating panel where high schoolers were allowed to ask whatever question they wanted on dating. Here are some highlights from the panel:

High School Dating Goals: 1) get someone hot 2) get intimate 3) dont be controlled

All of the above goals were dumb.

I got asked the question, "is dating is a sin?"

I do not believe that dating is sinful, I view dating in a similar light as I view fast-food restaurants--it's not wrong to eat there, but something far better is available. There is a better way of romance, a way that might spare many heartaches and regrets. Dating (1) leads to intimacy but not to commitment; (2) skips the "friendship" stage of a relationship; (3) mistakes a physical relationship for love; (4) sometimes distracts from the responsibility of preparing for the future; and (5) creates an artificial environment for evaluating another person's character.

"So how should we date," said one student.

To begin with, we must stop abusing the word love. Our meaning is far below God's, yet it is His blessing we want and his best we pursue. Understanding what God calls love is our first step.

Dont cheat!

- If a young man (or young lady) is not prepared to seriously consider a lifelong commitment, he is better off to avoid monopolizing another person's affections and isolating himself from other valuable friendships.

- Finding the right life partner is a matter of working to become the right life partner, trusting God to cover the "who" and "when" issues.

- IT'S POSSIBLE TO KNOW ALL THE RULES AND STILL NOT KNOW GOD AND FAIL. Your relationship with Christ always will and should be the most important relationship you have.

Thank you to Fusion Students and the leadership who make learning fun!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Reflections from Israel and the Holy Land

I have recently returned from a two week trip in Israel and the Holy Land. It is sort of funny because I actually spent two weeks in Israel and a week on the sofa here in Springfield after wicked reaction to some medicine I took while in Israel (side-note: never wear those patches for motion sickness called transderm-scop patches). At least I had that extra week to to reflect on Israel.

Of course many things stand out but one I keep pondering is our stay in the region of the Sea (lake) of Galilee. From the Church of the Beatitudes looking southwest over the Plain of Genessaret, the Sea or Lake of Galilee becomes wonderfully visible.

The "V" in the line of hills in the center of the image are the Arbel Cliffs that are situated in Galilee. These act as a wind tunnel which would cause intense storms to suddenly arise on the Sea. The road to Nazareth also ran past these mountains.

The Church from which this picture was taken preserves the memory of Jesus’ "Sermon on the Mount" (Matthew 5–7) which was close to the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Words cannot describe the beauty of the Sun setting and the rainbow which appeared while we floated quietly of the Sea of Galilee.

As we floated, I reflected on this location because it is where Jesus gave the greatest sermon on living a life according to Kingdom principles. Going to Israel will enrich my life in many ways as a teacher and leader. However, my prayer has been that it help enrich my life as a follower of Christ. I remind myself frequently how what I do (ministry) must never replace my first priority as a follower of Christ. My trip to Israel help me realize that Scriptures happened in a real world and to real people. It also reminded me how Jesus and the disciples were physically fit (they had to be to walk all those miles all the time). I'll start training for the marathon in a few months. Yea baby!!!

Peace in the Middle East