Andy Stanley & Craig Groeschel – Together – Catalyst One Day

AS: Leaning into what your strengths are means you have to give stuff away.  How has what you do or don't do changed over the years?

CG: I really believe that the more effective you want to become as a leader, the fewer things you do.  In the early years, I was the only staff member, so I did everything.  It was the greatest day when someone else cared if the toilet overflowed.

I wanted to do everything and kept my hands in it.  For example, we were the campus pastors at the pastors we preached at for too long.  People kept trying to free me up until finally I listened.

If I ask you about your church or organization and you can tell me everything, you're probably leading ineffectively.

AS: Someone asked me what my most important leadership lesson is.  Recognizing my strengths and delegating my weaknesses.  I wish I had done that earlier.  I think there was a lot of guilt there.  If I don't want to take out the trash, no one should take it out.  But when I learned to delegate what I didn't like and wasn't good at.

I used to do all of our small group training because I wanted to get it started right because it was central to what we did.  There is something to putting your time into those central place.

The hardest thing for me was giving up the senior pastor of our largest campus pastor role.

CG: It's not that we're not leading, we're leading through people, and that's even harder.

AS: Then you become the custodian of culture.  You're not doing a lot, but you pay attention to where things are going wrong.

CG: And you might sense those problems before someone else does.

AS: But I can't go in and re-own the responsibility.  I'll go to one of our churches and something will bother me.  I'll go to the senior leader and ask if something bothered him.  If it bothers him, then it doesn't have to bother me.  But if it doesn't bother him, if I think it's a four and everyone else thinks its an 8, then I have to do some retooling and some re-vision cast.

CG: How has your week changed?

AS: As your church grows and your family changes stage, you have to change your schedule.

I used to preach 2-3 times on Sunday and at 1 of our evening services.  I generally take Monday off.  I might start back in on Monday afternoon.  Tuesday is staff meetings all day.  It's almost 100% staff.  I used to have lots of lunches, I don't do that.  I exercise M, W, F.  That's important.  Our health is part of our ministry.  If you're the point leader, your physical health is part of our ministry. Wednesday is nothing but a study day.  Thursday is a study day.  Friday is the day I will schedule time I want to spend time with, elders, friends, a few people who want to meet.  Saturday, my brain is starting to lean into speaking.  We have never done anything on Saturday night for 20 years if I'm preaching on Sunday.

CG: I've been to counseling two different times for being a workaholic. I've found a managable schedule now.  It changes with the

Saturday, all day soccer games and kids stuff, 1-2 services saturday night, so I get to the church by 2:30 . Saturday is family night at the church, so my whole family comes.  The family parties on while I preach. I want them to associate being at church having a lot of fun.

I usually preach on Sundays twice, but if I like the video on Saturday night, I'll let it run on Sunday.

I have two set meetings on Mondays.  I do all of the paperwork and everything with my assistant on Monday, and then I shift into sermon prep on Monday afternoon.

Tuesday is full on message prep all day.

By Wednesday I'm finishing up the message and I go into do our videos, and every week I go in and do a bunch of videos for campuses, churches, etc.

Every day I try to leave by 3:45 to go to the gym.  Ministry is never, ever done, so if I put an artificial barrier on my day, it forces me to be efficient.  I believe I get more done.  I'm home by 5:15 every night.

Thursday is the day I meet with whomever I want to.

Friday is usually my day off.

We meet Monday mornings with our key leaders, and we meet with our board or key leaders as needed throughout the year.

That's the template, so people ask, "When are you a pastor?" This guy ended his life, and I called his wife.  There was a guy struggling with his marriage.

You can't get too big to just pastor people.

AS: I primarily pastor my staff.  We probably feel the weight to pastor a similar amount of people as a single site, single congregation pastor.  It's just that we have larger staff.

CG: I was raised that the church come first, but I've found that I have to keep myself spiritually healthy and my marriage healthy.

AS: I used to ask Sandra every now and again, just, "How am I doing?"

CG: I ask Amy all of the time, "What are the three things I do that are the biggest blessing to you?  What are the three things I do that could use work?"


Andy Stanley – Creating a Healthy Organizational Culture – Catalyst One Day

Churches don't divide because of theology. They divide because systems get out of whack.

Every organization has a culture. A culture is a set of unwritten rules that determine how an organization runs, the values, practices, etc.

The longer you are there, the less aware you are of your organization's culture.  If you work with a healthy, clearly defined culture, then you know how energizing it can be.

If you've ever worked for an unhealthy culture, you know how draining it is.

These 5 statements are the framework for everything we're going to talk about today. 5 indisputable truths about organizational culture.

  1. Leaders shape organizational culture whether they intend to or not.
    1. If you have have been at your current church for two years or less, you can still remember when you came to that church, and you walked in and you began to pick up on the personality of that church, and there were things you liked or didn't like.  You were aware of how your predecessor shaped the organizational culture.
    2. But if you've been there 5 years or more, those are your problems.
    3. Every leader is doing something intentionally or unintentionally to shape the organizational culture.
    4. If you love the organizational culture of your church, then your number 1 goal is to figure out why it has become what it has become, because if you don't know why it's working when it's working, you won't know what's not working when it breaks.
    5. If you hate your organizational culture, then you need to go home and look in the mirror, because you create your culture.
  2. Time in erodes awareness of.
    1. There are things in your house that don't look good, but you don't see them.  If I came to your house I could point them out.
    2. The longer you are anywhere, the less aware of it you are.
    3. You need to build into your structure the information that comes with fresh eyes and fresh ears.
    4. I tell our new staff, "In three months, you're going to get an email from my office with a set of questions.  We're not evaluating you.  You're evaluating us.  In a year, you're going to get another email.  Because you see the problems."  We ask these questions trying to see the insight that comes with fresh eyes.
    5. When there's a problem in the organization, there are three levels of blame:
      1. Someone
      2. Human nature
      3. Systems - This is often the problem.  If you are not aware of the culture you are shaping, you will try to make personnel changes that aren't needed.
  3. Healthy cultures attract and keep healthy people.
    Don't you love healthy people?  They're secure.  They have ideas but can hear no.  They're not always looking for more vacation time.  Unhealthy people are a drain on your staff.  I'm not saying they're not going to Heaven, you just don't want them on your staff.  Have a ministry, don't hire a ministry.  Unhealthy people wither and die in a healthy organization.  People won't gossip with them.  When they're critical, people will ask what's wrong with them.
  4. The culture of an organization impacts the long term productivity of an organization.
    1. This hasn't really been studied, but recently people have tried to take the squishy things and begun to measure them.  Because business people, pastors, want things they can measure.  So is it really worth it to create a productive culture?
    2. Yes.  Healthy people love to lean into the future instead of dwelling on the past.  Healthy people are problem solvers not problem creators.  You'll do more with less resources.
    3. We're going to talk about goals.  We're going to have push back.  You are a corporation.  You are an organization, so you should be organized.
    4. When your systems begin to break down, you're less healthy.
  5. Unhealthy cultures are slow to adapt to change.
    1. Unealthy cultures turn their back to the community and face each other... to gripe, moan, and infight.
    2. Healthy cultures turn their back to each other and face the community to be on mission, and they'll do anything they need to do to accomplish the mission.
    3. We need to have nimble organizations committed to the vision and mission, rather than doing things the way we've always done.


Creating and re-creating corporate culture rarely feels urgent.  Besides, you can't fix it with a meeting, a memo, or a mandate.  It's a bit like trying to pick up Jell-O or win an argument with your teenage daughter.  One keeps slipping away.  The other keeps changing the subject. For leaders, working on culture feels like going backwards.  Why can't people just do their jobs and get along?  The truth is, the good people in your organization want to do exactly that.  They want to do their jobs and get along with the people they work with. While tinkering with your organization's culture is not glamorous, it is mission-critical.

Catalyst 2011 Highlights

In our staff meeting this week, the National Community Church team reviewed some of our personal highlights from Catalyst 2011: Be Present. There's some good stuff in here that I thought was worth sharing. Most of these are my paraphrase of someone else's paraphrase of a speaker.

  • Being present often means being broken before God with and for people.
  • Coupling “Jesus is sufficient” with fear.
  • Are you welcoming people into your church the way you would welcome them into your home?
  • Confidence in who God has created me to be and what He has created me to do.
  • It’s okay not to be typical. -Bob Goff
  • Are we really seeking God’s presence or are we seeking his hand? -Francis Chan
  • The best I’m going to be is a redeemed sinner. -Cornel West
  • Jesus’ prayers were heard because of his reverence for God. -Francis Chan
  • Katie Davis is a child herself but is a mother of fourteen. Her faith is simple yet so profound. She loves her Jesus and follows as she goes.
  • Being present means dwelling with Him. -Francis Chan
  • Opportunity is attracted to excellence. -Dave Ramsey
  • Nothing is moved unless it’s shoved. -Dave Ramsey
  • Pay attention to the people who are willing to pour out what they have. -Andy Stanley
  • The never-ending line of people in need is not a problem to solve but a tension to manage. -Andy Stanley
  • You can’t be there for everyone, but go long with the people the Lord puts on your heart.  -Andy Stanley
  • It’s almost like there’s a thin place every year at Catalyst where the Holy Spirit is present and at work.
  • Inconsistency yields mediocrity. -Jim Collins
  • Define your 20 miles. -Jim Collins
  • Don’t be alone when you’re doing anything. -Andy Stanley
  • When is the last time you’ve wept for the people in your life who are hurting?
  • Know when to stop and when to push forward. -Jim Collins
  • Even though some mercy ministries aren’t completely merciful, sometimes it’s more convenient to do them anyway. Be truly merciful even when it’s inconvenient. -Robert Lupton
  • Interruptions are divine interventions. -Priscilla Shirer
  • Call out of people what you want to see in them. Call out of your ministry what you want to see in it. -Priscilla Shirer
  • Innovation and creativity are nothing without discipline. God created the world in all of its facets over a period of time. -Jim Collins
  • We have the fullness of God’s glory revealed to us through Christ, and we still don’t think it’s enough.  Moses did so much, and he only got to see the backside of God. -Judah Smith
  • If brokenness and humility don’t have a place in our worship, God won’t have a place in our worship. -David Platt

Thanks to Mike, Steph, Chris, Juliet, Jennifer, Sarah, Matt, Andy, Heather, Christina, Jeremy, Joel, Dave, Maegan, Amanda, Amanda, Emily, Jason, and Kurtis for sharing their hearts and to Pastor Mark for opening up the dialogue.

Hope you found these helpful.  If you want to take a look at what the speakers said, I've got notes from the main sessions and labs.

Andy Stanley at Catalyst (Session 2)

I think this is one of the most important things as it relates to leadership, especially as it relates to church leadership. And it’s overlooked because it’s intimidating. And the younger you are the more intimidating it is to you.

It’s something that the last generation of Church leaders and maybe the current generation of Church leader hasn’t done very well./Je

The Church is the hope of the world.

Pop Quiz

Luke 5 – How did Matthew get to be one of Jesus’ disciples? Jesus selected him.

Luke 6 – Jesus calls his disciples to him and chooses the apostles. So how did the rest of them get to be apostles? Jesus selected them.

Some of you would be tempted to say, “That’s not fair.” But I think Jesus would have said, “That’s not fair.”

If we’re not careful, we’re going to make the same mistake the previous generation did.

I want to talk about the word apprenticing.

We started North Point Church several years ago, and we spent hours and hours and hours talking about what the values of our church would be. We asked what our strategy would be for developing leaders.

The single focused strategy for developing leaders in our congregation is “intentional apprenticing.”

You can be an accidental apprentice, but our whole leadership strategy was going to be intentional apprenticing.

  1. Defining terms.
    1. Apprenticing: Selecting, modeling, and coaching for the purpose of replacing yourself.
      It is that first word we have the most problem with.
    2. It seems unfair. And even among the 12 there were the three, and there had to be times when they said, that’s not fair.

    3. The New Testament Term is discipleship.
  2. Jesus’ Approach
    1. He began with succession in mind.
      We wait too long. We think “I’m 25, I can’t think about apprenticing.” And then we’re 35 then 45, then 65, and we’re tired.
    2. He handpicked those to whom he would entrust his ministry. He didn’t ask for volunteers.
      We think in terms of classes and training. He didn’t think in terms of volunteers at this level. Obviously there’s a place for that, but there has to come a point where we decide there are people we will spend more time with.
    3. He rarely did ministry alone. But…
    4. He gave his disciples opportunities to do ministry alone while he was still around to debrief.

      Jesus decided he wanted to be around to see it work without him. Even if you started the church, you’re not going to be around forever. Someday, someone is going to take your place, your job. Most people say, “No, I’m not going to be around.”

      That’s a perfectly good answer in the marketplace, but not in the church. If Jesus did it, I think that’s something we should pay attention to.

      Churches almost always ignore this principle. W’ere too busy to apprentice. We’re too insecure to apprentice. And when you’re young, you think the people who are younger than you are too young to do what you do.

      And we completely miss the idea of handing off what was handed to us in better shape than it was handed to us.

      We do lots of training. We do lots of leadership training, but this is different. This is, “I want you, and you and you, and I don’t want the rest of you.”

      This is not a talk about succession planning. Jesus picked his successors. He only had three years, and he was the son of God. I’m not finding the next person to have your actual job. I’m talking about being intentional about pouring into the leaders coming along behind you.

      At every point along the way, if you are a professional church person, your responsibility and my responsibility is to look behind us and point to specific people and pour into them, not because some day they will have my job but because at some point they will be in a similar place.

  3. But Removal

    1. But I’m not an expert.

      This is what kills apprenticing. If you wait until you feel like you’re an expert, you will never, ever do this.

      If you ever get to a point you feel thoroughly equipped, you’re arrogant. Leaders are constantly learning, and if you’re constantly learning, you’re always aware of what you don’t know. There’s something on the inside of you that says you are not ready.

      1. You will never, never, never feel like you are adequately prepared to apprentice another leader.

        Which means if you are in this room and feel that way, you are prepared. If you wait until you feel like you’re ready, you will never, ever do it.

      2. You are not responsible for the following
        1. Knowing everything there is to know about your field.
        2. Knowing more than everybody else in your field.

        This is where we get hung up.

        This is what the current generation hasn’t done for some of you.

      3. You are responsible for passing along what you know to somebody else.

        Your responsibility is to empty your cup. We think our responsibility is to fill someone else’s cup. You’re not that good.

    2. But what will I do?

      If they become as good as I am or better than I am (which is actually the goal), what am I going to do?

      1. In a healthy organization, if you replace yourself, you will always have a place.

        Do you know how it lights me up as a leader and pastor when someone pours themselves out to the point that their apprentices can replace them.

      2. In an unhealthy organization… Why would you stay in an unhealthy organization?

        If you’re worried about being kicked out if you pour into someone who replaces you, put your resume out.

  4. Two Outcomes
    1. You’ll be a multi-site leader.

      Suddenly your impact will be felt in new places.

      We started group crazy. We spent tons of money on it.

      People are always volunteering to be in my small group. I handpicked people and said, “This is what a small group is supposed to be like.”

      And then after 8-12 months we helped them form their own groups.

      It’s amazing to see how many of those leaders that we apprenticed are now leaders in community groups at our church.

      The same with our communicators. I love meeting with our communicators. I love pouring into them. When they’re preaching, it’s like I’m preaching at 3-4 locations without the use of video screens.

    2. You become a multi-generational leader.

      You know why our churches are so full of old people? Nothing against old people. I want to be one. Old people complain there are no young people. The problem is they wouldn’t let young people do anything. You know why? Because they’re not ready. Well whose supposed to make them ready.

      Anytime someone blames the next generation, they’ve abdicated leadership.

      We have three teenagers. The best thing we’ve ever done in our church is a program called Student Impact. It allows 6th graders to volunteer in a children’s small group. The great thing about 6th graders is that no one has told them they can’t do it. No one has told them they’re not an expert. When you put them in a circle with children, they don’t know any better but to show up and lead a small group. When the little kids are promoted, we just promote the middle schoolers with them, and suddenly they have a relationship with those kids. And our high school students help lead the middle school groups. And they haven’t been told they’re not mature enough. Last year 101 students in high school left our student ministry who had been with their kids in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade because no one told them they couldn’t do it. And now the first thing they do is go off to college, find a church, and want a group.

      You know what we’re teaching high school kids in our church, it doesn’t matter how old, mature, or smart you are, if you are one step ahead, you have something to offer.

      I am overwhelmed.

      My mom is over for dinner one Saturday, and she has a medical emergency, and I’m not preaching the next day. So we decided I’m not going to church the next day. So my kids get dressed for church and tell us they’re going because they have to lead their small groups. I looked at Sandra, and said, I love my church. Don’t tell them they’re not ready.

      I don’t have to be an expert, and I don’t have to know everything.

  5. Application

    There is no curriculum. If there’s a curriculum, it’s not apprenticing. It’s a class.

    You don’t even have to tell someone you’re apprenticing them, it’s often a bad idea.

    1. Hire for the future

      hire young, and hire smart. You need to hire people who are smarter than you, who might intimidate you a little bit, who will blow past you in no time, because the Church is worth it.

    2. Don’t work alone.

      This is almost the whole thing. This is incredibly important.

      Invite people to participate with you in tasks that are part of your job description even if they don’t work in your department or don’t share your job description. Just make sure whenever possible you don’t work alone.

      If you’re interviewing someone, don’t interview them alone. Invite someone younger. It doesn’t matter if you’re not good at it. You don’t want to expose your weakness and insecurity.

      This generation is afraid of engaging in the local church, because we’ve made it big and spooky.

      Don’t budget alone. Invite someone into that. Find the brightest person.

      Don’t produce alone, plan alone, design alone, create alone. Do things alone as little as possible. Invite people in.

      This is where preferential treatment is preferred. You can’t do this with the whole church.

      I have a friend Tim who is a federal judge. A federal judge is like a mini-God. I went to lunch with him the other day and walked into his office. There are these three twenty-somethings in his office sitting on the couch with notepads. He’s talking to these attorneys who are about to bring a case before him. And there’s a stenographer taking notes. So he finishes up, spins around, and asks the kids on the couch what they learned. They’re interns.

      In the church, here’s how we do it. We send them outside and whisper to each other.

      I bet there are opportunities to pour into the lives of your staff and the people around you because we work alone.

    3. Remember your MEDs
      1. Model – Here’s what I do.

        Show them what you do. It may not be the best way. They may have a thousand other ideas.

      2. Explain – Here’s why I do it.
      3. Demonstrate – Here’s how I do it.

    Here’s your assignment, it’s simple: Replace yourself.

    Who’s the sharpest young leader on your staff? What could you begin doing to empty your cup into theirs? You look at them and know they’re sharp. What can you begin to do now? You don’t need to set up any formal relationship. What can you begin to do now to pour into their lives.

    Success is not measured by how capable you are at handling your responsibilities. Success is measured by whether or not you leave your responsibilities in capable hands.

    Someday, somebody is going to be doing what you’re doing. Wouldn’t it be fun to be around to see it?

    Leave the next generation more equipped than you are.

Andy Stanley at Catalyst (Session 1)

I want to jump into a pretty raw and disturbing leadership truth as it relates to being present.

The more successful you are, the less accessible you will become.

For some of you this is frustrating. For others of you it is liberating.

This isn’t a good thing or a bad thing. It’s just a thing, thing. It’s just a leadership truth.

Because you’re leaders you love to grow and love progress.

This is actually not a bad thing at all. There’s something in a lot of us that says, “Not me.” Especially if you’re in our 20s.

This unavoidable truth tends to drive us in one of two directions.

  1. Refuse to face this reality and burn out trying to be accessible to everyone.

    You can only truly be accessible and present to a very few people.

    When you were called to ministry, it was all about people, not programming. You saw someone and it broke you’re heart, or someone ministered to you and rescued you. And you wanted to do that.

  2. Use success as an excuse to become more inaccessible than necessary.

    Now I’m a big shot. Everyone starts conversations with me, “Andy, I know you’re busy…” I get the opportunity to say, “Go, be warm and well fed…”

    Over time it’s easy to use our success to become even more inaccessible than we need to be.

I understand we start on one end and end up on the other.

Unawareness is bliss. The more unaware you are of the needs of the people around you, the less put upon and obligated you feel. The more you know, the more overwhelmed you feel.

There are no 15 minute problems. People say, “Pastor, can I come see you for 30 minutes?” You’ll talk for 30 minutes, and I can’t say, “Well, I know you have problems, but your 30 minutes is up.”

It used to be that the only bad things you knew about were the ones in your community. We’re aware of all of the sick people in our churches because of social media. Every time you turn on your computer you’re aware of some need.

We all just want to close our doors and study, go in our office and do busy work. Before long, our hearts grow cold, and we’re no longer accessible. We’re no longer present.

If you’re a preachers kid, you kinda life your life twice. You see everything your dad did. Every time you were in a restaurant someone would come over to talk and start with a 5 word lie: “I don’t mean to interrupt…”

There’s going to be so many broken marriages, prodigal sons, cancers, etc. you could give everyone 15 minutes and not get anything done. You could give everyone 3 hours and still not solve any problems.

We’re at California Pizza Kitchen, and I’m behind my assistant and her assistant. I’m at the salad bar, and I’m almost through, and someone says “Andy!” hysterically. “Andy! Andy! Andy!” And she starts into the story of her cancer. She’s on some kind of medication, seriously. I’m hoping she remembers this conversation. I’m talking and listening. I’m not rushing. I’m present. And then she sits down in the area you wait for your table… so I sit down. So now my assistants are watching me and aren’t sure what to do. They can’t hear what’s going on.

It’s heartbreaking. If you’re in ministry, you have those moments. You say, “It’s too much.” You just want to draw.

The Apostle Paul speaks to this.

Galatians 6:9 – Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Galatians 6:10a – Therefore, as we have opportunity,

You’ve got limited time and opportunity, but as you have opportunity…

Galatians 6:10 – Let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Galatians 6:2 – Carry each other’s burden, and in this way you will fill the law of Christ.

You can’t shut it all out.

You can’t take it all on.

This is one of those primary tensions you have to manage. This is not a problem to solve. If you ever solve this problem, your heart is hard toward people.

Years ago I coined a phrase that has defined my ministry:

Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone.

We struggle with this because when we were a kid adults told us, “If I give you one, I have to give everybody one.”

You remember what you thought? “No you don’t. I won’t tell anyone.”

There’s this silly adult idea that that if you do it for one you have to do it for everyone.

I wanted to take my son on a father-son outing. He goes to a public high school. So I pull him out of school.

Then I want to take my middle school son out of his private Christian school. They tell me “no.” They tell me he’ll get a “0” in everything, that if they let him out they’ll have to let everyone out.

This creeps into our ministry. If you do premarital counseling for one couple, you feel like you have to do it for everyone. If you work with someone with a struggling marriage, you have to work with all of them.

No you don’t.

I tell pastors they need to be working with one struggling couple all of the time. Hopefully not their own. You don’t need to do all of the funerals, but you need to do some of them.

In church world, we feel like we have to be fair. Fairness ended in the Garden of Eden. Nothing has been fair since. Fair is not anything to shoot for.

Don’t be fair. Be engaged.

  • Go deep rather than wide.
    Give someone your cell number and tell them you’re available any time day or night.
  • Go long-term rather than short term.
    We need to see it through to the end, win or lose. We need a success story every once in a while. We need to decide to work with one or two all the way not everyone for a few minutes.
  • Go time, not just money.
    Don’t just support mission trips. Go on one. And go the next year, and take your family.

    There’s nothing better than getting up in front of the people you lead and your heart full of what God is doing in someone’s life.

I learned this in 1987. I’m preaching for my dad one Sunday night downtown on Peachtree Street. Because we were downtown a lot of street people were around. Every now and again one glassy eyed, high as a kite street person would come down for the alter call and commit to anything if you gave them a bit of money or helped the find a place to stay or meet.

So I walk into my dad’s office and this woman behind me says, “Preacher, do you believe what you just preached?” I had just preached on forgiveness. She said, “I need to talk to somebody about that.”

There’s this moment when you think, “Let me get your number. We’ll set up a meeting…” But every now and again you get a nudge. The Holy Spirit says, “Not this one, not this time.”

What I didn’t know was that was the beginning of a 20 year relationship with a woman named Jane. Typical story. Over the next 20 years, I learned about medicare, Medicaid, how to tell if someone was lying. It was an education. Hillary Clinton was right, it takes a village. I got my roommate involved.

She lied and stole, lied and stole, lied and stole.

We wanted to get her a job, she had some typing skills. So we were trying to find her a house, so we found this house with three college guys with an extra room.

So one day Jane comes in and says, “I quit my job.” I’m like “No! Why?” She says, “I have AIDS.” She didn’t think it was fair to her employer or the guys she was living with. And then she disappears.

Then she came back a few months later and says, “I lied. I’m not HIV positive.”

I told her, “If you ever get clean. God’s going to use all of this crap. And you’re going to have to go back to Mississippi and confront what happened there.”

Jane finally got clean and got a job. She comes to me and says, “I want to start a ministry for abused women. How would I do that.” So I’m like… “Uh…”

So she starts a group in her apartment and invites me to come. And I don’t want to go hang out with all of these women who hate men. So one time she says the boyfriends and husbands are coming. So I’m like, “Uh, sure, I’ll come.”

So Jane’s sitting there facilitating this discussion with these women. She’s got her Bible in her lap, facilitating this discussion. She’s just dealing out grace, dealing out grace. Sandra and I couldn’t say a word.

We ran out to the car and just sat there, and suddenly burst out crying. Part of was the pane in the room. Part of it was the complexity of those relationships. Part of it was the fact that Jane was sitting there.

She called me and said with a giggle, “Andy, you were right. God is telling me to go back to Mississippi.”

She would call, and I would call. I struggled to maintain that relationship.

Her brother called and told me she passed away, and she wanted to leave what she had to the church.

So I got a check a couple of months later for $6000. I held that check. I’ve held bigger checks, but I’ve never held a more precious check.

My dad was in high school and felt called to ministry but didn’t have any money for college. So this man, Julian Phillips, asked him what he wants to do after high school. He said he wanted to preach, but had no money for college. So Julian talked to Rev. Hammock about it. So a week, and two weeks, and a month went by, and he didn’t hear from him. And one day Rev. Hammond called and said, “We’ve got you a full ride to the University of Richmond.”

How would you like to be the pastor that sent my dad to college? This is a pastor who I’m sure talked to many high school boys. He couldn’t send all of them to college. But he got engaged.

When you do for one what you can’t do for everyone, you often end up doing for far more than just one.

Don’t be fair. Be engaged. Go long. Go deep. Go time. Don’t make excuses. Don’t let people guilt you because you’re not fair.

If we all do for one, maybe that’s how we change the world. But even if not, we’ll have changed for someone.

An Exciting Update from Addis

Salam, just wanted to catch you up on how things are going in Addis.

After spending a day (me) or two (Tanya) sick, the team is back in action.  It’s amazing to see how God works through even things like illness.  It allowed some of us to spend more time together just talking, which in turn helped the team break down walls and share very personal parts of our lives.

Yesterday, we spent some time with the Beza staff, and I had the chance to share Andy Stanley’s message from Catalyst about controlling our appetites and preserving the things we hold most dear.  It was good for the team to be able to meet the folks from our sister church and for me to be able to reconnect with people I had met previously.  People like Pastor Z are beginning to feel like old friends.

While others were souvenir shopping in the afternoon, I spent some time walking through a neighborhood where I was the only ferengi.  I was supposedly helping an elderly gentleman buy some medicine, but the pharmacy was "just ahead" one too many times, so I left and rejoined the group.

We also visited home care groups (Beza’s small groups) last night, which is always a cool experience.  Unfortunately, I had stayed up half the night before preparing my talk, and I could hardly stay awake.  I felt myself starting to fall over during the opening prayer, and realized I was falling asleep standing up!

Today we visited Hope for Ethiopia, an organization that works with people who have been enslaved: street kids, firewood gatherers, and prostitutes.  Among other things, they help provide people with fair employment, so it was cool to be able to pick up some of their wares as souvenirs and support a great cause.

In the afternoon, the team finally got the chance to visit the Entoto Project and hear a better explanation of what Entoto (the project and the mountain) is all about.  It was amazing to hear how God had blessed them in the year and a half since I had been there.  Their ministry has expanded dramatically.  They’re now employing around 100 women and are exporting their jewelry to a few American companies, including 10,000 Villages.  They’re also paying for tuition and supplies for 40 kids to go to school.

One of their big needs/prayer requests was for a coffee roaster which would allow them to purchase unroasted coffee beans directly from a farmer, ensuring the farmer is paid fairly for his crop and saving them money.  They would need about $3k-4k to buy one.

Sometimes God answers pretty immediately.  A few minutes after they told us about it and we were thinking of some ways we could raise the funds, Tanya agreed to buy it for them, which was amazing.  The Entoto staff weren’t quite sure how to process that!  Tanya is one of two people who God had told me were supposed to be on this trip, and the only one of those two who actually went.  I think this might be one of the reasons (and yes, there are definitely others).

That pretty much brings you up to date.  It was an exciting end to the afternoon!  Tomorrow we head out to Debrazet to get the Change boys out of the city for a little while.  We’re staying at a place with some canoes, sports, etc.  I think it’s a summer-camp style thing.  Should be a great time.

This will probably be my last update at least until Saturday.  I don’t think I’ll be able to get online again before we head to the airport, which I believe (and hope) has wifi.

Andy Stanley – Catalyst 2010 – Session 2

Andy Stanley is the lead pastor of North Point Community Church, a multi-site church in Atlanta, Georgia. He is the author of numerous books and speaks often on leadership development.

If this is you’re first time here and you stayed for the last session, you’re the true leaders.

This has been an inspiring couple of days.  In the last session, we leave inspiration behind us and close with some really raw, practical leadership stuff.  This is where I get criticized by the bloggers.  There’s not going to be any verses or Bible stuff in here.  This isn’t the Sunday stuff.  This is the Monday through Friday stuff.  Here’s why I love this stuff.  I think the church should be the best organization in the city.  Business leaders should be coming to you for advice.  We all believe the same stuff and are moving in the same direction.  We should be able to do this.  The organizational side of your church should be extraordinary.  I love talking to leaders about this, and I think all truth is God’s truth.  In my final few minutes I want to talk about one thing as it relates to organizational culture.

If you can touch your thumb to your finger, you’re a primate.  You have an opposable thumb.  The reason this is important because you have doubts about your children, and when you go home, you can see if your kids and do this, and if so, they’re primates.  This has allowed the human race to progress in areas that the rest of the animal kingdom cannot.  This has enabled us to achieve progress that would be impossible otherwise, even with our brains.  With your thumb and forefinger, you can pick up a contact lens or throw a 90 mph fastball.

We are able to manifest just the right amount of pressure at the right amount of time, resulting in extraordinary process.  This represents something that always happens in your organization.  It represents pressure.  It represents tension.  Without tension, you cannot make progress.

Tension is a necessity for any organization that wants to make progress.  If you study organizations or you read about them or are around great leaders, you have a tendency to think great organizations solve all the tensions.  They don’t great organizations learn to use the tension for organizational progress.  If you do solve the tension, you lose something good.

  1. Every organization has problems that shouldn’t be solved and tensions that shouldn’t be resolved.
    1. Think about the tension between fulfilling all of your responsibilities at work and all of your responsibilities at home.  What would it look like to totally and fully resolve that tension.
    2. What about the tension between excellence and careful stewardship.
    3. What about R&D versus sales.
    4. The tensions between management and leadership, systems and flexibility.
    5. What about the tension for a preacher to go as the Holy Spirit leads or stop when the preschool volunteers need to leave
    6. What about attracting and involving unchurched people versus growing people deeper.
    7. Building a new facility or caring for the poor.
    8. Numeric growth or mature.
    9. These all represent pressure points and we’re tempted to try to resolve all of those tensions, but if you resolve any of them, you will create a harsher climate for getting things done.
    10. What if you opt for excellence, not caring how much it costs?  Don’t talk to me about budgets or line items.  What happens?  What happens if you don’t want to spend one unnecessary dollar?
    11. You end up trying to solve tensions that should not be resolved and wasting a lot of time.
    12. What happens if you’re all theology and no application.  You become Presbyterian.
    13. What if you try to let the spirit lead the service to the neglect of the children’s ministry.  You become Baptist.
    14. If you cut off your thumb, you immediately realize your progress will be impeded. If you’re in an organization that’s trying to always resolve all of the tension and are so conflict advers that everything has to be solved and resolved, that becomes energy to the progress of the organization.
    15. Progress depends not on the resolution of those tensions but on the successful management of them.
  2. What are problems that shouldn’t be solved? To resolve between problems that need to be solved versus tensions that need to be managed, ask three questions:
    1. Does this problem or tension keep resurfacing? One of the things that frustrates you as a leader is that people are asking the same questions three months later.  You’ve discovered a problem that shouldn’t be solved, you’ve discussed one of the keys to progress.  We shut down the last week of the year, so January is usually jammed.  Then we hit June and we wonder what the problem is?  Finally we realize this is just a tension to manage, not a problem to solve.  If there are things that just keep coming up, it’s probably a tension that needs to be leveraged for the progress of organizations.
    2. Are there advocates on both sides?  If there are people who are constantly at odds over the same issue and are people who are mature and you trust, chances are you’ve bumped into a tension you must manage.  There are folks who are always challenging us how to deal with new believers, how to mature them. We’ve got another group pushing for things to be simple. You know what, there are mature believers on both sides.  This is not a problem to be solved but a tension to be managed.
    3. Are the two sides of the tension really interdependent?  Going back to that work/home tension, if I worked all of the time, I would lose my family.  If I went home all the time, I would lose my job, and my family would kick me out and tell me to get a job.  That is a tension that will never, ever go away that you have to manage and results in progress at home and work.
  3. The role of leadership is to leverage the tension to the benefit of the organization. Create a third category.
    1. Identify the tensions to be managed in your organization.  This isn’t hard to do.  Now that you have a third category, this is not a problem to be solved or tension to be resolved.  Sit down and work through with your team members what are the tensions that aren’t going away.  What are the tensions that shouldn’t go away that we have to learn how to properly manage.  If you don’t identify these tension, you will spend hours trying to resolve problems that shouldn’t be solved.  If you are a peacemaker by nature, you will impede progress, make people happy temporarily, but will impede progress.
    2. Create Terminology – We use the terminology, “This is a tension we have to manage.”
    3. Inform your Core – Five years ago I read a book called Polarity Management on this topic.  He has a very sophisticated scientific diagram that was a bit confusing the first time I tried to work through it.  The first time I had a staff meeting to talk about it, I told them I didn’t really like this terminology, but there’s a third way.
    4. Continually give value to both sides. – Whenever there’s a conflict in your organization, you’re a leader, you have an opinion.  Many times we’re the one surfacing the conflict.  As a leader, your words weigh 1000 pounds.  My assistant gives someone some bad news, it weighs 100 pounds, as the leader, your words weigh 1000 pounds, so we’ve got to learn to speak value into both sides.
    5. Don’t weigh in too heavily based on your personal biases.As a leader my goal is to make sure that the critical tensions never drop out of site, because as a leader you can win the argument, trump all of the other tensions, and cut off your thumb. You’ll feel good about it, but you’ll have cut off your thumb. Understand the upside of the opposite side. Understand the downside of your side. Communicators have to learn to become the champion of the worship. Worship leaders have to learn to become the champion of the spoken word. If you’re the point person, you have to champion all sides. When we started the church we learned so much from Reggie Joiner. When we started North Point I was far more concerned with budget than environments. Reggie is an expert at creating irresistible enviroments, but they’re expensive. Everyone else is excited, but I’m wondering how much it cost. And my words weigh 1000 lbs. I still lean that way. But I had to learn to become a champion of irresistible environments, even though I’m uncomfortable with that. We wouldn’t be where we are today if I hadn’t. You know what, I’m still uncomfortable with them.  I’m so glad he had the patience and wisdom not to let me win those arguments too easily.
    6. Don’t allow any strong personalities in your group to win the day.  If your education director is a stronger personality than the worship leader and the worship leader folds under the pressure and everything seems okay, you have failed as a leader.  The goal is to maintain these important tensions.  I don’t know what your leadership team is like, but it’s probably like mine.  There are people who talk constantly and those who won’t open their mouth.  I have to shut some people up and force others to talk.  You need passionate people who will champion their side, but you need mature people who understand this reality. If you have somebody that just won’t let it go and can’t embrace this third way, you may need to move them out of your inner circle.
    7. Don’t think in terms of balance. Think rhythm. This is probably the most important of all.  There are times you need more music than preaching.  There are times you need more preaching that music.  There are times you need more stewardship than creativity and vice-versa. Leadership is far more art than it is science.  Balance means equal amounts of time, money, etc.  Sometimes you need more leadership than management.  Sometimes they need more theology than management.  Sometimes we need to build children’s space.  Sometimes we need to build orphanages.

As a leader one of the most valuable things you can do is differentiate between problems that need to be resolved and tension that needs to be managed once and for all.

Andy Stanley – Catalyst 2010

The internal tension that we all carry because of our appetites.  The only word that all of our appetites know is “more.”  We think about food, but there are lots.   There’s food and sex… I’m sure there’s more, but there’s food and sex.  Of course, I’m thinking about this through the eyes of a guy because that’s all I’ve ever been.

There’s an appetite for love, to be cherished, to feel successful, there’s all of these things we’re designed with, but each one of these creates tension because they only have one word in their vocabulary, more.

When it comes to leadership there are some appetites that are heightened above the average person.  These are the one’s you’ll have to manage more than the average person

  • Progress
  • Responsibility
  • Respect – We want recognition for what we’ve accomplished
  • Win – This sounds so non-spiritual, but we want to win.  Every year Outreach magazine publishes the list of the the fastest growing, best, etc. churches.  Every year my assistant sets it on her desk, and I don’t dare allow anyone see me pick this up. We all know that stuff is kind of silly, but of course I want to know.
  • Growth
  • Fame
  • Achievement
  • To Be Envied – I heard Rick Warren talk about this.  This was very powerful and convicting for me.  Guys, why do we buy the cars we buy.There is something in all of us

Three things related to appetites.

  • God created them, and sin distorted them. – To win, create, take responsibility, etc. are all good things.
  • Appetites are never fully and finally satisfied. EVER. – About three days after a big win, the win is in the rearview mirror, and you want more.  We get in trouble because we think there is something or someone out there that is going to absolutely, fully and finally fulfill an appetite.  We spend our lives pursuing a golden ring that doesn’t exist.  You’ll never have a big enough church, have written enough books, have a cool enough car, perfect enough children, etc.  This means there is always tension in this area of our lives.
  • Your appetites always whisper NOW, never LATER.

If we just stop here, we’ve covered a lot.

They are never fully and finally satisfied.  I can’t let them rule my life.

Your response to that truth will determine the direction of your ministry, family, and life.  Some of your parents have torn their family apart searching for that ultimate person.  Some of your parents have finished well because they’ve realized their is no one.

I can’t name two people who have lost their ministry because of bad theology, but we can name countless people who have lost it because of their inability to manage their appetite.

If we can’t get this right.  It doesn’t matter if we get anything else right.  If we live as if just a little more will finally satisfy, in the end is embarrassment and the loss of what you consider most valuable.

Genesis 25 – Jacob and Esau

In ancient middle eastern culture, the oldest son was given by his father a thing called a birthright.  It was extraordinary valuable.  1) It had a financial side.  The oldest son received 2-3x as much inheritance as the rest of the kids.  2) You were given authority over the rest of the family.  You could just make decisions and no one could dispute it because you had the birthright.  3) There was a belief that if you had the birthright, God was almost forced to bless you.  That he would be with you in a unique way.

Older brothers rarely need or want anything from older brothers, but when they do, the smart younger brother hits the pause button.  I don’t want to rush through this moment, you actually need me.  When older brother needs something from younger brother, younger brother pauses and thinks, what is most valuable to older brother?  This is what’s going on with Jacob and Esau when Esau comes in from the wilderness and needs food from Jacob.  Jacob replies, “First sell me your birthright.”

Who would trade their future for something invaluable, temporary of a bowl of stew.  Who would throw away their ministry, marriage, respect of their children, reputation in the community, influence in the community, their future, for something as temporary as a bowl of stew.

Do you know who would trade their future for a bowl of stew?  You and I would if it were the right bowl of stew. Appetites are powerful.

Every single month and year, you’re going to be offered a bowl of stew, and you’ll be tempted to make a trade.

Esau says, “Look, I am about to die. What good is the birthright to me?”  This sounds extreme, but there’s not a person who doesn’t have this problem.

Every single one of us have had this moment where our appetite becomes larger than life.  This is a psychological reality.

Impact Bias – Takes a simple appetite and magnifies it out of proportion.  Your brain tells you this thing is going to feel way better than you’re actually going to feel.

Focalism – Focuses our minds on one thing and blurs out everything else.  Guys, this is why there are girls you remember in high school who didn’t notice you then and has not thought of you since.

This is why Esau says, “Who needs a birthright when I can have a bowl of stew.”  This happens in your brain every single time an appetite gets blown up out of proportion.

But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob. (Genesis 25:33 TNIV)

It would have been so helpful to Esau if one of us could appear and say, “Wait, wait, wait.” Imagine how Esau’s legacy would have been different if it had been his family that had become the nation of Israel.  If God had been the God of Abraham, Issac, and Esau.  If Jesus had come from the line of Esau.  Now, I know you’re hungry, but you want to trade all of that for a bowl of stew.  It would be better that you die than give that away.  But there was no one there to reframe the appetite, and there will not be anyone standing next to you or me and reframe our appetites either.

Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and they were gone. So Esau despised his birthright (Genesis 25:34 TNIV paraphrased slightly)

This tension will never ever go away.  Whatever you want, you will only want more, and all of your appetites will whisper now, not later.  Your only hope is to reframe your appetites in the context of what God has called you to do, in the context of that still small voice when God called you as a teenager.  There are opportunities you should never take advantage of because they’re going to pull you away from what God has called you to. There are places you should not go just because they’re bigger and better.  You’re going to get there and realize you never should have gone because they’re bigger and messier, not better.

Ten years from now…

Sometime during this conference, I want you to put that phrase at the top of a blank piece of paper and write whatever comes to mind.  What do you want to see happen in your ministry, your marriage, your church, the people you disciple.  In doing so you will reframe every single one of your appetite.

Someone told me to do this 22 years ago.  It took me weeks to figure it out.  The bigger and clearer and more defined the frame, the less grip our appetites have on our lives.  They always want more and the tension never goes away.

  • What’s your bowl of stew? What’s the thing being held out in front of you that is promising more than it’s going to deliver.  For some of you this is a relationship that will wreck your marriage and your legacy, that will change the stories your children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren tell about you.  You’ve decided to trade what you’ve decided is most important for a bowl of stew.
  • What are you talking yourself into? You know how this works, your appetite gets all bowed up around something and sends a message to your brain to make up reasons for something.  You already know what you would tell someone else in your situation.  You’re not unique, and your situation is not unique.
  • What are you contemplating that your spouse is uncomfortable with? And you’re just saying, “You just don’t understand.”
  • What is it that you’re doing that is not illegal or immoral but you hope no one finds out about? One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was from Ronald Blue.  Never do anything that you wouldn’t want to stand up in front of your congregation and explain. That piece of advice has guided me away from things that weren’t illegal or immoral but that looking back I’m so glad I didn’t do.  That’s a reframing question.

Here’s what I know about you.  What’s true of Esau is true of you.  You have no idea what God wants to accomplish through your life. You have no idea what God wants to accomplish through your children. You have no idea what God wants to accomplish through your grandchildren. You have no idea what God wants to accomplish in your community.  But God knows.

Reframe and Refrain – but whatever you do, don’t trade your future for a bowl of stew.

You Need A Mentor

You need a mentor. In fact, you may need more than one mentor. You may need a mentor at work and a mentor who helps you to become a better person. Andy Stanley writes in Next Generation Leader:

You will never maximize your potential in any area without coaching. It is impossible. You may be good. You may even be better than everyone else. But without outside input you will never be as good as you could be.

Even the best athletes have coaches. Tiger Woods has a coach. There’s probably no one better at golf than Tiger, but he still needs someone to give him a third person perspective on his game, to evaluate him.

And you know what, chances are that you are not the wisest, smartest, or most experienced person in life or in your field of work.

How do you find mentors? I’ve got a trick to doing it, so stay tuned for part two.

Next Generation Leader Review

I had the opportunity to take a few hours and read through Andy Stanley's Next Generation Leader a couple of weeks ago, and I wanted to do a quick review and share some reflections.

The premise of the book is that there are five characteristics of a quality leader. Andy will almost certainly explain them better than I, so a summary in his words:

  1. Competence - Leaders must channel their energies toward those areas of leadership in which they are most likely to excel.
  2. Courage - The leader of an enterprise isn't always the smartest or most creative person on the team. He isn't necessarily the first to identify an opportunity. The leader is the one who has the courage to initiate, to set things in motion, to move ahead.
  3. Clarity - Uncertain times require clear directives from those in leadership. Yet the temptation for young leaders is to allow uncertainty to leave them paralyzed. A next generation leader must learn to be clear even when he is not certain.
  4. Coaching - You may be good. You may even be better than everyone else. But without a coach you will never be as good as you could be.
  5. Character - You can lead without character, but you won't be a leader worth following. Character provides next generation leaders with the moral authority necessary to bring together the people and resources needed to further an enterprise.

This is a very good book, and I definitely recommend it. If you'll oblige me, I'd love to share some reflections with you

"Only do what only you can do." - In other words, you should delegate everything that you possibly can. Do the things that only you can do, and do them very, very well.

Know what you're good at. Stanley says, "Successful leaders tend to assume that their core competencies are broader than they actually are."

It's okay to delegate things you don't like doing. This doesn't mean giving someone else all of the crap jobs, but often others will relish the opportunity to do the stuff you despise. Stanley calls this organizational alignment.

Step out. Often the thing that distinguishes a leader from others is a willingness to step out. Leaders lead. They go where no one else has gone before and they get people to go with them. Yes, it's scary, but leaders do it anyway.

Coaching is essential. It doesn't matter how good you are, you need outside evaluation and analysis.

Perhaps the last section of the book is the most important. This is the part where Stanley talks about character, "Character is not essential to leadership... But character is what makes you a leader worth following."

"Character is the will to do what's right even when it's hard."

"As you will discover, if you haven't already, the shortest distance between where you are and where you want to be is not the most honorable one."

"Predeciding to do what's right will cost you. It will cost you time, money, and opportunity. It may negatively impact your least for the short term. It may actually be an obstacle on your career path."

"There is never a reason to violate the principles of God in order to maintain the blessing of God."

"What small thing in my life right now has the potential to grow into a big thing?... And who knows about it other than me?"

On the review front, once again, this is an excellent book. My only major complaint is that the section on courage seemed to drag on. While Stanley made some good points, I felt that he could have made them in a fraction of the space.

If you haven't read Next Generation Leader, you probably should.

I'm giving this one an 8 out of 10. Yes, I grade harshly.