Lent 3: Hybels, Axiom

In my new role as a multi-staff church planter, I have a whole new realm of books that I am reading and appreciating in new ways.  One great example is my third lent book, Axiom by Bill Hybels (from Willow Creek in Chicago).  This is a book I have also chosen for the ELI program at the Grove for young leaders’ development.  This book was stellar, and I underlined way to much to share here.  If you are a leader in a ministry context, pick it up!

Here’s my best take-aways:

  1. p.18, “…words really do matter.  And leaders must pay the price to choose the right ones, because when they do, the payoff is huge.”
  2. p.85, a great question for identifying servants and leaders is ‘who is carrying this organization’s DNA?’
  3. This is a book that would be great for leaders to read through in the 10 minutes before staff meetings.  Things would definitely improve.
  4. p.147, “…I don’t want to launch something unless I have a strong sense that we can build it, resource it, and sustain it over the long haul.”
  5. p.211, “When something goes wrong, board members, staff members and other onlookers want to see which leader will take responsibility for it.  This is the leader they will respect.  That is the leader they will follow.”

Lent 2: Bell, Velvet Elvis

My second lent book was Velvet Elvis, by Rob Bell.  Bell had been a huge encouragement to me in the last few years.  His books tend to give me permission to ask difficult questions and honestly wrestle with responses.

This is the third or fourth time through this book (Here’s my thoughts after my second time through).  This time I read it as a part of the Emerging Leaders Initiative at The Grove (a group of young people who are being trained for future leadership and serving roles in the local church).

Here’s my take-aways:

  1. p.11, “Jesus took part in this process by calling people to rethink faith and the Bible and hope and love and everything else, and by inviting them into the endless process of working out how to live as God created us to live.”
  2. p.14, “If it’s true, then it isn’t new.”
  3. p.115, “I had this false sense of guilt and subsequent shame because I believed deep down that I wasn’t working hard enough.  And I believed the not-working-hard-enough lie because I didn’t function like a superpastor, who isn’t real anyway.”
  4. p.120, “anybody can quit.  that’s easy.”
  5. p.166, “We reclaim the church as a blessing machine not only because that is what Jesus intended from the beginning but also because serving people is the only way their perceptions of church are ever going to change.”

Lent 1:Heath and Heath, Made to Stick

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath is a fun book about the things that make ideas stick and help people to keep them in mind.  If I ever get the chance to teach others how to preach I am going to have to consider this a required textbook.  It’s really outstanding.  There are a lot of stories in it though, so it’s not as quick a read as it could be.

Here’s 10 take-aways for me:

  1. p.25, quoting Col. Tom Kolditz, “No plan survives contact with the enemy…You may start off trying to fight your plan, but the enemy gets a vote.  Unpredictable things happen – the weather changes, a key asset is destroyed, the enemy responds in a way you don’t expect.  Many armies fail because they put all their emphasis into creating a plan that becomes useless ten minutes into battle” (Leads into a discussion of Commander’s Intent)
  2. p. 36, Uncertainty can paralyze people.  So can having too many choices.
  3. p. 64, Break a pattern, get attention.
  4. p.69, Surprise must reinforce idea in order to be of any worth.  Surprise for sake of attention merely receives an acknowledgment of surprise. (case study: Super Bowl ads; cute, but what are they selling?)
  5. p. 71, “If you want your ideas to be stickier, you’ve got to break someone’s guessing machine and then fix it.”
  6. p.82, using mystery not only heightens interest, it also trains the audience in thinking with curiosity.
  7. Robert McKee, screenwriting guru.  I need to remember to take some time to google this guy.  And I need to rent Rashomon, a 1950 Japanese film that looks at absolute truth.
  8. p.98, quoting Aesop, “It’s easy to despise what you can’t get.”
  9. p.167, thinking, in an analytical way, is the worst way to motivate people to anything.  Emotional appeal works better.  This is interesting because anti-smoking groups create ads that draw on emotions while Philip Morris’s tagline is “Think. Don’t Smoke.”  By telling people to think, they are undercutting their own message, which will actually increase smoking.
  10. p. 246, 5 keys to make an idea useful and lasting it must make the audience: pay attention, understand and remember it, agree/believe, care and be able to act on it.

    The anti-resolution

    In the fall I preached at sermon at the Grove where I talked about not taking on a new year’s resolution that is performance based.  It’s something that I struggle with all the time.  I’m a driven guy and I can easily fall into the temptation of defining myself by achievements.  Heck, in 2009, I’ve been given the opportunity to lead a church plant that is exploding in ministry and attendance, I’ve graduated my master’s program, and gotten ordained.  It’s seriously been my most productive year ever.  However, all of this is complete garbage if it takes the priority in my life that belongs to Christ.  So, this sermon that I gave at The Grove was extremely meaningful in my own life.  I’ve decided to completely eliminate performance based goals for 2010.

    For instance, I was doing a read through the Bible in 90 days program…now I’m reading through the Bible because I love it.  I was reading books at a fast rate so that I can be exposed to more and more ideas…now I am reading because I love it.  I was exercising to meet physical goals…now I am because of its intrinsic benefits.  I was blogging regularly to keep people reading, now I’m not.

    It sounds so silly to write it down, but this is a huge shift for me.  I actually took a month off my blog (which I’ve been doing regularly for like 6 or 7 years) to help myself to not care.  I’ve decided to, instead of developing performance based goals for the year, to set up guidelines or priorities for myself.  In a way they are still performance based and task oriented, but I am trying to avoid the goal setting parts and make my resolutions work for me instead of me working for my resolutions).  I have a feeling this is going to be long…

    So here’s the dilly, yo,

    • I am going to read through the Bible.  Pastors have got to read through their Bibles at least once every year.  I’m reading through the ESV.  With Zondervan basically admitting to the ineptness of the NIV, I am gladly looking at the ESV as a possible replacement for our church.
    • I am going to be home for my kids.  In my last couple years in youth ministry I was away about 4 nights a month and working like crazy to run a youth ministry, find a replacement for myself and plant a brand new church.  It was a source of canker sores for me (my body’s way of telling me it’s stressed out) and horrible for my kids.  I’ve always said that pastors have got to change situations that are ill for their families and now I’ve lived it.  So, this year I am very intentional about being present for my family.
    • I’m going to finish the coaching network that I am in.  I am being coached my Nelson Searcy and will continue this until July-ish.  This means reading assigned books and participation in other learning activities.  This will be the only reading that I do because I have to.
    • I will be blogging less.  Blogging is not the most effective way that God has given me to share content.  Now, I am preaching for 45+ minutes on a weekly basis.  If people want to know what God is doing in my life and through me you can go to http://www.albanygrove.com.  Part of this, I am going to be keeping a personal journal.  I’ve never done this before, but it is feeling good to do for my soul.
    • I’m going to pray that the Grove goes through the 250 growth barrier.  For a long time I’ve been praying for our little church to grow in members.  It’s happening fast and I am praying that this continues.  The Grove is full of the most amazing Christians you’ll find around – and what is in store for us…God only knows!
    • Finally, I’m going to physically exercise often and enjoyably.  Planting a church put 25 pounds on me.  That’s probably not healthy.  I’m going to give it back.  If only I could find the receipt…