Friday, June 19, 2009

What Is Church?

It's been sometime since my last update. I normally try to update at least once a week but I couldn't help it as ministry in church is starting to pick up. It's not so much "doing" now, but a lot of reflecting, how ironic.

One of those main things messing with my mind and contributing to some amount of insomnia is the question of "What is Church?" and "How do we express church?" Tried posting that question to facebook-ers but the answers were generic and nothing new. I'm not saying we need to give a new answer for the sake of giving a new answer, but how can we better do this thing we call "church"? This can't be all that the church could be. Frankly sometimes church bores me to bits. I want to do so much more, I want the church to be so much more.

I might be coming across as being disillusioned or angry at "church", but that is not true. At this point in my ministry I am considering what kind of identity I want my church to develop. Every church has a certain "identity". Mention some church names and you have a mental picture. It might be a picture of the pastor, or the picture of the building, or the picture of some of the people, or a picture of some of the ministries of the church. So what kind of image do I want to project to people when I say FGC (or Foursquare Gospel Church). I have posed the question to some of the church members as this is as much their church as it is my church. What is most important to God? What should the church value most? What should the "perfect" FGC member be like?

The answer would differ one person to another. I guess we are all throwing our answers into the pot, but as the pastor I cannot let the situation where too many chefs spoil the soup happen. What is there left to do but to turn to God in prayer and seek his will in this area. Pray with me church, that his will be done in our lives.

Monday, June 8, 2009

First Things First:

... getting the first things right

As our church begins our journey together we need to have a common understanding. Some common values and principles. Last week I felt the time was right to share a message about some of the most important things to Christians.

I spoke on the most basic Christian disciplines. These were the "first things". Here are the first things:

First Hour of the Day: Spending time with God
Psalm 133 - Dwell/live in God's presence; recharge; drink of the living water.

First Day of the Week: Keeping your sabbath holy
Exodus 20:8-11 - The 4th commandment; rest and worship.
Hebrews 10:24-25 - Good habit; meet more (i.e. cell group)

First Fruits of your Labour: Paying your tithes
Malachi 3:9-12 - Keyword "paying"; don't rob God; privilege & responsibility.

First Love of your Life: Sharing your love with everyone
Matthew 28:16-20 - We God's authority and presence
Revelations 2:4 - God our first love; don't grow cold.

These four things are so important in a Christian's life, even non-believers know Christians as people who observe these practices. However we should not do it just because the preacher says so, above all we must do it because we love God and want to please him. God is looking at our heart. Don't patronise God, give him what he deserves.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Keep Learning to Keep Leading

By Dr John C. Maxwell

Kurt, a salesman I had just met, and I were having breakfast at the Holiday Inn in Lancaster, Ohio. He leaned forward and asked me a question that would change the way I lived and led.

“John, what is your plan for personal growth?”

I was stumped. I didn’t have a plan for personal growth. At the time, I didn’t know that I needed one!
Not wanting to look bad, I began telling Kurt all about my work sched­ule. For fifteen minutes I tried to convince him (and myself) that working hard was helping me to grow and reach my potential. Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to happen? You work hard, you climb the ladder, and someday you “make it”?

My futile attempt to impress Kurt was like a plane circling an airport, waiting for clearance to land. Round and round it went until I finally ran out of gas.

“You don’t have a personal plan for growth, do you?”
“No,” I finally admitted. “I guess I don’t.”
The next thing he said was life changing.
“You know, John, people don’t grow automatically,” Kurt explained. “To grow, you have to be intentional.”

That conversation took place in 1973, though it’s as clear to me as if it happened last week. It spurred me to action. I immediately adopted a plan for growth in my life. And every year, since then, I have recommitted myself to strategic, intentional growth.

For decades at conferences I’ve talked to people about the issue of per­sonal growth. Sometimes I’ve been criticized for it. I remember a person coming up to me on one occasion and saving,

"I don’t like your plan for personal growth.”
“That’s okay,” I replied. “What’s your plan?”
“I don’t have one,” he said.
“Well, I like mine better!”

I suspect he believed that the only reason I talked about my growth plan was to sell books. What he didn’t know was that I started talking about having a personal growth plan long before I ever had a book or tape to sell. I know that people don’t reach their potential on accident. The secret to suc­cess can be found in people’s daily agendas. If they do something intentional to grow every day, they move closer to reaching their potential. If they don’t, their potential slowly slips away over the course of their lifetime.

If you want to be a good leader, you’ve got to be a good learner. I wrote my book Today Matters to try to help people with this idea. In the chapter “Defining Moments Define Your Leadership,” I shared the “Daily Dozen” that I use for personal growth. It might serve you well as a personal growth track to run on. If not, find another one. The main thing is, if you don’t have a plan for personal growth, then don’t expect to grow!

How Will You Grow?

As you seek to learn and grow as a leader, let me give you some advice about how to approach the process. After more than three decades of dedi­cated, continual effort to learn and grow, I offer the following suggestions:

1. Invest in Yourself First
Most leaders want to grow their business or organization. What is the one thing—more than any other—that will determine the growth of that organization? The growth of the people in the organization. And what determines the people’s growth of the leader! As long as peo­ple are following you, they will be able to go only as far as you go. If you’re not growing, they won’t be growing—either that or they will leave and go somewhere else where they can grow.

As a young leader, I spent what felt like a lot of money on books and conferences. My wife, Margaret, and I found this very difficult because we were on a very limited income. We often delayed other important expendi­tures so that we could invest in ourselves. Though it was difficult, those early investments have com­pounded, and over the years they have given me a great return by improving my leadership.

Investing in yourself first may look selfish to some of the people around you. They may even criticize you for it. But if they do, they don’t really’ understand how growth works. When airline flight attendants explaining emergency proce­dures tell passengers to put their own oxygen mask on first before putting masks on their children, is that instruction selfish? Of course not! The chil­dren’s safety and well-being is dependent upon their parent being able to help them. As a leader, you are responsible for your people. They are depend­ing on you! If you’re in no shape to lead well, where does that leave them?

If you look around, you can see a pattern at work in every area of life. Employees get better after their supervisor does. Kids get better after their parents do. Students get better after their teachers do. Customers get better after the salespeople do. Likewise, followers get better after their leaders do. It is a universal principle. President Harry Truman said, “You cannot lead others until you first lead yourself.” That is possible only if you invest in yourself first.

2. Be a Continual Learner
When a leader reaches a desired position or level of training, there is a temptation to slack off. That is a dangerous place to be. Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life, says, “The moment you stop learning is the moments you stop leading.” If you want to lead, you have to learn. If you want to continue to lead, you must continue to learn. This will guarantee that you will be hungry for ever greater accomplishments. And it will help you to maintain credibility with your followers.

One of the most influential people in the golf world for many years was Harvey Penick. The author of the best-selling Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book: Lessons and Teachings from a Lifetime of Golf taught pro players such as Ben Crenshaw, Tom Kite, Kathy Wentworth, Sandra Palmer, and Mickey Wright how to improve their games. When Crenshaw won the Masters in 1995, he broke down and cried afterward because Penick, his lifelong mentor, had recently passed away.

You may be surprised to learn that Penick was largely self-taught. For decades he carried around a little red book in which he jotted down notes and observations to help him improve their game. He was a continual learner. And every time he got better, so did the people he taught. Ironically, Penick never intended to publish his notes. He simply planned to hand the book down to his son. But people convinced him to publish all the lessons he had learned over the years. As a result, people are still learning from him and benefiting from his wisdom.

In my book Winning with People, I write about the Learning Principle, which says, “Every Person We Meet Has Potential to Teach Us Something.” Maintaining an attitude of teachability is essential for being a continual learner. Contrary to popular belief, the greatest obstacle to discovery isn’t igno­rance or lack of intelligence. It’s the illusion of knowledge. One of the great dangers of life is believing that you have arrived. If that happens to you, you’re done growing.

Successful people don’t see learning or achievement as a fixed destina­tion to head for, and, having arrived, to settle into—completed and fin­ished. Not once have I heard someone who was a continual learner talk about looking forward to coming to the end of life’s challenges. They con­tinue to exhibit an excitement, a curiosity, or a sense of wonder. One of their most engaging characteristics is their infectious desire to keep moving into the future, generating new challenges, and living with a sense that there is more to learn and accomplish. They understand that you can’t conquer the world by staying in a safe harbor.

What kind of attitude do you have when it comes to learning? I’ve observed that people fall into one of these categories. They live in one of three zones:

  • The Challenge Zone: “I attempt to do what I haven’t done before.”
  • The Comfort Zone: “I do what I already know I can do.”
  • The Coasting Zone: “I don’t even do what I’ve done before.”

Everyone starts out in the challenge zone. As small babies, we have to learn to eat, talk. and walk. Then we go to school and keep learning. But there comes a time in every person’s life when they no longer have to keep trying new things. This is a pivotal time. For some people it occurs pretty early in life. For others, it comes after they achieve some degree of suc­cess. That’s when they decide which zone they will live in: the challenge zone, where they will continue to try new things, explore—and some times fail; the comfort zone, where they no longer take risks; or the coast­ing zone, where they don’t even try anymore. It’s a sad day when a person chooses to leave the challenge zone and stop growing. As Philips Brooks, the minister who spoke at Abraham Lincoln’s funeral, asserted, “Sad is the day for any man when he becomes absolutely satisfied with the life he is living, the thoughts that he is thinking and the deeds that he is doing; when there ceases to be forever beating at the doors of his soul a desire to do something larger which he seeks and knows he was meant and intended to do.”

There is no substitute for continual learning. Over the years I hate developed a highly disciplined growth regimen:

  • I read daily to grow in my personal life.
  • I listen daily to broaden my perspective.
  • I think daily to apply what I learn.
  • I file daily to preserve what I learn.

I try to embrace the advice of German philosopher Goethe, who said, “Never let a day pass without looking at some perfect work of art, hearing some great piece of music and reading, in part, some great book.”

Adopting this kind of regimen required me to change my mind-set. During the first few years I was in leadership, I wanted to be “Mr. Answer Man”—the expert others could come to for answers. After my conversation with Kurt in 1973, I wanted to become “Mr. Open Man”— someone with a teachable attitude who desired to grow every day. My desire is to keep growing and learning until the day I die, not only for my own benefit, but for the benefit of others. I can never afford to forget what President John E Kennedy said: “Leadership and learning are indispensable of each other.”

3. Create a Growth Environment for the People You Lead
Soon after I dedicated myself to being a granting person, I came to the realization that most working environments are not conducive to growth. Many of my friends did not want to keep growing. In their minds, they had paid their dues by attending and graduating from college. As far as they were concerned, they knew enough. They were done. In many ways, they were like the little girl who thought that she had exhausted mathematics when she had learned the twelve times table. When her grandfather said with a twinkle in his eye, “What’s thirteen times thirteen?” she scoffed, ‘Don’t be silly, Grandpa, there’s no such thing.”

The average person will try to pull down anyone around him who it working to rise above average. The road to success is uphill all the way, and most people are not willing to pay the price. Many people would rather deal with old problems than find new solutions. To be a lifelong learner, I had to get out of a stagnant environment and distance myself from people who had no desire to grow. I sought out places where growth was valued and people were growing. It helped me to change and grow—especially in the beginning of my journey.

If you are investing in yourself and have adopted the attitude of a continual learner, you may think you’ve done all you need to do in the area of personal growth. But as a leader, you have one more responsibility. You need to create a positive growth environment for the people you lead. If you don’t, the people in your organization who want to grow will find it difficult to do so, and they will eventually seek out other opportunities.

What cities a growth environment look like? I believe it has ten characteristics. It is a place where the following things occur:

• Other’s are ahead of you.
• You are continually challenged.
• Your focus is forward.
• The atmosphere is affirming.
• You are often out of your comfort zone.
• You wake up excited.
• Failure is not your enemy.
• Others are growing.
• People desire change.
• Growth is modeled and expected.

If you can create a growth environment, not only will the people in your organization grow and improve, but people with great potential will knock down your doors to become part of your team! It will transform your organization.

The People Difference

Walt Disney remarked, “I am a part of all that I have met” Whether you are trying to cross over into the ranks of continual learners or you are try­ing to build an organization that possesses a growth environment, the secret to success can be found in the people who surround you. People’s attitudes and actions rub off on one another.

My father loves to tell the story of the man who tried to enter his mule in the Kentucky Derby He was immediately rejected and rebuked.

“Your mule has no chance of winning a race against thoroughbreds.” the race organizers chided.
“I know,” the man replied, “but I thought the associations would do him some good.”

Being around people who are better than we are has a tendency to make us stretch and improve ourselves. That is not always comfortable, but it is always profitable. It’s said that whenever the great poet Emerson saw the great essayist Thoreau, they would ask each other: “What has become clearer to you since last we met?” Each wanted to know what the other was learn­ing. Great people desire to bring out the greatness in others. Small people will try to put the same limits on you that they have put on themselves.

I have Kurt to thank for helping me understand the value of growth so early in my career. Within a year of my conversation with him, I could tell that I was learning, growing, and changing. It’s said that the Tartar tribes of Central Asia used to have a curse that they would use on their enemies. They didn’t tell them to get lost or to drop dead. Instead they would say, “May you stay in one place forever.” What a horrible thought! Can you imagine? I can’t.

Application Exercises
1. Do you have destination disease? If you think you have arrived (or can someday arrive) by achieving a certain position, acquiring a particular degree or credential, or earning a certain level of income, then you are in danger of finding yourself in either the comfort or coasting zone. What are you doing to guard against that? Make sure that your long-term personal goals are growth oriented instead of destination oriented.

2. What is your plan? Let me be the Kurt in your life by asking the question. “What is your plan for personal growth?” Working hard and putting in long hours does not ensure growth. Neither does promotion. What will you do this week, this month, and this year to actively grow. I would recommend that you read a minimum of one growth-oriented book a month and listen to a minimum of one growth-oriented CD or tape a month. In addition, schedule yourself for an annual conference or growth-oriented retreat.

3. Are you creating a growth environment? If you possess any kind of lead­ership position, you are responsible for creating a growth environment for the people who work for you. Use the guidelines from the chapter to start creating one. Remember, a growth environment is one in which

Check list:

  • Others are ahead of them (this means you are growing).
  • They are continually challenged.
  • The focus is forward (on the future, not past mistakes).
  • The atmosphere is affirming.
  • They are often out of their comfort zone (but not their strength zone).
  • They wake up excited (they are excited about coming to work).
  • Failure is not their enemy (they are allowed to take risks).
  • Others are growing (you must place a high value on growth for everyone).
  • People desire change.
  • Growth is modeled and expected (by you and others).