Tuesday, June 26, 2012

3 Questions On My Desk

I have three questions just above my computer that I look at occasionally to keep me sharp. I wrote them down after I got together with a man I respect a lot and asked his advice.

Here they are:
1. Am I energizing the people around me?
The energy in a given place matters a lot. When we are energized we are far more capable of producing good fruit and making a positive difference. When we are depleted we are far more likely to cut corners and give the very least we can, doing only the bare minimum. Each of us, in each interaction with others is either giving energy or taking energy away. I am not talking about some spiritual force, new age energy or even special anointing. I am simply speaking of the emotional motivation and mental sharpness that we carry with us at any given moment. How do I engage in my work? How do I approach a problem? How do I greet a person or hold a meeting? Each of these things can be done in ways that is energizing or depleting. Interestingly, when we choose to be energizing people and give energy away; instead of it depleting us we actually get energized in the process. Leaders are responsible for the energy in their spheres of influence - so leaders, set the example and be a person who is fully engaged and who helps others be fully engaged.

2. Am I clear on our "here" and our "there"? (and do I have the commitment of our people to our "there"?)
Okay, so I hate to admit it. As much talk as there is about vision in the workplace and in the church. There are very few leaders who can articulate a vision clearly. A few years ago a leader who represents an organization that relates to churches took me out for lunch. He wanted to discuss how our organizations could possibly work together around our common purpose. He asked me about my vision for our church. I told him about my dream

...to be a team of people who would reach our friends and neighbours and co-workers and family members for Christ and help them find and fulfill their destiny in Him. Then I spelled that out. I don't want our church to be a place for Christian consumers to come and consume the best worship, preaching, praying, discipling, encouraging and help. Instead I want to be a place where we gather as a team to be motivated and equipped to accomplish a mission together. "The world is our parish" as John Wesley said. And I want to make a difference not in some far off nation (although that is great), nor in some ambiguous way in Moose Jaw. I want to reach actual people with names who live on our streets and work in our workplaces. In other words, my vision is that we would actually be reaching and impacting real people every day. In order for this to happen, we need to have every person who sees themselves a part of our church to also see themselves as undercover missionaries in their workplaces and on their block. We also need to work together since none of us has all is takes to bring another person to Christ and grow them up in Him.

Sharing that vision took a whole of 2 or 3 minutes, maybe less. The guy just sat there stunned. He finally said, "I meet with pastors every week. I do it for a living. I always ask them their vision but this is one of the first times I have ever heard it actually spelled out with clarity." The reality is that very few leaders have taken the time to wrestle with the ideas and words that make up their vision. They have dozens of ambiguous thoughts around it and they do have a vision. They just can't articulate it clearly. Imagine if the leader isn't clear on the vision...the people certainly won't be. As Howard Hendricks says, "A mist in the pulpit is a fog in the pew." So, I am clear on our "here" (where we are right now) and our "there" (where we want and need to get to) and do I have the commitment of our people to get to our there. If you are anything like me, you need to go over this again and again not just with others but just with yourself. My vision, as clear as I think it is, gets muddy in my own heart and mind very quickly I regularly need to re-envision myself.

3. Where are we innovating?
Any group, organization or church is only a generation away from extinction. And with change happening as fast as it is, I don't even think we have a generation of time anymore. Only those who are finding fresh ways to move forward will exist in the future. The rest will simply die away and go extinct. Not because they don't have powerful messages or products but because they don't have progressive ways of engaging people with their message. Creativity, stimulating progress, innovation, call it what you like - without it we will not be effective into the future. At the same time we can never sacrifice the message in the name of being innovative. "Preserve the core, stimulate progress." - Jim Collins.
The history of the church is a great example of this. Churches that changed their message in the name of innovation quickly became irrelevant. They were great at connecting with culture but no longer had anything worth saying. Churches that did the opposite, hung onto their message but never changed their methods also quickly became irrelevant. They had awesome things to say, but no one was listening. Only those who simultaneously keep the message strong and innovated with new ways to spread it continued to thrive. A lot of people spend time criticising one group or another but there truth is that in the long run, it doesn't really matter who thinks what. Only those that are both holding to the right message and coming up with fresh ways to share it will be around in the future.