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March 2006
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More on the Purpose Craze

As I write this at 9 am, I have already made a trip into New York City to drop my wife off at our daughter's apartment.  Then I came back to New Jersey where I will do a seminar at Crossroads Community Church in Maywood pastored by Bill von Husen.  The seminar today is entitled The Purpose Craze:  Why Knowing Your Purpose Is More Important Than Ever

When I first began teaching on purpose in 1991, I thought it was a nice message that would go alongside other nice messages.  Fifteen years later, I see purpose in a whole new light.  It is a revolutionary message that has changed lives, businesses and the even the way church is conducted.

When you find your purpose, you don't need anyone or anything to give you further permission to be who God created you to be.  You have your orders from headquarters, so to speak, and you are ready to go.  Once you've heard, then it is the responsibility of the church, business or organization to assist you and others in fulfilling your purpose.  That may mean training or even structuring opportunities for you to do what you were created to do.

This is so foreign to our way of thinking that many have tried and are trying to accommodate the purpose message to fit their previous way of doing business.  I think they are finding that it doesn't really work.  Purpose is the will of God.  It cannot be accommodated; it has to be given prime, front-and-center attention.

Once again, I woke up this morning grateful that I get a chance to do what I love to do today.  I pray that there will be results, that those who hear me will be more focused and productive in the will of God.  If you would like to see what I taught today, you can access my Powerpoint and outline below.

Powerpoint slides:  Download the_purpose_craze_revised.ppt

Outline:  Download the_purpose_craze_reviseda2.doc

Plant People

Yesterday I got another email from a person in my past.  No, they weren't confronting me with some past sin or failure.  They were thanking me for the role that I played in their life that encouraged them.  I haven't seen this woman in years, and haven't worked with her since 1989, but she became the fourth person in the past 10 days to write me "out of the blue."  Some who wrote I haven't even seen for 25 years.

I've been thinking about these emails and remembered an old Chinese proverb that states:

If your vision is for a year, plant wheat.

If your vision is for ten years, plant trees.

If your vision is for a lifetime, plant people.

Part of my concern for the Church today is that I don't see a lot of leadership development taking place.  Leaders may or may not provide opportunities for people to be developed through programs within the church.  They may oro may not encourage people to develop themselves, but for the most part, the Church is lacking in leaders who duplicate themselves.  Why is this?

Here are some reasons I can think of:

1.  It's often not part of the leader's job description, therefore he (or she) doesn't invest time doing it;

2.  Leaders are too busy doing other things;

3.  Leaders don't want to develop other leaders who could become "competition";

4.  Leaders see the job as someone else's responsibility -- a seminary, other churches, colleges, business, John Maxwell, leadership conferences;

5.  Leaders don't know how to develop other leaders because no one developed them;

6.  A faulty understanding of Ephesians 4:12 where leaders are told that their job is to "prepare God's people for works of service";

7.  We think in terms of 5 or 10 years, thus we plant wheat and trees instead of people.  We build buildings and develop programs and do almost anything else except develop people.

Moses developed Joshua, Barnabas developed Saul, and Paul developed Timothy.  Who are you developing?  Into whom are you investing time and effort to develop as a future leader? 

Write me to list any other reasons you can think of as to why we aren't developing more leaders today.  Feel free to tell me what you're doing to develop "plant people" as well.  If you have nothing to write, then write someone to thank them for their investment in your life and then get busy finding someone into whose life you can do the same.


Today is my last day in Florida.  When I walked out of the hotel yesterday to go to my meeting, the hot, humid air hit me in the face and I said to myself, "I'm home!"  I love Florida with all its heat, hurricanes and humidity.  I love being near the water, the availability of fresh seafood and seeing palm trees as part of the natural landscape.  We lived in Orlando for four years when I was a pastor and I have great memories of my time there.

Today I finish up with Urban Youth Impact here in West Palm Beach and fly out tonight to New Jersey, where I will help Pastor Bill von Husen celebrate five years of church life at the church he founded in Maywood, New Jersey.  Our son is flying in from San Francisco for the weekend and our daughter already lives in the area, so it will be a family reunion of sorts.

My wife showed her jewelry to someone yesterday, but their shop already had similar stock.  She now has an appointment with a jeweler in New Jersey and we hope something will come of that visit.

I woke up this morning, thanking God for being able to do what I do.  I get asked all the time, "Are you tired of all the travel?"  My answer, "Heavens no.  Bring it on!"  Yesterday I finalized a visit to Zambia while I am in Africa to do some work with the management of DHL there.  The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe wants me to do some training.  My friends are waiting for me in Kenya.  I live for this stuff, and it energizes me just to think about it. 

As an added bonus, I've heard in the last week from three families with whom I had worked 20 years ago.  They all wrote me with such wonderful testimonies of our past involvement together and I was greatly encouraged, thinking about what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:58:

Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm.  Let nothing move you.  Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Now I am really pumped up, seeing tangible evidence that God is faithful and watches over the work we do, even if we don't see immediate results.  And I am getting feedback from my article in Charisma entitled Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Leader.  I am honored that anyone would read the article and further honored that they would write me, even if they disagree with my conclusions.

So life is good right now and I am looking forward to my work today, my travels tonight and the opportunities that lie ahead in the coming days. How about you?  Can you say the same?

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Monster Shadows

A few years ago, I discovered the Quaker author Parker Palmer.  I've read three of his books to date:  Let Your Life Speak:  Listening for the Voice of Vocation; The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher's Life; and A Hidden Wholeness:  The Journey Toward and Undivided Life.  In the latter, Palmer spoke about leadership and made these comments:

But we know of classrooms where the leader casts an ominous shadow under which nothing can grow.  I am talking about a parent who can generate the same effects in a family, about a clergyperson who can create a congregation that lurks in the leader's shadow or thrives in his or her light. 

Palmer went on to describe what he called five "monster shadows" of a leader:

1.  One of the biggest shadows inside a lot of leaders is deep insecurity about their own identity, their own worth.

2.  The second shadow of leadership that is inside a lot of us is the perception that the universe is essentially hostile to human interests and that life is fundamentally a battleground.

3.  The third shadow in leaders I call "functional atheism"--the belief that ultimate responsibility for everything rests with me.

4.  The fourth shadow among leaders is fear.

5.  The final example of shadows that leaders can project on others involves the denial of death.

The hardest part of reading profound statements like these is my tendency to project them onto someone else.  The question isn't really who they apply to that I know. The real question is how these shadows affect my leadership and those I am leading.

The fifth shadow is an interesting point.  When a leader denies death--there I go again--when I as a leader deny death, I don't delegate.  I don't prepare my successor or allow anyone to make any progress because the notoriety, the glory and the praise belong to me. I want (and need) all that.  I don't really care about what will happen after I've gone; I just want to extract as much money, power or fame as I can from every situation.

I'm examining my shadows; how about you?  Is the light of opportunity serving to cast your shadow onto others and the organizations with which you work?  Is that a good thing for those around you?  I find the following verse interesting as we consider the issue of monster shadows:

People brought the sick onto the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter's shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by (Acts 5:15).

When people touch me, my writing or my work, I want them to be healed and not hurt.  For that to happen, I must first acknowledge that I do indeed have shadows and then allow God to transform them from areas of darkness to sources of light and hope.  That's what I want, and I hope you will join me in wanting the same to be your leadership legacy.

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So Long

I am in the Pittsburgh airport, heading to Florida for what is the beginning of my nine-week world tour.  This trip will take me to West Palm Beach, Florida; Maywood, New Jersey, Nairobi, Kenya (twice); Harare, Zimabwe; Lusaka, Zambia; and who knows where else. 

My biggest challenge for this trip has been packing, since I will need casual, tropical, suit-and-tie, and beach wear, along with a various assortment of profiles, books, folders, notes, audio books, snacks, and odds and ends that people have asked me to bring for them.  For the first time in a long time, I had to pay an excess luggage fee for a domestic flight (since I won't be home again prior to heading for Kenya).  It was only $25 but that is how travel is--lots of unexpected costs, delays and annoyances.

So far I have scheduled a vast array of activities that include speaking, consulting, profiling, one-on-one purpose sessions, church work, business work with some recreational activities mixed in for good measure.  My 28-year-old son John will join me in a few weeks and we will take time to do some things together. 

I left my inbox and outbox empty on my desk, and was able to accomplish everything on my to-do list before I left.  My wife will be with me for the first part of the trip, and then John will be with me for five weeks.  I hope to see my missionary friends in Amsterdam on the way home, and should be back in Pittsburgh on June 27.

I could really use some financial assistance as I embark on this faith journey.  If you can contribute, please go to my website and follow the directions there.  If you think of me, please pray for safety and success.  If nothing else, let's stay connected through this site and my weekly email programs.  That's about it for today; gotta run to catch my flight for Florida!

Natural Church Development

A few years ago I became certified to use a program called Natural Church Development (NCD).  I was attracted to this program because it provides a church some practical insight into how it is doing--specifically how healthy it is in eight key areas that are essential to church growth.

According to NCD, these eight areas include: 1)  Empowering leadership; 2) Gift-oriented ministry; 3) Passionate spirituality; 4) Functional structures; 5) Inspiring worship services; 6) Holistic small groups; 7) Need-oriented evangelism; and 8) Loving relationships.

The program gives any church a score in each of these eight areas after 30 people complete an anonymous, 90-question survey.  The pastor also has a survey to complete.  The scores are generated when I enter the results into the NCD software, which in turn produces a report that gives the church an idea of how they are doing in each of the key areas. NCD recommends that each church identify its minimum factor--the area of the eight with the lowest score--and then to develop a strategy that will address that particular area only. 

I got involved with this program for two reasons.  First, it gave a church something to work with, since it is so difficult to measure effectiveness when working with people and spiritual things.  I also liked that it gave the church something specific to work and focus on after the survey was completed.  (If you would like information on using this survey at your church, feel free to email me.)

I am off to a local church this morning to do the survey and will deliver the report to the pastor in a few days. The church may or may not employ me as a coach to help them address their weaknesses after that, but that isn't really necessary--another aspect that attracted me to the program.  Jesus knows how to build His church and, if we will just be courageous and face the realities of where we are, He will meet us more than half way to help us grow and develop.

What means do you have to measure your effectiveness, whether personally or in the business or ministry in which you are engaged?  Just because it's hard to do doesn't mean that you are exempt from trying.  Find something, some metric, that can give you an indication of how you're doing and then take steps to improve and do a better job.  It doesn't have to be involved and expensive; you just have to muster the courage to do it.

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"Poor Karen!"

Last night I was listening to the radio when a song by Karen Carpenter came on the air.  Every time I hear her sing, my wife knows that I will always say, "Poor Karen!"  Here's why.

Karen and her brother, Richard, were at the top of the music world in 70's and early 80's  They wrote and recorded hit song after hit song and today have total sales of 100 million units.  They were known the world over and had everything--fame, fortune and a following.

But what we didn't know was that Karen had an eating disorder.  This eating disorder cost Karen her life--she died in 1983.  Yet her music and her voice live on, played by every easy listening and soft rock station in the world. 

Karen had it all, but really she had nothing at all.  She died without husband or children.  She died a tortured woman, unable to deal with her fame and wealth.  When I think of her, I can't help think of Jesus' words:  "What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?" (Luke 9:25).  I don't know where Karen is spending eternity.  All I know is that the eulogy on my lips every time I hear her sing is "Poor Karen!"

I am a creative person and I want my creativity to be known as far and wide as possible.  Yet I want it all to be anchored in the Lord.  No, make that I desperately need it to be anchored in Him.  In trying to find myself, I don't want to lose myself. 

What is your motivation for creativity and success?  And are you ready to handle the success that will come from following God's will for your life?  I don't want anyone hearing or reading me one day and saying, "Poor John!"  I want them to say, "There was a man who knew his purpose and did what God wanted him to do."  I hope you want the same thing for your life.

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The Trip Home

Kathryn and I just returned home from Columbus, Ohio, a three-hour drive.  What a beautiful day for a drive.  The spring trees and bushes were in full bloom, the sun was out and the fields were green with new grass.  We had a great time together, and I enjoyed my time at the conference where I taught and counseled many concerning their personal PurposeQuest.

When we got home, our May issue of Charisma magazine was in our mailbox.  In that issue, they published my article entitled, Sinners in the Hands of An Angry Leader.  It should be available soon in part on the Charisma website, although it isn't there as I write.  In that article, I make the point that the hallmark of authoritarian leaders is anger, and I use many biblical examples to back this up.  If you would like to read my original article that is on my website, you can go there or just download it below.

But now it's late, and my wife has gone off to get some Chinese food for dinner.  The next few days will be busy as we prepare to head to Florida and New Jersey next week.  Then I am off to Africa on May 1, to return to the States on June 27.

Download sinners_in_the_hands.doc

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It's That Time of Year

I am back in Columbus, Ohio for the fourth consecutive year to be part of the Berean Advancing the Kingdom Conference.  The conference is always held the week after Easter, and it's nice to have something that regular to look forward to and build on.  It's like a reunion to see the same people every year at this time and get an update on what everyone has been doing.

This conference and organization are unique concepts founded by three bishops who have partnered to address the leadership needs of the African American church.  I like their spirit and their goals and try to attend as much of the conference as possible, even though my role here is limited. I also like it because I am usually one of the few, if not the only, white guys present.  That helps me feel what people of color feel when they are the only ones in the crowd, and enables me make people feel more comfortable when I encounter them in that situation.

Today I am teaching today on the topic, Empowered to Live Beyond the Limits.  The conference leaders assign my topic every year, which I like.  It forces me to study and develop something not of my choosing and I find that I use what I teach here throughout the year in other places.  (You can download the slides and notes at the end of this post.)

It is also that time of year when I celebrate my birthday.  Today I turn 56!  I can remember when my grandparents were in their 50's.  I thought they were going to die any minute or at least I would see their body parts start falling off right before my very eyes.  Now that I am 56, I think anyone under 75 is young!   My wife is with me here in Columbus to celebrate.  I can say that I have never felt better, had more energy or been more prepared to make a contribution to society and the Church than I am today.

Here are the slides from my presentation: Download beyond_limits.ppt

Here are my fill-in-the-blank notes:Download empowered_beyond_limits_a.doc

Another Drucker-ism

I passed along two entries recently from A Daily Drucker:  366 Days of Insight and Motivation for Getting the Right Things Done.  This book is a collection of management and leadership wisdom from Peter F. Drucker, considered by many to be the father of modern management studies.  If you hang around me very long, you will notice that Drucker has had a profound impact on my life, work and ministry.  Here is the entry from April 11, which I wish every church leader would read and re-read:

Most organizations need somebody who can lead regardless of the weather.  What matters is that he or she works on the basic competencies.  As the first such basic competence, I would put the willingness, ability and self-discipline to listen.  Listening is not a skill; it is a discipline.  Anybody can do it.  All you have to do is to keep your mouth shut.  The second essential competence is the willingness to communicate, to make yourself understood.  That requires infinite patience.  The next important competence is not to alibi.  Say, "This doesn't work as well as it should.  Let's take it back and reengineer it."  The last basic competence is the willingness to realize how unimportant you are compared to the task.  Leaders subordinate themselves to the task.

When effective leaders have the capacity to maintain their personality and individuality, even though they are totally dedicated, the task will go on after them.  They also have a human existence outside of the task.  Otherwise they do things for personal aggrandizement, in the belief that this furthers the cause.  They become self-centered and vain.  And above all, they become jealous. 

There you go.  If you happen to be a Druckerite, too, then feel free to pass along your favorite Drucker gems using the comments section of the site where this is posted.  (Or you can email your comment to me and I will post it for you.)

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