God’s Standard of Excellence

excellence-paintbrushWhatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Colossians 3:23-24

Years ago I found myself painting the walls in the master bathroom of our home. I’m a decent painter, but it’s not my trade nor is it something I enjoy. That said, I have pretty high standards, so I was very focused on doing a good job. At one point, I found myself laying on my back and reaching way back to the wall under a bottom shelf that was perhaps 18″ inches from the floor. As I was gently brushing the trim under that shelf, I realized I was overdoing it. Nobody in their right mind would ever be looking under this shelf to see if I painted the trim and that back wall properly. They’d need a flashlight to do so, and that was with the lights on in the bathroom.

That’s when the Holy Spirit spoke to me, “Do it for me.”

It was the most meticulously painted wall in the whole room. I found myself in tears while I did it too. It became a love offering to God. It was one of the most powerful worship experiences of my life.

Working for the Lord

According to Colossians, we’re to maintain that standard of excellence in everything we do. That’s not to say that we should spend hours painting the backside of the drywall before we put it up, or check every sentence we write in our emails with the grammar dictionary to ensure it’s perfect, or even to keep our homes or offices meticulously clean at all times. I don’t believe that’s the point.

God isn’t looking for perfection. He is sorely aware of how imperfect we all can be, which of course is why He offered His perfect solution for our imperfection in Jesus Christ.

Rather, I believe God’s standard for excellence is simply our very best with what matters. Of course, we’re talking about ‘what matters’ to God, not ourselves or our earthly masters.

The last sentence of this Scripture states, “It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” It may be my wife who asked me to paint the walls, my boss who is requesting the report, or my pastor asking me to make a few phone calls; but it’s the Lord Christ who I am always serving. His high calling is to serve those around me as if the request came out of His own mouth.

My best is going to look different than yours too. You might be a much better painter than me. God is simply looking for me to give the best I can, with what I have. That includes my skills, my strengths & weaknesses, my experience, my time and my resources. Excellence is less about what others see or think, than it is about what God knows.

After all, nobody would have ever thought the widow gave her best when she put two cents in the offering (Luke 21:1-4). In comparison to others, it wouldn’t have counted as excellent service. Yet, that’s what Jesus Christ said about her. That offering was the one that represented what Colossians is calling each of us to do. To give our best.

I have a confession. I’m not there. I’d love to say I raise my children, help others in need, do my weekly chores and carry out my work responsibilities like I did when I painted that bathroom wall. But I can say that I aspire to that kind of service to and for Christ.

How about you? Do you maintain God’s standard for excellence in your life and ministry?

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photo credit: Guillaume Brialon via photopin cc

Get Things Done With A Responsibility Summary

If you’ve never seen the 1969 Ed Sullivan episode of Erich Brenn doing his plate spinning act, today’s your lucky day. Click the image above and enjoy!

Plate spinning is great for a comedy act. It’s not so great in the office. Unfortunately, for many of us, we feel like we have too many plates and we can’t seem to get them moving or, worse yet, we have them spinning and they are all crashing to the ground while we try to keep others going. It doesn’t seem to matter what we do, we can’t keep up!

I’d like to propose a strategy that can help you succeed in managing your projects and time. It’s not a magic button, but I believe that it can be a huge help to you. I’ve talked about The Responsibility Summary before in a previous post as well. Enjoy.

Can’t see this video? Try clicking here.


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Worship Slides 101

worship-slideOne of my jobs as a ministry coach is to visit churches and evaluate the experience. In my travels, I’ve observed that churches often break some basic rules of thumb regarding how words are displayed on the screen. Today, I ran across a website that does a pretty decent job of outlining these basic rules of thumb, so I thought I’d share them with you.

Note: If you are using presentation software like MediaShout or EasyWorship, you should find some standard templates that will take care of most of this stuff (unless you’re using a real old version).

Also, if you’re church is strong on creativity + technology, then you might break these rules successfully. This post is primarily for those who struggle with creativity within technology.

There are three posts from this author on the topic. After you’ve looked each of them over, check out my additional thoughts below.

I have just a couple more pointers I’d like to add.

  • Stay away from orphan words.
    An orphan word is when you have one word all by itself on a line that is completing a sentence. For example:

Jesus loves me, this I 

  • Keep line lengths somewhat even.
    It can be distracting and make reading more choppy when the lines in your text are grossly different in length. For example:

Jesus loves me, this I know.
For the
Bible tells me so. Little
ones to
Him belong, they are weak…

This is going to be a lot easier to read:

Jesus loves me,
this I know.
For the Bible
tells me so.

Or even:

Jesus loves me, this I know.
For the Bible tells me so.

  • Don’t squeeze tons of words on one slide.
    Your congregation will get lost and be forced to focus on reading if you try to squeeze tons of lines onto one slide. Spread them out.
  • Transition before the last line ends.
    There’s nothing more frustrating than not having the next group of words up on the screen in time, especially if you don’t know the song. Make sure your projectionist knows to transition to the next slide a few words prior to the end of the slides grouping of words. Or, about 2 seconds before the words are done being sung on that slide.
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Mark Batterson on Church Leadership

Last year we were privileged to have Mark Batterson speak at our Elim Fellowship Leadership Conference. He did a great job! So I thought I’d share this awesome message where Mark talks about the Power of Testimony, Leadership and a lot more. 

This would be a great clip to show to your team and hold some discussion over afterwards. Enjoy.

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Four Steps in Healthy Confrontations

healthy-confrontationsI’m not afraid of most confrontations. That doesn’t mean I like them. I don’t. They are draining and full of both negative and positive potential. Unlike the rest of our daily communication with our friends, coworkers and loved ones, confrontation has the most likely chance to end with hurt feelings and greater misunderstanding. So, I said I’m not afraid of the confrontation, and most of the time I’m not. What I do fear, though, is the results.

Like you, I’ve experienced my share of confrontations that didn’t go well. But I’ve also experienced some awesome confrontations that increased awareness and empowered both parties to grow together and get the things done they were called to do. Over the years I’ve discovered some steps we should take when it’s time to confront others. I’d like to share them in this post.

Please note: you’ll get a lot more out of this post if you also check out ‘Three Keys to Effective Confrontation‘ & ‘Confrontation 101: Maintain Safety At All Times‘.

The Four Steps to Healthy Confrontations

When somebody does or says something threatening or unexpected, our natural urge is to fight or flee. Scared people don’t always think clearly. Their judgement is limited. So it’s super important that both parties aren’t scared or feel threatened. Instead, they should know that you respect them and care about what’s important to them in the scenario. I talk a lot more about this in the aforementioned article: ‘Confrontation 101: Maintain Safety At All Times‘. I suggest you give it a gander.

The ‘Gap’ is the difference between your expectations and what actually happened. When a coworker is consistently late to a meeting, the gap includes those minutes between when you expected him to be there and when he showed up. When someone leaves the room dirty after their event, the gap includes the condition of the room as you expected to find it and how you actually found it. 

The ‘Gap’ can be very difficult to describe; especially when it’s about behaviors. There is always room for error and misunderstanding. And usually confrontations include heightened sensitivities and emotions. That’s why I’ve broken down the process of ‘Describing the Gap’ into five parts:

  1. What.
    First, describe ‘what’ happened. Focus on the facts as you understand them and stay away from feelings or interpretations. You should stay away from labeling statements like, “You were being a jerk.” For example, “Two weeks ago at church I asked if you could return the books I lent you. Last Friday I also mentioned it again and you said you’d get them to me right away.”

  2. How.
    Next, describe ‘how’ it makes you feel. Focus on your personal concerns and feelings regarding the situation. Keep away from statements like, “You made me feel stupid.” Instead, just describe how you felt. For example, “I know this sounds crazy, but I’m beginning to feel like you are not returning the books because you are angry with me about something. I’m also afraid that perhaps something has happened to them and you can’t find them.”

  3. Why.
    Explain why this is important to both you and the other party. This helps bring context to the situation, and will hopefully clarify why the gap is bigger than perhaps the other party realizes. For example, “This is really important to me. I don’t want us to have anything hidden in our friendship, and I believe you don’t either. Plus, I promised my boss I’d let him borrow one of those books and I haven’t been able to get it to him.”

  4. Admit.
    This is important. After you’ve outlined ‘What’, ‘How’ & ‘Why’, you should express your desire to understand the truth of the situation and ‘admit’ that you may be wrong in your understanding or impression of the situation. For example, “I suspect there might be something happening here that I’m not aware of. I know it’s possible you already returned them and I didn’t know.”

  5. Ask.
    Finally, you should always finish describing the gap with a question. This lets the other party know that you genuinely want input & feedback and opens the door for the third step in the process. For example, “Can you help me understand?” or “What happened?” or “Am I misunderstanding something?”

Up until now, all you’ve done is talk and share your perspective. Now is the time to mine for the truth of the situation. This is the place where the other party works towards getting understanding of your perspective and you do likewise with theirs. Here are a few pointers when digging for the truth:

  • Ask God to give you both discernment.
  • Listen closely to the other party and work hard at understanding.
  • Ask clarifying questions.
  • Repeat back what they’ve said in your own words (and encourage them to do the same with your words).
  • Tackle the problem as a team rather than as opponents.
  • Stop to establish safety whenever necessary.

At the end of this stage of the confrontation you should be able to summarize the problem as being the result of one or more of the following causes:

  • Confusion.
    One or both parties were confused about expectations.
  • Motivation.
    One of us isn’t or wasn’t motivated to do or behave a certain way.
  • Ability.
    One of us doesn’t have the tools or experience to do or behave as expected.

Finally, it’s time to end our conversation with a ‘next step.’ This ensures it won’t happen again and all parties have learned from the situation. Everyone involved should agree together on what should happen next or in similar scenarios in the future. Sometimes, you may have to agree to disagree and come up with your strategies keeping mutual disagreements in mind. 

Of course, what happens next will be greatly determined on if the problem lies in ‘Confusion’, ‘Motivation’, or ‘Ability’. Let’s look at each:

  • Confusion
    If someone doesn’t understand expectations, then your next action will likely focus on clearing up confusion. Confusion may include behaviors as well. For example, let’s say someone told me to ‘go take a hike’ and raised their voice while they did so. If we have determined that that person was confused and didn’t realize their behavior was offensive, my ‘next step’ may sound something like this, “Rather than saying, ‘Take a hike’ would you be willing to say, ‘I don’t like that idea very much?’” 
  • Motivation
    If the problem lies with motivation, then we have to tackle the source of ‘why’ the person is demotivated. Is it because they feel like it’s a waste of time? Does it seem demeaning to them? Is it possible they don’t understand the importance of the activity? Or is it because of something personal? Whatever the situation, it needs defined and a plan of action put in place. For example, let’s say someone is showing up late to a meeting because they feel like the first 10 minutes are a waste of time. The action steps might be changing what happens in the first 10 minutes, asking that person to lead the first 10 minutes, or explaining why the first 10 minutes aren’t action oriented.
  • Ability
    If the problem lies with an ability problem, then we need to address the problem by changing circumstances so they are within the realm of ‘possible’ for the other party. Perhaps someone is late because they can’t catch a ride until later in the morning. So you might move the meeting up a 1/2 hour or offer to give them a ride to work that morning. Maybe some training needs to happen to increase skill sets. There may even be ‘ability’ challenges in regards to how people respond in certain scenarios. For example, highly analytical people tend to have a very difficult time sitting through strategic ‘big picture’ conversations. It’s not a motivation problem for them, it’s an ability problem. They aren’t wired that way and trying to wire them for that isn’t worth the effort. The solution might be as simple as excusing them from the meeting and giving them a summary of what’s relevant to them afterwards.

Don’t forget to check out this article, which talks about preparing YOURSELF for the confrontation before it ever happens.

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Confrontation 101: Maintain Safety At All Times

confrontation-maintain-safetySomeone once told me that if you stare at a cat long enough, they will get angry. Years ago I was at the zoo watching a lion pace forward and backward over and over again. The lion exhibit was packed with people watching him. It was awesome and I was mesmerized.  After a while I remembered what my friend had told me about staring at cats. So I decided to try an experiment. I lined myself up with his pacing so that every time he walked back towards the crowd I was standing directly in front of him. Each time he paced towards me, I made and held eye contact with him. I did this for a couple of minutes. Suddenly, the lion stopped in mid-stride, stared me in the face and let out a mighty roar. The hair on my neck stood on end. It was loud and scary!

What’s interesting is the response of everyone around me. They all went crazy. Some screamed, kids cried, most jumped and several took off running. This despite the fact that we were all completely safe. The lion was behind two sets of bars. He wasn’t going to hurt us. And yet, for a few moments, we all totally freaked out. I learned a valuable lesson from that experience. 

When people feel threatened, they don’t think reasonably. It doesn’t matter how smart you are. When we’re scared our bodies go into defense mode. We have a natural desire to either fight or flee. In a sense, our reasoning shuts down and our God-given instincts take over. 

Danny Silk explains this in his book, ‘Culture of Honor‘. Check it out.

“God put this little gland inside our brain called the Amygdala. It is an almond-shaped mass of nuclei located deep within the temporal lobes of the brain. This gland is important for determining emotional responses, especially those associated with fear. When somebody does something threatening or unexpected in your environment, when somebody is not safe, your Amygdala kicks on and begins to flood your body with these messages: react, defend, disappear, fight, or flee.

These are some of the responses in which we show our worst. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to discover that people who are scared are not at their creative best. If you’ve ever been near a person who is drowning and scared that he or she is going to die, then you know it would be a good idea to keep your distance. Throw a rope or extend a pole, but do not let that person get a hold of you or you will become a buoy. Oh sure, the person will apologize later, if you lived.

But scared people are not thinking about the team, family, church, or anyone else beside themselves. Fear is a dangerous element for humans to navigate through. Most do not manage it well.”

So what does all of this say about how we should communicate with others, especially during a confrontation?

Hopefully, it’s blindingly obvious. In any confrontation, we must find and maintain safety. We need to help the other person know the conversation is going to be ‘safe’. That is, that we will honor them during the conversation; that we care about and respect them. People feel unsafe when they believe one of two things:

  • You do not respect them.
  • You do not care about their goals (or what’s important to them).

If you want to experience transformative conversations with others, learn how to maintain safety. Be sure the other person knows you are for and with them. You can do this by reading through ‘Three Keys to Effective Confrontation‘. But you will also do it by checking to be sure the other party still feels safe throughout the conversation. At any time, if you sense they are becoming defensive, it’s time to stop talking and begin working at reestablishing safety.

The fact of the matter is, if you or I feel unsafe in a conversation we will quite naturally get defensive and will emotionally fight or flee. There’s no point in talking when we get to that point, at least not until we’ve calmed down again.

Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Colossians 4:6 reminds us to, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

Confession time – I still struggle with this. Especially with my spouse and kids. The people I most want to feel safe will sometimes feel the complete opposite when I’m around. I’ve got a long way to go, but I’m committed to getting there. Are you?

How safe do others feel around you?

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Three Keys to Effective Confrontation

confrontationIt takes courage to confront others . . . well, let me qualify that. It takes courage to confront others right! Anybody can blow up, say something mean or hasty or brush through a confrontation without giving thought to others’ feelings. But it takes a lot of intentional thought, courage and patience to successfully confront people properly.

Let me share just a few pointers I’ve learned about confrontation that might help you next time you find yourself preparing for this super intimidating experience.

1. Remember the Goals of Confrontation
Contrary to popular opinion, the goals of confrontation are not to be right or get back at someone who hurt you. If that is truly why you want to talk, it’s better to simply keep your mouth shut. When your goals include the following, then you’re almost ready to begin.

  • A Better Understanding
    Your goal is to gain understanding where it is lacking. There is almost always something you don’t know about the situation. You may lack context which drove the offense. There is often emotions, motives & outside circumstances that you were completely unaware of. Confrontation should be a truth-seeking venture to help you understand others’ perspective better.
  • A Positive Change
    Your goal should include a positive change. In other words, whether the offense is rooted in something you did or said or not, you should wholeheartedly desire to help others learn and grow through the confrontation. It should seem more like a learning or coaching experience than a hand-slapping experience.
  • A Growing Relationship
    If strengthening and growing your relationship with the other party is not a goal, then again, it may be better to just leave well enough alone. Your goals will drive your behavior and what you say. If you genuinely want a stronger relationship after the confrontation, you will naturally ensure that happens throughout it. If you think there is a good chance the confrontation may burn bridges or destroy the relationship, you will take stock and make sure the confrontation is truly worth it before proceeding.

2. Begin With Three Fingers Pointed at Yourself
It’s an old illustration, but it works well. Whenever you point your finger at someone, there will always be three other fingers pointing back at yourself. Before you begin any confrontation, the wise person will evaluate their own motivations, feelings and thoughts first. Each finger is asking one of the following questions:

  • Am I Part of the Problem?
    Is it possible that the conflict in question was somehow impacted by your actions? Did you not communicate something clearly? Is there a chance your lack of participation discouraged others? Is there anything at all that you might have done that could have helped prevent the conflict from taking place? Be open & honest with yourself before you sit down to talk with others.
  • Am I Telling Myself Ugly Stories?
    Some of us have a tendency to assume the offending party was intentional about hurting us. We make up stories by patching together random events from the past and by attributing motivations to the person that he or she may never have had. We label them in our minds with words like, “mean” or “rude”. Or we imagine things like, “they hate me” or “they are so cocky”. If you enter into a confrontation with stories like these in your brain, the whole conversation will be seen through that filter and you won’t find the healthy resolution you are seeking.
  • Am I Being Defensive In My Approach?
    If you are feeling defensive before or during the confrontation, your chance of success has been neatly cut in half, if not ruined from the start. Most people can read a defensive stance from miles away – and what it usually means is that they need to take up the same stance as well. If you look like you’re ready for a fight, I guess I better get ready too. That’s how we emotionally respond. Resolution will never be made if our goal is to protect ourselves. 

3. Move To One Finger Pointed At God’s Servant
Just this morning I heard a story about a woman who has been able to experience a restored relationship that you and I would probably have thought impossible. When asked how she was able to put up with all of the pain and disappointment she experienced while trying, she simply pointed out, “if God loves them so much, who am I not to”. A great reminder to us all. We should be asking ourselves:

  • Am I Treating Him/Her with Honor?
    We dishonor God when we dishonor His people. We should approach every conversation with a holy reverence, as approaching one of God’s most fascinating and beautiful creations. 
  • Am I Assuming the Best?
    Rather than telling ourselves bad stories, we should do the opposite. Why not make up stories of why the conflict may have happened that believes the best of the person, rather than the worst? Taking this approach will help you relax, it will honor the person you are confronting, and it will empower them to confess wrong motives if they are there – because they won’t have to be defensive.
  • Am I Taking Our Differences Into Account?
    It would be very presumptuous to assume that others think the same way as you. We all process life differently, we make choices differently, we view life through a different filter of expectations, experiences & values. This is often even more true if you are working with individuals from other ethnicity’s or cultures. I will bring value to the conversation by removing my assumptions and expectations and seeking to understand the frame of reference others come from.

These aren’t academic points to me. I work hard to honor them during confrontations. And when I don’t I always regret it. Ironically, it gets harder and harder to successfully confront the people we care about and love the most. Which is why it’s so important we work at it together.

Which of these three points do you forget to do most often?

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The Problem with Procrastination

Warning: I haven’t read the book advertised in the below video, so I can’t recommend it, yet.

That said, I like the concept the author is talking about. The best way to beat procrastination is to think NOW about your future self and come up with ways to trick your future self into doing what you want right now, knowing you might not want to then.

That was a mouthful. But it’s true. Enjoy.

Can’t see this video? Try clicking this link.
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Free Ministry Video Resources

lift-increaseI've recently come across two websites that are successfully making a difference in the world through video. They each boast several great video interviews with both 'regular' and 'famous' people and they capture great stories of people who have faced difficulties and sinful pasts and have overcome through Jesus Christ.

What's even better is the owners of these websites are providing them FREE OF CHARGE. You are welcome to access and utilize them as you see fit.

Let me say the obvious. Most of us couldn't pull this off ourselves. But we CAN utilize them to strengthen our current ministry. I can easily envision these videos being used at:
  • church services.
  • school chapels.
  • small groups.
  • college ministries.
  • classes.
  • discipleship programs.
  • 1 on 1 encouragement.

Check them out today and be sure you earmark them as a resource for your ministry!    

Finding Faith as a PK (with Preston Shaw)

Shaw_website_Header_2013Back in my Children’s Pastor/Youth Pastor days I had the great privilege of watching some great kids grow up. One such kid, by the name of Preston Shaw, is now serving as a missionary in Kazakhstan with his wife and young kids. I’m real proud of he and his family. I also had the distinct honor of working closely with Preston’s dad in full time ministry during the 90′s. So Preston grew up as a PK (Pastor’s Kid) - and he did so in a great home, with awesome parents. 

Many months back I got to sit down with him and talk about what it was like trying to find faith as a PK. I thought many of you might enjoy what Preston had to say. Enjoy.

Can’t see this video? Try clicking this link!
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Trust vs Suspicion, Andy Stanley

Sometimes there is a teaching that has tremendous potential to be a game-changer for churches & ministries. This is one of them. A healthy, thriving church/ministry has a ‘culture of trust’ among the leaders, the teams and, ultimately, throughout the rest of the organization.

Here is who should watch this video. Pastors. Staff. Elders. Deacons. Board Members. Volunteer Leaders. Ministry Teams. 

Rarely do I plead with people to do something. But in this post, I am. Please watch this and ask your teams to watch this. And please make it a launching pad to establish/re-establish/strengthen trust in your ministry. Thanks.

Can’t see this video? Try clicking right here.
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How to Invite People to Church

mefusYour congregation could use a good laugh and gentle push to invite others to church. Why not show them this video? It’s worth it and it gets the point across without you having to say anything else. Give it a shot!

Can’t see this video? Try clicking this link.

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