Wednesday, January 11, 2017

4 Practical Thoughts On Being Efficient

I'm convinced we don't really understand how much time we waste.

Everyone tracks their money (at least they should), but very few track their time. We reconcile our bank account on a regular basis, but few reconcile their calendars to assure they made the best use of their time.

It's interesting. Money comes and goes, but if you lose your time you can't get it back. This is partly why I recently challenged my staff to be more efficient. It's something hard to address because most people don't see themselves as being inefficient. That said, I think all of us can be encouraged in this way.

It is not infrequent for someone to ask me something like, "How do you manage to do so many things?" I'm always growing in this area of my life, but trying to be efficient is one thing I have put a lot of thought into.

Cutting out distraction is the first step. So, these may or may not be helpful thoughts for you, but here are four daily things that tend to limit our efficiency and a few thoughts on how I deal with them to make the most of my time:

  1. Cell phone. Phone calls and text messages, sheesh. We have created a world where everyone is required to be accessible at all times. It's crazy. And even when in meetings with others the cell phone goes on the table in front of us. Sure, we may turn off the ringer...but then it lights up on the table, distracting us from where we are in the moment. We glance down, our mind engages...and then we feel mature because we don't pick it up. But its too late, you have disengaged from the meeting you were in. When it comes to other work or tasks you're trying to accomplish, cell phones are highly intrusive.  The moment you switch your eyes from your computer screen to the screen on your device, it's done. Your thoughts are interrupted, efficiency has been stolen. And never mind the messenger app you can have on your computer that sends notifications across the top right of your screen every time someone sends a text. Seriously?! Here's the deal: turn your cell phone off at least once a day (to start!). If I don't go into airplane mode a few times a day, I at very least turn the ringer off, put my phone face down on the other side of my office, and I don't pick it up for at least 25 minutes (for efficiency I set my timer on my phone for 25 minutes and work through stuff for that time period, completely uninterrupted - for me this works best and keeps my mind focused - and once one segment of 25 minutes is done I will then decide to set another one). Lastly on this point, I also do not have the Messenger app working on my computer. I did at one time and then it stopped for reasons unknown. But what I do know is that once it stopped working I then realized how inefficient it was. Some people ask me what I do if my wife needs to get ahold of me. That's simple. I just let her know I won't be accessible ahead of time. Remember, there once was a day when we didn't have cell phones!
  2. Email. Talk about a necessary evil. But if I'm writing or working through a task I make sure to not check my email because once I do, I know I'm disengaged from what I was doing. When it comes to my phone, I have this on manual - where I'm not notified of incoming emails, but rather have to open the app myself to download the emails. Those of you that have this on automatic notification...seriously, that is crazy. Why would you need to know the moment an email comes in?! For me, I schedule the times I will check email. Sure, there are times when I have 5-10 minutes before a meeting where I will try to get back to an email or three, but generally I have in mind the timeframe I will work through them. Lastly, for other tips on this see this short post I did by clicking here.
  3. Social Media. Bottom line here is, if you want to be where you are, turn off your notifications. I do always, but it's at least necessary in certain points of the day. Do you really need to be notified when someone sends a tweet mentioning you? Do you really need to be notified the moment you get a Facebook message or someone comments on your post? If so...dare I say you have to take time to seriously process that "need." There is beauty to social media, to be sure, but let's make sure we realize that it's not helping you be present where you are. To be efficient, turn this stuff off (at least at some points in the day).
  4. Personal Interruptions. Our office is an open workspace for the most part. This makes it difficult because when you are visible, everyone thinks you're accessible. This is natural, but not always efficient. There should be certain points of everyday that we should deem ourselves inaccessible. If we are not doing this (in most of our cases) we are not going to be efficient. I have an assistant that helps me with this a ton, but if you don't have that luxury figure out a way that you communicate to everyone that you are not available...because, well, you actually have to get some stuff done :-)

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Middle School Terminology

We can say it a number of ways, but trying to describe the middle school ministry can be tricky. Most of us say things like:

  • Middle school ministry
  • Middle school students
  • Middle schooler's
  • Middle school kids
But I'm beginning to think our terminology can make a difference. My oldest daughter is wrapping up her 5th grade year, the last of elementary school where we live. She has grown up a lot the past few years and it is exciting to see. But I don't feel comfortable referring to her as a middle school kid - although "kid" is not inappropriate at this stage of life. That said, how we refer to my daughter and her friends can make a difference. I have begun to say things like:
  • People like my daughter, who are in middle school
  • People who are in middle school
Notice the difference? It's not that we deny them being people in the first phrases above, but I have seen dignity extended and received a bit differently when I refer to my daughter and her friends this way. Time will tell, but at this point it seems to sort of leveling the playing field in a healthy way.

Sunday, May 1, 2016


Well, as most of you know we have an international strategy for our church. At Colossae we are focused on 4 cities and specifically focused on church planting in these cities. This is why I am in Amsterdam.

Before I get more into that, a little fun cultural insight for Amsterdam...

This is true for Europe in many cases as well, but words don't mean the same thing here. For instance, Even though I'm here I still have had a bunch of work to do for our ministry at home, so my plan has been to go to different coffee shops during my time here and work from those places. However, "coffee shops" here are not the same as home. Here, they happen to be where you can purchase hash, marijuana and alcohol. In fact, most sell coffee but some don't.

So, the question is: why do they call them "coffee shops"?

I'm not sure exactly but here is my only conclusion because nobody here seems to know: Coffee is a drug. In our culture we don't think of it that way, but that is what it is. It is a chemically complex drug that has become a social norm. And so, in that sense, it makes sense as to why they call it a coffee shop. It is a place where you purchase, sit, relax, and enjoy socially acceptable "drugs." Plus, if they called it a "marijuana shop" it wouldn't come across well - it's technically not legal but everyone has chosen to let it go. Interesting to say the least.

In fact, thus far I have only found one "coffee house" that would reflect what we would think of as a normal coffee shop. I am writing here as we speak! It is pretty close to the Anne Frank house. This is my view as I write:

Okay, enough of the cultural differences. We can talk about that all day - or at least I can. What am I doing here?

Well, as I mentioned before, I am here for our church planting efforts. Last year our board affirmed the vision of focusing on church planting in 4 international cities: Amsterdam, Netherlands; Shanghai, China; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Mumbai, India.

Our idea is that over the next 3-5 years we will be participating in meaningful ministry in each of these cities. Last year I began moving forward in Dubai and Mumbai and this year I am trying to get things rolling in Amsterdam and Shanghai.

Each city is an international city for its region of the world. Amsterdam is certainly that for Europe. Europe is post-Christian in just about every way and is very "hard soil" to till. We are not looking to plant a Colossae Church here, but rather to come behind what is already happening. I have had the privilege of building relationships with well networked people over the last 15 or so years and I am now able to lean into some of those relationships. For instance, in planning for this trip, I know enough networked people that I can email to find out who I should connect with in a city like Amsterdam. So, I am here for a series of meetings with city-wide leaders who are known, trusted and doing incredible work in this area.

Some of the people I am meeting with work in a church context, others in city-wide development roles, others work in business or for NGO's (non-government organizations). In my meetings I am explaining our vision and desire to come behind what is already happening here. There is nothing worse than for someone like me to come into a city like this and assume nothing is currently going on and that we have all the answers. That is nothing but arrogance. Of course there is good stuff happening here! We don't have the plans and knowledge of this city...we just have a desire to participate. So, it is in these meetings that I get not only an understanding of the sort of things going on here, but also get a feel of who might be the person/organization I eventually bring back to our board as a potential partner.

I had a bunch of meetings but to give you a small picture of them, last night I met with two women who were referred to me through The Palau Association. We talked for over three hours about the city work going on, the effectiveness of the Church, what is broken and the different ways churches are working together (or against one another) here in the city. We also talked about each other's stories a bit, which is vital for potential partnership. I never want to take just one person's or one meetings thoughts as the absolute truth for a city, but their opinions and insights are invaluable at this point. Both of these women are married. One woman is Dutch and one has been a missionary here for the past 23 years. Each provided phenomenal insight. And I trust that all my forthcoming meetings with people from different backgrounds and work experiences here in the Netherlands will provide a well-rounded understanding of how we might participate here.

In addition to meetings set up prior to coming, there are always "referrals." After meeting with people, they always seem to know someone else I should connect with. But one of my favorite ways to gain insight is by randomly meeting people in the city. Yesterday I had about two open hours where I was working from a bakery pretty close to my hotel. It was here that I met a Frenchman who lives in France, but works here in the city 4 days a week. He commutes by train. We talked for about 20 minutes about his perspective on the city, what he likes and doesn't. I see all of these encounters as priceless.

We are already moving forward in Mumbai, India and have narrowed our potential pathways in Dubai. I am hoping to get to Shanghai by the end of the year to further some conversations I've already begun over FaceTime or Skype. But for now, I am here in Amsterdam.

The hope of our board is within the next few years you will all be introduced to those we are partnering with around the world. We hope your heart drifts toward one of the cities or leaders and you can participate personally as well. But for now, I'd really appreciate and covet your prayer for my time here. There is nothing like meeting with people in person which makes my meetings I have here critical. As a board we desire this to be a relational partnership for our entire church but as we all know, relationships take time to develop. Just one example is our Mumbai focus. It has taken over 14 months to build relationship and begin letting our elders get to know the planter we are going to help.

That to say, we are on the front end of our vision where I am in many ways having to cut out a pathway for us, which unfortunately requires me to travel more. I say it often, but I really don't like to be away from my family...I happen to like them a lot! That said, this is necessary and Barbara and my girls are in this with me - as I trust you are. I must say though, it's not entirely painful. I do enjoy other cultures and as more of a visionary person I do enjoy prayerfully being in a city and meeting with individuals that are potentially long-term partners with us at Colossae.

If you have read this far, then you will want to know that I am planning to do a Sunday evening forum where I walk through where we are with each of these 4 cities. I am even hoping to Skype in a person from each city in that meeting - if we can work out all the time zone issues. If that interests you, then keep your eyes on the church's coming sooner than later!

Just for fun, here is a picture I took on my walk to my current location. It is no doubt a beautiful city.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Pharisee In A Millennial Body

I dedicated an entire chapter in Better Off wihtout Jesus to the idea that there is a Pharisee within every one of us. It looks different from Jesus' day and we hate it, but it is true.

For Boomer generations and possibly some Gen-Xers the Pharisee comes out in self-focus. Rather than looking at gifts as a means of God's grace expressed toward the life of others (Ephesians 4:11-16), we tend to think of it as something we are good at or skilled in. This small tweak causes it to be about us rather than God ministering to others through us.

Small tweaks, but one's that send us on a different trajectory of perspective. Now, I'm sure it reveals itself in a number of different ways for each generation, but there is one way I see the Pharisee subversively surfacing in Millennials.

It shows up under the umbrella of "gifts." Let me explain.

Out of a unique desire to find the specific thing that God wants them to be doing, there is a distinct focus on making sure they are using their gifts. It isn't malicious (just as the Boomer perspective is not), but it is becoming more obvious. It is often a generational spiritualization of self-focus.

So here is one thought I think Jesus would have for all generations: It's not about what you do or how your gifts are used, but about who you love. Here are a couple of thoughts from scripture as to why I say this:

  1. In Matthew 22:37-39 Jesus answers a question the Pharisees asked. They're question was, "What is the greatest thing we should be doing?" They were concerned about doing commandments. However, when we understand the context of Deuteronomy 6 and all that plays into that for a Jewish mindset, Jesus essentially responds by saying, "It's not about you do. It's about who you love."
  2. 1 Corinthians 12 and 13 talk about both gifts and love. Chapter 12 is clearly laying out gifts of the Spirit. But then when we get to chapter 13 Paul is saying that all of that is void without love. In other words the only eternal thing, and thus the only thing worthy of our focus, is love. This makes a lot of sense since God is love (1 John 4:7-10). God has always been a self-giving loving relationship (that is referred to as the "Trinity"). God as a loving relationship of 3 Persons is what our Christian faith is founded on.

So, as Millennials ask and wrestle with how they are gifted my encouragement is that we help them through it by helping them embrace the facts: it's not about you, but about who you love.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

God is NOT Creator

I recently taught this message as the kick-off to our current series titled, "God: a relationship of Persons"

It's not that we are denying the fact that God created heaven and earth. It's actually about making a much more specific point.

It's really about how we think of and define God in our own minds.


Colossae WFR Retreat Message 2015 from Colossae Church on Vimeo.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

3 Tensions Employers Must Get Over With Millennials

Business and organizations of all sorts that are being led by Baby Boomers (and now even Gen X'ers) all seem to be trying to nail down the nuances and balances of hiring and working with Millennials.

This post is far too short to address all the existing tension points and the reasons behind them, but here are a few quick expectations employers need to get over being frustrated about and figure out how to work with. Because, well, they are NOT going to change.
  1. To have a voice. Think about it. Millennials have never been without a voice. Ever since they can remember they can post their opinions. Blogs. Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. They have always been able to make known and share what they like or disagree with. They know nothing other than being able to express their opinions. From their perspective, it's a way of contributing. Employers, get over your frustration with this and provide avenues for younger employees to voice their opinion. Sure, they might not have the best ideas all the time, but they are sure to have some. If you cannot provide these avenues you are sure to lose your most gifted younger employees. It's that simple.
  2. To have flexibility. We all realize that certain jobs require rigid hours and limitations to freedoms. However, if flexibility is not offered where it can be employers will be the ones who lose. Employers, realize that Millennials want to devote their lives to something greater than themselves and they would love nothing more than to do that where they work. Many (of course not all) will work late at night on their own initiative or wake up earlier than they ever would for social activities to do their job. When employers are able to provide flexibility with schedule they will likely find the productivity increase among their Millennial employees. And, most, will also see creativity and and overall collaboration increase as well.
  3. To have responsibility. Too much has been written about how Millennials avoid responsibilities. Sure, there are clearly chasms in how generations think about certain things but they are not afraid of assuming roles that have impact. If they want anything, it's impact. Impactful roles within any organization come with weight and responsibility. Employers who draw up "areas of responsibility" rather than "job duties" or even "job descriptions" experience the beauty of hiring Millennials. They provide avenues for Millennials to contribute to the daily operation and overall strategy of a company. 
It's in these ways that smart employers are working with Millennials (versus against) and are therefore experiencing the benefits of having them on their team.

Monday, July 13, 2015

14 Thoughts: SCOTUS Decision

I wrote these thoughts out a few weeks ago for the people part of Colossae Church. I thought I would also post it here. Hope you find it helpful.  Here is the post:

I feel like I need to say a few things for our church regarding the recent SCOTUS decision.

This cannot be anything but controversial, so I will just offer a list of thoughts. Regardless where people fall on the pendulum swing of opinions/convictions/beliefs on this issue, everyone has deep feelings and even fears attached to all that is happening. So, my hope is that these thoughts will not only clearly state our position as a church, but hopefully bring some internal rest to some of us who are trying to think deeper about how we live out our faith right now.

The list is in no particular order. I only ask that you read all the way through this postSo, if you do not have time to do so at this point...please set this aside and come back to this post when you have ample time.

First, I must say that I have been so proud to be part of our church. As far as I have seen you have responded in humility and dignity to this issue. My hope for this post is that you would continue to be encouraged in the same posture.

Secondly, let me say upfront that I have dozens of friends that I love deeply who hold different convictions about this issue and dozens others that actively participate in same-sex partnerships. I maintain these relationships while being fully in line with our conviction at Colossae: We believe God's best for marriage is between a man and a woman. We hold to that statement based on both Old Testament passages (for example Genesis 1-3) as well as from New Testament passages, such as directly from the mouth of Jesus (Matthew 19:4-9).

  1. Every person is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26) and therefore deserves to be respected as a human being, period. We believe this is true regardless of beliefs, opinions, backgrounds, choices, etc.
  2. Love and humility, NOT shame, should be our mutual aspiration in culture. We believe Jesus modeled this perfectly...which is why we desire to follow his ways. 
  3. If the bible becomes a weapon that we use against people, it is not holiness we seek but power. This is not only arrogant and contrary to the ways of Jesus, but detrimental to our passing along what we say we believe.
  4. We can easily talk about the need for holiness in our culture, but fail to realize our own unholy motivations (James 1:13-15). To hold back from throwing stones we must come to grips with our own villainous nature (Romans 3:23). 
  5. It should not be a surprise to anyone (Christian or not) that people hold different beliefs about different topics - gun control, Jesus, governmental structures, parenting philosophies...and everyone thinks they hold the correct view. We cannot react in fear but must be careful to respond with dignity toward others. 
  6. We have to manage our anxiety and become servants of those that disagree with us not opponents (Matthew 20:28). 
  7. God is not frantically pacing in heaven right now because of what is going on in the cultures around the world. As Christians we cannot react in fear of losing control of culture as if we ever had control in the first place. We believe God is the only sovereign One. 
  8. We have zero right or freedom to judge people who are not Christian (1 Corinthians 5:12-13).
  9. In the height of the Roman Empire when Caesar ruled through much corruption, Jesus never spoke up against him. In fact his perspective was the opposite (for example see Luke 20:22-25). Or later when Nero was torturing Christians in the public square because of their faith, the apostle Peter guided Christians on how to live under that government (see 1 Peter 2:13-17). The biblical or Christian response is always honoring those who govern over us. If that was true under the rule of Nero, it would certainly apply today as well. Also read Romans 13:1-7.
  10. Belittling or separating from people because they sin differently than we do is a sin in itself. This is precisely what the Pharisees did and we cannot fall into that trap. We have talked about this many times, but as a church we cannot sit around with bracelets on, talking about what Jesus would his followers we must do what he did. He not only avoided belittling people, but he clearly befriended those who were outside of his "belief system." The Pharisee's had a problem with this and only because they were arrogantly focused on how much people lived different lifestyles then they did - as if they were perfect. Anyone who arrogantly separates needs to read 1 Corinthians 5:9-10 because scripture never expects followers of Jesus to separate from people who live differently because they hold different beliefs.
  11. Human beings are much more than moral agents who consistently fail and therefore just need Jesus as a remedy - as is too often the bottom line view in the evangelical world. In other words, morality is the wrong battle to fight. This was largely what I spoke on a few weeks ago in the message titled, Encounters: Who Do You Love? Life has never been about what we do or abstain from, but according to Jesus, it's about who we love (Matthew 22:34-40).
  12. Every single person living today has a skewed sexual orientation. None of us has a holy or completely sacred idea about sexual relationships or, for that matter, relationships in general.
  13. Warnings against heterosexual sin in scripture FAR OUTWEIGH the warnings against homosexual behaviors. The issue scripture addresses is not one of homosexuality, but porneia: any sexual interaction outside the context of marriage. So, to hold up homosexuality as something different or worse than anything else is really just an expression of bigotry.
  14. Culture is not something we try to "win," but rather something we want to bring the Gospel to (Matthew 28:18-20). The Gospel has always been should not be shocking to us that we believe differently then the majority of our culture.

So I hope this helps you process how you respond to this. I would also ask that you carefully consider what you say, links you share, or how you respond to things online. My hope for our church is that we would choose to be viewed as humble servants more than be viewed as right.

Thank you for your humility before God and others.