The Meaning of Pain

This is Easter week and I am totally focused on prepping for Easter, but I want to give you something to think about.

The other day I was listening to a message by Andy Stanley, pastor of North Point in Atlanta, and he made this statement:

Why would God, who did not spare his own Son to save us, spare your marriage, your health, your job, or anything else if losing that thing would draw you to himself? (My words)

Needless to say, I was blown away. In this Easter week, think about how much God gave to draw you to himself. You might find yourself, as I did, viewing your struggles and challenges in a very different and more redemptive light.

What has God used in your life to draw you to himself?


What Is a Win for Your Ministry?

This past week I attended Catalyst Atlanta 2012.  Having attended a number of large leadership conferences, I expected an incredible show surrounding world-class speakers.  Catalyst did not disappoint.

Some highlights were music artists Gungor and Israel Houghton, poet Amena Brown Owens, a beat-boxing cellist, and a very cool integration of a Michael Jackson medley with the Dan Deacon app.

David Platt challenged us to keep the cross central to our ministry.  Christine Caine riveted us to our seats as she spoke on passing the baton to the next generation.  Craig Groeschel encouraged everyone to follow the deo humana moments in our lives, those times when God inexplicably nudges us in one direction or another.

Andy Stanley spoke at the beginning of the conference on The Making of a Leader, but it was his talk on Friday that caught my attention as I thought about taking my ministry to the next level.  In his talk on Creating High-Performance Teams Andy shared a leadership concept that I had forgotten.

Identify the Win

Anyone who has read Jim Collins’ book Good to Great or heard him speak will recognize this concept.  Andy lamented that many church volunteers, leaders, or even senior pastors cannot identify the win for their church or ministry.

People want to win.  They want to succeed at whatever they do.  When they know the “win” people work harder, enjoy their work more, and work in a more unified fashion.

What Is a “Win?”

  • Measurable
  • Observable
  • A common goal or desired result

Some examples:

  • In football a win is achieving more points than the opposing team.
  • In construction a win is a happy customer who recommends your services to other people.
  • In teaching a win is a student who can measurably demonstrate the skills or knowledge in question rather than just memorize facts.

According to Andy at Northpoint a win is “a person leaving inspired and helped, and then coming back with a friend.”

As I am beginning my new position I am now asking myself, “What is the win here?”

What about you?  Have you identified the “win” for your company or ministry?

Catalyst Conference, Part 2

I am loving my time at Catalyst in Atlanta. Here are a few quotes:

• There is only one love language: die to self! Christine Caine

• Some people in this room are stepping out on their wives. Why would I want you to make disciples? Francis Chan

• Leaders are made one response at a time. Andy Stanley

Next week I will return to steps for growing your worship ministry.

For now, have a great weekend and worship time.

What Do Andy Stanley, Marketing, and Good Marriages Have in Common?

If you’re thinking that Andy Stanley did a marketing campaign about a marriage series, perhaps he did, but that is not the link.

Better yet, perhaps Andy Stanley used a marketing scheme when he was pursuing marriage and looking for a partner.

Nope.  Creative thinking, though.  I’d love to read THAT story.

No, Andy Stanley, marketing and marriage share one thing:



That’s right.

Michael Hyatt, in his blog post 3 Characteristics of the New Marketing, said:

The new marketing is fueled by generosity. As we were looking over the menu (at The Southern in Nashville), the server brought us free BBQ Shrimp and Oyster Southern appetizers. This was totally unexpected—and wonderfully delicious.

In today’s environment, the way to create wow experiences is to define your customers’ expectations then exceed them. This is exactly what our server did. As it turns out, “It is more blessed to give that to receive” is a brilliant marketing strategy.

Websites like Copyblogger talk all the time about how good content + generosity = successful marketing, which is completely the opposite of old/traditional marketing (think car salesman hard selling you on a lemon).  In the post A 7-Step Guide to Mind Control: How to Quit Begging and Make People Want to Help You, Jonathan Morrow says:

This isn’t about “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” It’s about generosity so overwhelming they can’t say no.

In a top message series at Northpoint Community Church Andy Stanley, the lead pastor, spoke about Staying in Love, and in the fourth installment, Multiple Choice Marriage, Andy points out one of the key choices we have to make.  Couples often have to make this choice daily or even multiple times per day.

We must choose whether or not to be generous with our partner.

When your partner forgets to do something, you can go negative or positive.  Option 1 is to assume that your partner is incompetent and, worse yet, does not care about you or the marriage.  Option 2 is to assume that your partner may have had a bad day and completely lost track of what he or she needed to do.

Be generous with your partner.  Over . . and over . . and over . . again, like Jesus was with you and me.

Give grace, because you are going to need it soon enough.

How can you be more generous in your relationships?

The Need for Integrity

Be who you are wherever you are all of the time.

Dave Ramsey brought this up in a podcast from last week where a father wanted to sign his boat over to his son so that the father could say he didn’t own it.

My friend and I discussed this tonight in relation to people who profess to be Christians yet do things which blatantly go against Christ’s teachings.

It’s easy to point the finger.  Andy Stanley, in a past message called Staying in Love – Part 3: Feelin’ It, said that we are experts in assessing other people’s actions, but we are clueless when it comes to assessing and understanding and guarding what is in our heart.

The same principle applies here.  We all face issues, but it is a heck of a lot easier to point those issues out in someone else than to admit to them yourself or someone else.

We could all do with a bit more honesty and integrity on that level as well.  That said, here are some issues I face, in no particular order.  I wonder if you face the same ones:

  • Keeping my eyes and mind focused on pure thoughts and images.  This comes up frequently in my use of technology, where I am inundated by opportunities to do the wrong thing.  I face this every time I walk into Barnes & Noble, where every possible kind of printed material is ready for the taking.
  • Choosing to address painful issues directly and promptly.  My tendency is to avoid confrontation and then worry about the problem privately.  Integrity walks up and knocks on the door of the problem, not knowing who or what will answer.
  • Speaking, talking, and acting the same way when I am by myself or with people, when I am with Christians or with non-Christians.  I am constantly tempted to change or adjust my personal values or priorities or opinions to please others.  This is particularly a challenge when I expect someone to be critical of how I live or express myself.
  • Talking about God with my friends in my personal time.  It’s easy for me to talk about what Jesus is doing in me while I am sitting in church, but I can lax from that candor when I am hanging out with friends on Friday night because it is not “cool.”
  • Accurately describing an item for sale.  I just put a suit and some shirts up on Craigslist.  I mentioned that there is a very slight stain on one of the shirts, although the suit coat covers it.  I SO wanted to ignore that issue and present the shirts as “like new.”

I am certain there are more areas, but these are the five that come to mind right now.  Integrity is a choice you make every moment of every day.

Be who you are wherever you are all of the time.

How is your integrity being challenged?

What Leaders Can Learn from NASCAR

Coaches carefully instruct athletes on how to pace themselves.

Long distance runners have to judge exactly how far they can push their bodies while still keeping a reserve for the final sprint.  Bicyclers in the Tour de France have to hold just enough in reserve to explode into the lead at the right moment.

A different sort of pacing is learning to draft.  No, not beer.  Cars.  NASCAR.  Being able to patiently cruise on someone else’s bumper until just the right moment requires skill and finesse.

Leaders can learn how to draft from NASCAR.

Athletes and NASCAR drivers are highly skilled in pacing themselves, but leaders are not.  In fact, many leaders actively fight against you when you try to pace yourself.

“Hey, Jim, thanks for taking the call on your day off.  Look, I really need that document for my meeting in 10 minutes; can you email it to me?  Oh, yeah, and . . . and . . .”  Pastors and, admit it, you and I have all done this at some point.  Some of us still do it.  A lot.  In the name of ministry.  In the name of “winning another soul to Christ.”

The last time I checked Jesus let Martha sit at his feet, and he commended her for it.  The last time I checked Jesus waited in Jerusalem until there was no doubt that Lazarus was dead and gone before leaving to visit Mary and Martha.  He was never in a hurry, even in seemingly life-and-death situations.

You only have one body, one life, and one family; treat them well.  Pace yourself.

If you are having a hard time knowing how to pace yourself, here are a few points to consider.  These four things help me to clear my mind of distractions so that I can recognize when to sprint and when to just draft.  None of these are original with me.

  1. Review your priorities.  Know what is most important: God, you, your family, your job, ministry, in that order.  Set your face towards God, then make certain you are staying healthy.  Your family deserves your attention next, now that you are refreshed and have something to give them.  Your job is critical because it has to do with providing for your family.  Finally you can think about ministry.
  2. Draw firm boundaries.  What days do you have off?  How many hours are you going to work per week?  If you regularly work over 60 hours you need to reconsider your work schedule.  Be clear about those two areas with your leaders and let them know you are not available in your off-work times.  Period.  Communicate immediately when these boundaries are crossed.  If someone consistently pushes you past your boundaries, it is time to communicate more clearly or to ask God for a new job.
  3. Practice patience.  Review my blog from last week, A Leader’s Most Important Trait, to understand the role patience needs to play in our lives.  99% of life is not an emergency, yet we push people as if every project has to be done yesterday.  Remember the cliché, “Just because it is your emergency does not make it my emergency?”  It’s true.
  4. Remember it’s just a job.  At the end of the day your family, your relationship with God and your personal health are more important than your job, even if you have a job in ministry.  As Andy Stanley said so well in the book Choosing to Cheat, it is Jesus’ job to take care of the church, not ours.  Our first ministry is to our family.

Pacing yourself in ministry, much like drafting in NASCAR, is hard work, but it is the only way to guard against burnout.  To dig deeper, listen to Michael Hyatt’s podcast, Is Work-Life Balance Really Possible?

How are you going to pace yourself this week?

6 Ways Notated Charts Can Strengthen Your Church

If there are silver bullets in worship ministry, notated charts may be one of them. Notated charts have been one of my most powerful tools.  

Good notated charts have enabled me to more effectively guide musicians and raise engagement within the congregation.  I have also been able to bring the vision of my senior pastor to life time and time again especially because I employed notated charts with my teams.

Whether I was leading Deathbed by Relient K for an Easter service drama, Who Am I Living For by Katy Perry for a message on purpose in life, or It Was Finished on the Cross by Regi Stone and Kristie Braselton as a response to the message, notated charts have been critical in enabling the church to have truly life changing worship experiences.  

Here is what I mean by notated charts:

  • Notated melodies and harmonies
  • Chord symbols
  • No tab
  • Rhythms notated using actual notes for solos along with a mixture of rhythmic and slash notation
  • Lyrics with the lemony, and only lyric cues for the rhythm part
  • Occasional notated drum patterns as guides
  • Tempo markings (descriptor as well as numerical and note values)

Have you tuned out yet?  Hello . . . McFly?

For those of you who have not studied music, set that aside for a moment and just go with me on this.

For those of you who think I have tuned out the work of the Holy Spirit all together, consider that teaching is a spiritual gift and notated charts are part of teaching your musicians to lead on a higher level.

Here are a few reasons NOT to use notated music with your musicians:

  1. To screen out “lesser” musicians.  You are not running the local philharmonic.  Musicians in church need to use their gifts to honor God and bless others, not live up to your expectations.
  2. To help you achieve your “dream” music team.  It’s not about you.  Period.  Get your musical kicks elsewhere.
  3. To impress professional musicians.  It’s not about them, either.  Oh, and impressing others means you’re still stuck on stroking your own ego, which we just mentioned.
  4. To impress your musical and worship colleagues.  Last time I checked this was not about you.  Again.
  5. To achieve your worldwide mission to restore the arts through the church.
I have been guilty of using every one of these excuses either consciously or subconsciously as a reason to use notated music.  I love to be good at music, and I can be a perfectionist in a moment if I am not careful.

Humans have an amazing tendency to be selfish and arrogant, even in church leadership.  Actually, Andy Stanley has said in a recent podcast Courage in Leadership that leaders are even more susceptible than the average person.  We as leaders have to constantly guard against self-centered-ness.

Christ is all about people, and we should be, too.

Why you should use notated music with your worship team:

  1. Every musician, especially those in the church, should be committed to improving their ability.  In the Parable of the Talents Jesus tells the story of three servants to whom the master entrusts his wealth.  Two servants double his investment, but the third is afraid and hides the master’s money.  The master comes back and is furious with the lazy servant.  Jesus expects us to improve and maximize the investment he has made in us.  We want children to graduate from picture books because they can find a much wider world waiting for them; why do we not want adults to see the wider world waiting for them through notated music?
  2. Notated charts unify worship teams.  One of the reasons I notate the melodies and harmonies of worship songs is to answer questions before they are asked.  Any musician on the team can pull out the chart and know exactly where they are supposed to sing harmony or unison, and exactly what those parts are.  The same goes for the rhythm players.  So much rehearsal time can be wasted arguing over what note someone is supposed to sing.  Good leaders answer questions before they are asked.
  3. Notated charts ensure a reliable experience for your team members.  Musicians love to know what to expect, so when you provide reliable charts that look exactly the same every time you are helping them to learn and feel at ease, and you are also saving tons of prep/rehearsal time for them.
  4. Notated charts help ensure the congregation hears a consistent product.  One of the best ways to annoy your church attendees is to sing a song’s melody slightly different every week.  These are amateur musicians at best, shower singers most often, and they are used to learning songs that are exactly the same every time they hear them.  Do you want to up your engagement in the services?  Sing a melody exactly the same every time.
  5. Notated charts save rehearsal time.  In the long run well written and notated charts can save you tons of time in rehearsal, and who doesn’t love that?  Yes, I said the long run, but it is worth it.  Love your team by giving them more time at home.
  6. Notated charts enable your team to play more difficult music.  Above you see the first page of a chart I made for Paradise by Coldplay.  Lakeshore Community Church in Rochester, NY, used this song yesterday in their Easter services.  This song is too complex to be well adapted from a chord chart.

You may have noticed by now that every one of these reasons have to do with improving the worship experience for either the congregation or the musicians.  Embracing notated charts can open up great possibilities for unifying your musicians, engaging your congregation, and realizing your senior pastor’s vision.

How could your church benefit from notated charts?