Archive for April, 2010

Why I love middle and late adapters

April 29, 2010

Early adapters only need to see and hear a plan of action that coincides with the cry of their heart.  They are then willing to throw themselves into the work and help push the cause forward.  Every leader loves and needs early adapters on their team.   However, a good team is made of up a mixture of personalities.  Not everybody is so quick to jump on board

Middle adapters need to see a clear path from what is to what will be.  For this group of individuals, a clear plan of action is important.  They need to understand the problem, as well as the solution. This group is only resistant to needless change.  Therefore, it is important to spend time explaining the problem, as well as how the solution will improve results.  You need to know what it is you want to do, why it needs to be done, and how you plan to get there.  When you can show a clear plan of action, middle adapters will be on board.

Late adapters need to understand the connection from what was to what will be.  This group relates on a much different level.  To understand them with compassion, consider a railroad.  No matter what you do, your engine is going to go where the tracks go.  People who are late adapters have a very strong railway system in their heads.  In order to help them adapt to change, you have to discover where they have been and connect that to what will be.  In this way, you add a switch to their railway system and provide them with the tools and capability to move to the new track.

Let’s say you want to change the color of your sanctuary.

Early adapters will be on board the minute you mention it.

Middle adapters will need to understand how you plan to choose the new color, and make sure that you have a process in place.

With Late adapters, it might be best to lead with questions.  Ask them about the last renovation. Help them remember why they did all that hard work. Take them into the sanctuary when it’s not full of people, and let them really look at the chipped, discolored paint.  They have always wanted the sanctuary to look nice.  Then realizing that there might be a need for a new paint job, send them on a foray to the paint store to discover what colors say about a building and report back what they found.  Do certain colors help people stay awake and alert?  Are some colors more warm and inviting than others?  (Be careful about the sort of questions, making sure you make it clear that the ultimate decision is in someone else’s hands because their railroad tracks are pretty much cemented, and if they decide on a paint color, they will wrestle anyone to the ground for it.)  When your ‘research team’ is done with their project, they will not only be in full support of a color change, they will most likely have procured the funding.

True, this is perhaps a bit of an easy thing.  The fact remains that the deeper the emotional attachment is, the harder the change will be.  Just try moving a teen across the country, or similar involuntary transitions, later in life.  The key to helping people who are reluctant to change is to identify their emotional barriers, and address them.  Find ways that the new situation will address their concerns and even meet their needs.  Late adapters will be your strongest supporters if you will cultivate those relationships and take the time to respect their views.

Truthfully, middle and late adapters are a great gift.  They cause us to review our plans from every angle so that by the time we have everyone on board, we are ready to go forward, avoiding flaws and obstacles we would have missed otherwise.

Are you an early adapter?

April 28, 2010

When Baskin Robbins comes out with a new flavor, are you one of the first to try it?

Or are you like the big brothers on the Life commercial (oooh I am dating myself) – “let’s get Mikey, he likes everything”, waiting to see what others think before you waste your precious coin and calorie count?

What about in life?

Do you jump on a new idea?

Do you wait to see if it has validity?

Do you wait to see if it will develop history?

Do you like your life the way it is, thank you?

This morning, I noticed that Frank Viola is coming out with a new book, this one with Leonard Sweet.  This should be remarkable.  Both are fantastic thinkers.  Both are voices that should be listened to.

It got me to thinking about my response to Viola’s book on house churches.  My heart said ‘yes! Vulnerability in the church’.  Wisdom and experience told me it needed a bit more structure.

I tend to be on the tail end of early adapters, or the first wave of middle adapters.  One of my giftings is the ability to speak multiple cultural languages (as opposed to actual languages.)  It comes from being born in 1965.  A Gen-Xer before there were any, in a world of Boomers, educated by early Boomers.

I had this conversation with my son just recently.  He is 12, and already experiencing the frustration of interacting with late adapters… actually I think he was just frustrated with middle adapters.  It was such a joy to explain this concept to him, and impart to him how to go about getting other people on board a process.

Life is changing all around us.  We can change every minute and become chameleons, we can listen to the Spirit, and jump onto what He is doing today, or, we can hold onto yesterday for dear life, hoping it will come back.

That should be a song – Yesterday is gone, my friend.

Unexplainable by Don Cousins

April 27, 2010

Has it been a while since you read an inspirational book?

I am glad I took the time to read Unexplainable.

Don Cousins reminded me that my life is supposed to be Unexplainable apart from God.  He also went through the steps to contentment.

Every once in a while, we need a refresher.  Don Cousins has written a great one.

This one is worth your time.

Who’s Using Your Eraser?

April 20, 2010

There are some things that you can never erase – a misspoken word…

Sometimes the things that you want to erase aren’t your own actions, but the difficult times – whether they be life’s hard times, or the actions of others.

I’ve been thinking about conflict this week.  I contended in a Facebook conversation that conflict can be positive.  I don’t think it ever feels positive, but I think that it can have a positive purpose.

Romans 5:3-4 says:  “…we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

1 Peter 1:5-7 says, “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.”

We can’t learn faith we are at the end of our rope.  Goodness is added next – it means modesty, virtuous action, purity.  Interesting that faith comes before good action, not after.  To good action we add knowledge (which you don’t get without first realizing your lack thereof), to knowledge we add self control.

This list is so long – I think I understand why he put faith first!  I think we have to return to faith every step of the way.  Just the act of learning self control is the beginning of learning perseverence.  As you can see, this list requires us to rest in faith and learn to master conflict.

Do you see that giant eraser I started this post with?  The trick to the eraser is that it only works in God’s hands.  When we spend our energy trying to erase our problems, we aren’t using conflict situations as opportunities to grow.  If we start in faith, we find that God uses the eraser to shape our picture, add shading, and take out the errors.

In the end, perseverence will finish its work.  We will find that God has developed us into the peopel we were each created to be.

Finding Organic Church by Frank Viola

April 19, 2010

I spent the weekend reading Frank Viola’s Finding Organic Church. What a stretch! What a challenge!

Although the purpose of this article is to help you determine whether this book is worth reading or not, I find that this is a book that invites conversation. I cannot give you a review without giving you a bit of my opinions on his thesis as well.

On the positive, this book is incredibly well researched and thought through. Given the fact that it is the fourth book in series, perhaps a bit too much on the research.

The book’s subtitle is “A comprehensive guide to starting and sustaining authentic Christian communities. I found that the comprehensive guide didn’t start until page 171.

Frank Viola is an incredible thinker and visionary. He is VERY fair in his appraisal of the landmarks and potential pitfalls of his organic church approach. However, I don’t agree with all of his conclusions.

Viola appears to believe that authenticity and organic relationships cannot happen in the traditional church. Part of me understands his skepticism, but I think he is wrong.

I’ve been mulling this over since the Fall of 2002, and I believe that whereas the house church movement has some definite draws, the drawbacks are too strong to be ignored. Particularly that of oversight.

Viola tried to fix this, I believe, but the results look like something like Viola beginning his own denomination as he seeks to provide resources for house churches and a clearing house for apostles/guest speakers who understand the venue and have decent theology. (He is currently offering resources, I think the clearing house is just the next step.)

Viola is right in that the traditional church structure also has some incredible problems that must be overcome in order to see the church continue very far into this century. It is impersonal at times, and allows people to remain “anonymous” if they so choose. Unless the leader is a particularly gifted equipper, the structure can also limit people’s involvement in ministry.

Since I believe strongly that everyone should have a ministry, and everyone should be heard in some small group setting, it is (to me) a tragedy that many have not had this experience in the traditional church. I understood Viola to disagree with the very premise of the traditional church, and that he would like to see us spend more time “being” than “doing.”

It is my contention that the answer will be found as a marriage of the organic and traditional church formats. The traditional church has attempted this, with the small group movement, but most of the time this falls short, becoming very much like a ‘mini-church’ and not providing an atmosphere for real relationships and interpersonal authenticity.

I think that Viola’s most compelling argument in this book was that you can’t build an organic community until you have experienced one as a member first.

Here is my review of this book: If the future of the church concerns you, you can’t afford to ignore Frank Viola. Not because he has all the answers, but because he is definitely part of the conversation. He sees from a perspective that many of us don’t, and we need to hear his voice. He is a great thinker, and he is very articulate. He understands a perspective that we definitely need to add to the mix. He doesn’t just espouse a thought, but he does research to put his thought in a historical context (although again, I didn’t always agree with his contentions).

If you are just bored with church, well, I’m not sure if this book will fix anything for you. If you really want something different, I think you should try getting involved in changing your church. If you want to understand the organic church from beginning to end, read the entirety of Viola’s four works (Pagan Christianity, The Untold Story of the New Testament Church, From Eternity to Here, and Finding Organic Church) to understand his movement.

Want to buy this book? You can buy it on Amazon.com.

Interested in other titles? Here’s another Frank Viola title I reviewed some time ago: From Here to Eternity

You Can’t Mess Up God’s Plan

April 12, 2010

Do you sometimes feel like this broken down barn – like your usefulness is gone? Do you feel like you somehow managed to screw up the design for your life and ended up with a saggy, moldy roof? Do you think God had a plan for you and you missed it?

The children of Israel really did miss God’s boat. They refused to go into the Promised Land. Once they were there, they continued to make mistakes. God’s response? God didn’t change his plan, He just delayed it and worked their mistakes into His plan.

God worked with the People of Israel until they were ready to do what they were called to do. He molded and shaped them, reworked their understanding of Him and themselves, until they were ready to walk into the Promised Land.

Once they were in the Promised Land, they discovered a few things:

1. God’s provision changed. In the desert, He always provided by giving manna. In the new land, they ate from the fruit of the land. I imagine at first this was a little sparse given that they hadn’t yet taken enough land to support the size of nation they had become.
2. God’s discipline was complete. He forced them to keep their focus on Him. When Achan disobeyed and took plunder from Jericho, the whole nation suffered and people died. God plays for keeps, and He is very serious about helping us attain our goals, but he demands our entire focus.
3. When they made an honest mistake, God used it for their benefit. The people of Gibeon tricked them. Joshua and the leaders messed up and followed their senses instead of asking for God’s input. They really messed up, but it wasn’t in rebellion, it was in stupidity. God used this blunder to bring five kings against Israel. At the end of the battle, Israel had continued the campaign and taken a huge part of the territory God had given them.
4. Adversity is often God getting ready to increase your territory. With the exception of Jericho and Ai, the battles that Israel fought were started when other nations came against them. They had a choice – fight for fright. They fought, obeyed God, and their territory increased.

God won’t leave you with a moldy saggy roof unless that’s what you really want. If you want to fulfill the purpose He created you for, He will make a way. He is the master of work arounds and new plans. He makes mistakes into new victories. If you are missing a support beam or two, He will build you a new one.

Coached for Life by Ed Flaherty and Jack Uldrich

April 11, 2010

I want to share a book with you.

Sometimes, when you pour into people’s lives, you wonder if you are making a difference. 

At Great Falls Central, in 1962, coaches Bill Mehrens and John “Poncho” McMahon didn’t spend their time wondering about their impact, they spent their time shaping lives. 

In Coached for Life, you will find the stories of 37 football players and several other students whose lives were impacted.  You will hear the stories of their formations, and see the results through the next 40 years.  These men and women didn’t just grow up to be vacuum salesmen (nothing wrong with vacuum salesmen) – they grew up to be world changers.

You should read this book if:

  • You make a habit of reading leadership books
  • You want to be a leader (therefore you should make a habit of reading leadership books)
  • You need some new sports illustrations for your sermons <cough>
  • You need encouragement
  • You work with kids in any capacity.

This book in deliberately laid out.  We march through the 1962 season, one game at a time, while being introduced to the players, sometimes one at a time, sometimes four at a time, and find out who the kids were; what their character and life issues were; what the coaches did to pour into their lives and help shape them; and how that impacted them immediately as well as later in life.  Each chapter also has a particular leadership focus and take-away nugget.

Here’s a couple of my favorites:

“Leaders are made, they are not born.  They are made by hard effort, which is the price all of us pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.” – Vince Lombardi

“It is a fine thing to have ability, but the ability to discover ability in others is the true test.” -Elbert Hubbard

“We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then is not an act, but a habit” -Aristotle

I could quote several more, but this is just a sampling.  If you want to buy this book you can buy it on Amazon.com.

Want more information?  Here’s the author’s website.

My Focus

April 6, 2010

Today I wrote in a bio that my teaching focus is: “to help people know and serve God through ordinary opportunities while maintaining focus and balance through life’s tumultuous twists and turns.”

I kind of surprised myself.  It came out so easily.  I want people to know God better.  He is real.  He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.  Knowing Him makes life easier – even the hard parts.

A relationship with God isn’t built so much through monumental tasks and events.  It is built through the ordinary times.  Pastor George used to quote “a long obedience in the same direction,” which as best as I can tell is a quote of Eugene Peterson.  Most of our temptations to not follow God happen in the dull times.  We just get bored, tired, lonely and search for something to fill the hole.  We forget God, we lose focus.

Some people seem to be naturally balanced.  Others have to work on it. 

Many of us have learned the importance of keeping life in balance and God in our focus.  It is just about as easy as Peter walking on the water.  And just about as dangerous too.  A balanced life focused on God is not easy, nor is it boring, but it is rewarding.

When tornadoes hit, only those who have been practicing can continue to walk on the water.

God’s Reflexology

April 3, 2010

There is a theory of reflexology where you find a hot spot, a point that hurts, and apply pressure until the pain goes away.

My shoulder has been completely out of whack, and one of the many therapies we are using on it is reflexology.  As I was being tortured… uh, fixed (<grin> and yes, the help is helping – thank you to Wes and Glen), I had a bit of an epiphany.

There are times in our lives where everything just stinks.  Pain, I’m speaking now of psychological, emotional, even spiritual pain caused by difficult times, seems to roll in waves, sometimes even cascading in an ever increasing crescendo. 

As I sat, waiting for my arm muscles to relax, I had a picture of the hand of God on my life – his finger poised on just the thing that needed to be fixed.  The presence of his hand causes a cascading pain, but the results will be that when the hand is removed, what was previously out of place will be righted, and my life will flow with greater energy and less friction.

God told Israel that He would be their God and that He would mold them.  We can trust Him to mold us.  Submitting to His molding is, well, painful – who wants to be squished, flattened and squashed?  But clay, without someone to mold it, remains a lump.  Submitting to God’s molding and letting Him teach me through the ordinary, sometimes painful, parts of life is preferable to refusing to budge and remaining a rocky lump of clay.

Barriers to Helping People

April 1, 2010

There are so many things that keep us from being able to help other people.

Years ago, when I was an apartment manager, we had a couple in our complex.  She was about five months pregnant with twins, and I think they had a small child as well.  This couple was nice, paid their rent on time and never really hit my radar until the night that the woman went into premature labor.  That night was a crazy night.  One of their neighbors had too much to drink, and as this couple were in full crisis, leaving their apartment to go to the hospital, she came out of her apartment and rushed the dad with a baseball bat.

Now he was a really big guy.  He had every right to use his might and force in that moment, but he just took her bat away and told her to go home.  The neighbors that saw it, told me it was amazing to watch.

The next day, I finally caught up with the dad and got a few moments with him to see how he, his girlfriend and the babies were doing.   We leaned against a wall and talked.  They had lost their babies.  His girlfriend was stable.  Lack of sleep and grief had brought him to a crisis point.  He heaved more than sobbed, but when I tried to offer a word, his rage at life boiled over.  “You have no idea what it’s like to be a black man.  You don’t know what it’s like to be me.”  It was a cry from the heart that continues to echo in my memory.  In all my years of working with people, I have never felt so helpless.

I didn’t back down though.  I told him that he was absolutally right, but I know what its like to be a human – and at some point, we all hit the bottom and need a friend.

His statement haunts me.  How many people don’t want to listen to what I have to say because of social barriers?  Is this fixable? On the other hand, am I obsessing stupidly?  There are six billion people on the planet.  Does it need to be fixed?