How much do we care?

There are two kinds of, “I’m sorry.”

The first kind is the apology of responsibility, of blame and of litigation. It is the four-year old saying to his brother, “I’m sorry I hit you in the face.” … The other kind of sorry is an expression of humanity. It says, “I see you and I see your pain.” This is the sorry we utter at a funeral, or when we hear that someone has stumbled.

You don’t have to be in charge to say you’re sorry. You don’t even have to be responsible. All you need to do is care.                                                                                                            -Seth Godin (read the entire post here)

I just returned from a healing prayer ministry conference. For two days I experienced people who cared. They cared enough to say, “I’m so sorry you have had to endure that.” They carecaringd enough to pray for me and every other participant. They cared enough to speak words of blessing and encouragement over us, corporately and individually. They cared enough to labor on our behalf to plan and execute the conference that brought healing of body and spirit to so many.

How many people do I pass by each day who are wounded and hurting, who just need someone to truly see them and offer them a respite from their pain. Perhaps it’s a smile or a kind word they need. Maybe they just want someone to literally look them in the eye rather than a passing glance. A prayer may be the lifeline they desperately need.

“Pray for–bless–everything that moves, and leave the results to God!” the conference leader exhorted us. Amen!

As a Christian, I can offer the love of Christ to those in need, a healing balm like none other. What’s more, I am called and empowered to do so! And isn’t the body of Christ as a whole called to do the same? Christ himself is the great Healer! The Church is the hands and feet and mouthpiece of Christ, bringing healing and truth, freedom from sin’s chains.

[Jesus said] “And so I am giving a new commandment to you now—love each other just as much as I love you.  Your strong love for each other will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”  -John 13:34-35

How are we doing, Church? How much do we really care?


Numbers or stories?

As an organization grows and industrializes, it’s tempting to simplify things for the troops. Find a goal, make it a number and measure it until it gets better. In most organizations, the thing you measure is the thing that will improve.

Colleges decided that the SAT were a useful shortcut, a way to measure future performance in college. And nervous parents and competitive kids everywhere embraced the metric, and stick with it, even after seeing (again and again) that all the SAT measures is how well you do on the SAT. It’s easier to focus on one number than it is to focus on a life.

Measurement is fabulous. Unless you’re busy measuring what’s easy to measure as opposed to what’s important.   (Read Seth Godin’s post in its entirety here.)

Several months ago I measured the ministry of my congregation by adding up how many members are serving in a church-numbersrelated ministry role. Imagine my joy (oh, all right…my pride) when I discovered that 75% are serving! I sure couldn’t wait to announce that number, given the typical 80/20 rule of most churches: 80% of the ministry being done by 20% of the congregation.

But in reality, that measurement is not as impressive as it sounds. We are a small parish. Very small. If only 20% served, we would struggle to even have a worship service each Sunday! There would be no nursery, no children’s church, probably no music. By necessity, almost everyone in my parish has to step up and serve just so that we can have what is considered the bare minimum in most churches.

The truth is that what goes on inside the walls of a church is not the true measure of life-changing ministry. It is certainly not a credible measurement of the spiritual health of individual believers. But it is a whole lot easier to measure that kind of ministry than it is to measure spiritual health. And so we do. How many people are serving in church-related activities? How many people are in Sunday school? How many kids attend VBS? How many adults are in a small group? This is what many  churches typically measure. But what do these numbers really tell us?

Numbers are not a reflection of spiritual health. Stories are. Like the one I heard a few days ago: Sarah is one of our toddler church teachers, who works closely with our two nursery workers. Both have just finished college and are moving on to the next phase of their lives, so Sarah invited them to her home for dinner to celebrate their ministry with us. Sarah saw her ministry as coming alongside these lovely young women to encourage them in their faith as they step into adulthood.

Another story I heard recently involved two young families, one in need of a microwave and the other selling a microwave. The couple selling shared that they were selling all their “extra stuff” to raise money to adopt a child. The couple purchasing decided to give them more than the asking price because they, too, would like to adopt one day. The first couple insisted on giving the second couple the microwave as a “down payment for their future adoption fund.”

I don’t really know how to measure that kind of spiritual health, but I’m certain that it can’t be measured with numbers, with how many serve or how many attend. And I’m equally certain that I prefer those two stories of loving ministry to the comparatively cold 75% statistic I came up with when I did my head count!

So, what are you measuring?

When is the last time you heard a good ministry story?

When is the last time you shared one?


I want you to hear this!

record playerSome days (like today) I feel like a broken record–or, for those of you who aren’t familiar with vinyl, a scratched DVD. Repeating the same thing, over and over. But the interesting thing about hearing something repeated over and over is that it lodges in your brain–good or bad.

While watching a television program a couple of weeks ago, I became so frustrated that I almost turned it off. Not because of the content, but because of the annoying advertisement that kept repeating at every commercial break. By the end of the show, I could recite that advertisement in my sleep! Annoying? Very. Yet, on my next visit to the grocery store, I found myself scanning the shelves for that very product.

If you know me or you read this blog frequently, you may have picked up on the fact that I’m a Seth Godin fan. Here’s a guy whose mantra is “Go make something happen.” He says it over and over. I’m frequently encouraged by his blog and today was no exception.

The charisma of a great speech, a powerful graphic design or a well-designed tool (and yes, a well-designed tool can have charisma) comes from certainty. Not the arrogance of, “I am right and you are not,” but from the confidence/certainty of, “I need to say it or draw it or present it just this way and I want you to hear it.” (emphasis mine)

Like Mr. Godin, I have a mantra. I am certainly confident of it, which is why I repeat it, over and over, like a broken record:

“do what you are called and gifted by God to do!”

I need to say it just this way and I want you to hear it. What’s more, I want you to sound like a broken record, too. Repeat it, over and over, until everyone you lead and influence gets it and is doing what God called and gifted them to do!

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

The Impact of Yield

The rules of right of way make sense.

A manueverable motor boat yields to a sailboat because it can more easily recover from the turn.

A bicyclist going downhill yields to one struggling uphill, because he can get back up to speed more quickly.

The senior partner invests a little bit of time helping the junior one, because no one else has the skills to do so, not because reciprocation is the goal.

Asymmetrical trades are what makes a society work.

Yield has two meanings, and one leads to the other.                                                -Seth Godin, Yield

Encouraging others to yield to ministry has two benefits:

  • the yield for the individual is spiritual formation…becoming more like Christ
  • the yield for the body of Christ is that it becomes the body of Christ

What’s your yield? 

How are you leading?

How do those you lead respond to you? Do they comply with whatever you are asking of them? Do you have to keep sending reminders, poking and prodding for action? Is there ever any pushback? Do any members of your team ever “tweak” your ideas? How do you receive those suggestions for improvement?

There are all sorts of leadership style surveys and questionnaires out there that are much more comprehensive than the questions I’ve posed. I’ve taken many of them and found that, when answered honestly, they helped me identify my strengths and my growing edges. But if you are of a mind right this minute to examine your leadership style, answer this: Honestly, are you seeking compliance or growth from those you lead?

Consider this from Seth Godin’s little book, Graceful:

“Because we are not seeking compliance, our goal is growth. And growth requires leadership, not authority.”

Authority breeds compliance. Compliance squelches creativity and innovation, which inhibits growth. As Godin points out, “…growth comes from change, insight and exploration, not obedience.” Effective leaders not only encourage input, they invite constructive feedback. When your team members are free to question your plan, to share suggestions for improvement, or to offer up their own plan which may be quite different from yours, growth happens. For them and for you.

So, here’s a simple suggestion to help you be a better leader: Stop talking and listen–with an open mind. Let go of the old notion that effective leaders are authoritative, that you have to offer up the idea and that it has to be realized hands holding seedlingaccording to your plan. Resist the urge to offer up your proposal–let someone else speak first. Invite feedback and discussion. Sit back and listen. Experience growth.