Thursday, October 28, 2010

Reviewing notes on Visioneering

I really enjoy taking notes on books.  And I equally enjoy reviewing those notes...

Some random thoughts as I reviewed Visioneering by Andy Stanley:
  • This is a great book if you have lots of ideas for your organization or ministry but don't know where to take them.  You could probably use it as an "Idiot's Guide to Fulfilling Your Vision."  It's that practical.
  • Stanley uses the book of Nehemiah as a guide and template.
  • I would describe this as a Personal Growth Plan for your organization.  As such there is great advice and ideas for anyone who leads and organizes.
  • If you're going to read one chapter, read chapter nine.  It breaks from the main focus of the book to talk about personally vision casting into every person you meet.  It is powerful stuff.
  • Here's my quick recap:
    • Chapters 1-7 Wait for your vision
    • Chapter 8: Launch it
    • Chapters 9-17: Tinker and fix.
  • The one quote from this book I want you to hear: “Businesses and ministries are a dime a dozen. Even successful businesses and ministries are not on anybody’s endangered species list. But strong marriages are rare indeed. Healthy families are the exception, not the rule.”

Monday, October 25, 2010

Live and Online: TRAINing Disciples recording

I've been in online videos before, but this certainly takes the cake both for length and content.  You can view the full thing here.

Some warnings:
It's nearly an hour long video, but there are a few sections you can skip while discussions are going on.  (Or you could have those discussions with someone next to you.)
The audio quality is better than the video quality, but even so you may be adjusting your speakers frequently based on who in the room is talking.

Thanks to Brian Schwammlein for recording this!  I'm inspired to try ustream myself sometime.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Jim Collins on Darwin Smith

  Smith brought that same ferocious resolve to rebuilding Kimberly-Clark, especially when he made the most dramatic decision in the company's history: Sell the mills.  Shortly after he became CEO, Smith and his team concluded that the traditional core business - coated paper - was doomed to mediocrity.  Its economics were bad and the competition weak.  But, they reasoned, if Kimberly-Clark thrust itself into the fire of the the consumer paper-products industry, world-class competition like Procter & Gamble would force it to achieve greatness or perish.
  So, like the general who burned the boats upon landing, leaving only one option (succeed or die), Smith announced the decision to sell the mills, in what one board member called the gutsiest move he'd ever seen a CEO make.  Sell even the mill in Kimberly, Wisconsin, and throw all the proceeds into the consumer business, investing in brands like Huggies and Kleenex.
  The business media called the move stupid and Wall Street analysts downgraded the stock.  Smith never wavered.  Twenty-five years later, Kimberly-Clark owned Scott Paper outright and beat Procter & Gamble in six of eight product categories.  In retirement, Smith reflected on his exceptional performance, saying simply, "I never stopped trying to become qualified for the job."

From Good to Great by Jim Collins, pages 18-20.  (You should read the whole thing.)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

TRAINing Disciples: Resources

There are some great books and resources out there when it comes to Jesus-like disciple-making.

Here are a few that I really like:

The Bible.  Start with the Gospels.

The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman

Transforming Discipleship by Greg Ogden

Cultivating a Life for God by Neil Cole

Disciple-making is Relationships is a four part workshop from Cadre Ministries.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Wilderness by The Supertones

At the Lindell house this song is referred to as "The Football Song" for soon to be obvious reasons. I've pasted the lyrics below as they are what really challenge me.

The rain falls on the righteous and the wicked
Mine is not to reason why this is
In this I rest in this I find my refuge
That my thoughts and ways are not His
I spend my life on looking up the answers
It’s rare that I can’t find a reason why
But reasons fail at children without mothers
His plan is more than I can know

Have you ever held in doubt
What this life is all about
Have you questioned all these things that seem important to us
Do you really wanna know
Or are you a little scared
You’re afraid that God is not really exactly what you’d have Him be
What should I hold to and what should I do
How do I know if anything’s true
I’m somewhere in-between Canaan and Egypt
A place called the wilderness

I’m not one who always trusts their feelings
I don’t believe in what you’d call blind faith
But faith that you can do all that you promised
And you said it all works for good
It’s safe to say I don’t see the big picture
I can’t see the forest for the trees
And if five hundred lives
Were mine to get to know
You all could be spent on just this

God do you really understand what it’s like to be a man
Have You ever felt the weight of loving all the things you Hate
Have You struggled have you worried
How can You sympathize

I have spoken too soon put my hand over my mouth
I can’t contend with You
Your ways are so much higher
And we pass through the fire that Christ endured before us
When You were in the wilderness

Friday, October 15, 2010

Finances and Fiances

An engaged friend of mine once asked me: "I was wondering what kind of tips and advice you might have for me with going into the ministry and probably not going to make a whole lot of money."

I'm not an expert at all, but I have been able to take care of my family on a 'ministry-salary'. So here's the answer I gave him. I did these things when my wife and I first got married, and I continue to do them six years later (and counting).
  • Get the book: The Complete Financial Guide for Young Couples.  Read it and dialogue about it with your spouse (or fiance). It is one of the best and most used books my wife and I received in pre-marital counseling.
  • Don't spend money you don't have. This means avoiding purchasing on credit like its the plague.
  • Budget like a maniac. When you don't have to consistently ask "Which budget category should I put this in?" you're close to having enough budget categories.
  • Talk about every purchase with your wife. You have to be on the same page.
  • Go grocery shopping every two weeks. When switched to this from shopping every week we saved SO much money, even though we didn't change what we bought. (There's probably another lesson here, something like: "Put yourself in front of consumable items as little as possible.")
  • A second book I would recommend is First Comes Love, Then Comes Money. It is all about financial communication (which in marriage can be more important than the finances themselves.)
That's all for now! I hope to expand these as my thoughts permit.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

TRAINing Disciples- The Article

This is my current personal guide to make disciples of Jesus Christ.  I have this crazy idea that when Jesus called us to make disciples we should probably listen.

And I also don't think we can separate the message of Jesus ("make disciples") from the methods he used.  The best place to discover Jesus methods is the Gospel stories of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  While I do have some "favorite passages" on this subject (Luke 8-10, 24; Matthew 16, Mark 6 & John 6) it does a body good to read all of the Gospels while asking "How did Jesus make disciples?" This can be one of the best ways to see Jesus' methods.

If you didn't read the above paragraphs, please do so now. (There's just two of them and they won't bite.)  The strategy below means nothing without a desire to make disciples in the way Jesus did.  Please remember that I developed this strategy for my specific context.  You'll need to mold and shape it to yours.  (And may we all mold and shape all we do to be more like Jesus.)

Meet with people - John 3:22

We need to follow Jesus together. I'm not talking about the buzzword "small groups" that nearly every church organization either has or is trying to start today. I mean more in the range of two to four people. If it gets much bigger, the other basics listed below could become difficult. Personally, I will shoot for a group of three when possible. For reasons why I think three is a great number, please see my original Strategy for Making Disciples. These need to be people you know and trust. They should also be your gender. The rest of the steps and meeting ideas are pretty hard to implement if you don't share a previous relationship and a common chromosome make-up.

Meet with people regularly - Acts 2:46

One other reason to meet with a small group of people: It makes it immensely easier to coordinate schedules and meet on a regular basis.

One definition of regular is: "recurring, attending, or functioning at fixed, uniform, or normal intervals." The specific details of that regularity are up to you. Meeting every other week is good. But meeting every week is better. Decide on regular time, day, and place. (Of course it can change, but having a 'normal' is very beneficial.)

This is a good place to mention how long a meeting should last. My experience would say that a minimum of 30 minutes is necessary for good conversations to develop (especially with guys). But there is also no real need to meet longer than 90 minutes. In fact, if more than that is needed on a consistent basis, there is a good chance that the group is not staying on topic.  Most of my meetings are around 45 minutes.

Meet with people regularly with intentionality - Hebrews 10:24-25

This is where we often miss out.  We NEED to be intentional with our times with other believers.  The specifics of what you do are up to you.  But please, do something!  I have a whole list of ideas at the end of this article, but it is by no means all-inclusive.

What is crucial is to intentionally decide as a group what you will do with each meeting.  Depending on the age and maturity of those in your group it might take you leading the meeting towards intentionality.  But eventually give everyone a chance to decide on what you do while together.

Meet with people regularly with intentionality. Multiply. - 2 Timothy 2:2

Jesus called us to make disciples of all nations, and that is going to require a lot more than simple addition. It's going to take multiplication.

Perhaps you have a burden for more people than you can possibly reach on your own.  Do you think Jesus had this burden?  He wanted the world to follow him, yet he started with a few disciples and asked them to multiply.

Look back over the previous steps with multiplication in mind. When you start meeting with people, look for those who have the potential to multiply, (while also remembering that Jesus didn't select the most popular or spiritually gifted people to be his disciples.)  Speaking of Jesus, he also prayed before selecting disciples and regularly prayed for his disicples, so you probably shouldn't leave that out.

While your group is taking the time to be intentional about what your meetings look like, also ask them what should happen when you're done meeting regularly. Some people may struggle with thinking about 'the end' when you're still at the beginning, but I encourage you to have a discussion and decide as a group how long you'll plan on meeting. Base it on the people involved, their spiritual health, the season of life you are all in, and most importantly God's timing. (It can be subject to review of course.)

More importantly than how long you'll be meeting, you need to discuss what happens after you're done meeting. It can be a tough thing to figure out, but the way I'm going to phrase it is this: "We just spent the last __ months investing in each other and helping each other follow Christ.  Who might God be calling you to go and do the same thing with?" They don't need to have an answer right away, but they do need to have an answer before the group meetings end.

(And no one is required to start another one of these disciple-making groups. The bigger goal is to have everyone intentionally making disciples, whatever it might be.)

Those are the basics of my strategy. What follows is a list of ideas that you could do at a meeting. You could do one of them, all of them, or any combination in between.

Meeting Idea 1: Talk about the Bible

Wow. That's simple.

I have been amazed at how often Bible reading is taken for granted. So start off with questions like:
  • What have you read in your Bible lately?
  • What did you learn from it?
  • What are you planning on reading next?

Starting with questions like these help put the proper focus on the rest of the meeting. (And by the way, everyone must answer, even the one who asked the question!)

If you're finding your group regularly struggling with reading the Bible, I would recommend Neil Cole's idea from Cultivating a Life for God: Have everyone read the same Scripture between meetings. Shoot for at least one chapter a day, but continue to push each other to read more.  Discuss what you learned at your next meeting.

Meeting Idea 2: Write your own accountability questions

Many accountability groups center around some sort of pre-thought, pre-written accountability question list to facilitate discussion about your spiritual journey. There is nothing wrong with that.

I have just seen it work better if the members of the group take time to write their own accountability questions. I will admit that it is a little scary, but it takes trust that the Holy Spirit will work in someone's life way quicker than a pre-written list ever could. Here are a few guidelines:
  • Keep it easy by asking everyone to start with only three to five questions. A small number of questions can be less intimidating and can also cut down on 'repetitive' questions that don't ask anything new.
  • Use these two categories to help people brainstorm: 1) Questions that will help me stay away from sin. (i.e. Have you struggled with lustful thoughts?) and 2) Questions that help me grow closer to Jesus. (i.e. How is your prayer life?)
  • It is preferable for each group member to think of their questions on their own and then at the next meeting share them with the group. This can prevent unintentional copying of others' questions.

I have seen some amazing moments by using your own accountability questions. One cool by-product is that group members will often want to update their questions based on their current life struggles or opportunities. After a time, you could expand the number of questions if the group is comfortable with this and feels it would help them follow Jesus better.

Meeting Idea 3: Talk about people who need Jesus

Many times accountability questions about witnessing, evangelism, or lost friends and family naturally come out of Meeting Idea 2. But if they don't, these are great questions to end a meeting with:
  • Who is someone that God has placed around you that needs to hear about Jesus?
  • What can you do to build a relationship with that person?
  • Are there any other intentional steps you need to take with that person this week?

I have found this to be a great way to wrap-up a meeting. The focus shifts to others as each member of the group shares about one person in their sphere of influence who does not have a relationship with Jesus. And if you know that this will be a regular 'last question' of the meeting time, there is a great amount of accountability to be intentional in our relationships with people who need Jesus. It provides motivation to flee the Christian sub-culture.

Side note: I've often see people squirm their way out of a specific answer to these questions by either: A) Mentioning someone who actually DOES know Jesus but needs to walk closer with him. Or B) Bringing up a whole group of people (as in "my whole high school" or "people at work"). There is nothing wrong with either of those answers, save that they don't actually answer the questions. Push people towards thinking of a specific person who does not know Jesus.

Meeting Idea 4: Pray

This is another often over-looked aspect to following Jesus. We should all communicate with Him more. So why don't we work on it together?
  • Open and close each meeting in prayer. Make sure you rotate this responsibility. Encourage those who don't feel comfortable to 'give it a shot'. It's the only way you learn.
  • Take time to share one praise and one prayer request with each other. You could share more, but a goal of one helps keep it simple. And then take a moment to pray for each other.

It is very possible that any of the other ideas will also lead times of prayer. If the meeting is going that way, go for it!

Meeting Idea 5: Swap Personal Growth Plans

A personal growth plan is a specific set of goals that you write down to guide you through a season of life. I was first introduced to a Personal Growth Plan by Bill Allison of Cadre Ministries, so I'll let him tell you more about them. Once you have developed a personal growth plan, it works wonders to have the members of your group actually hold you accountable to the goals you set. (It can actually be scary; you might even accomplish something with your life!)

You did it! You survived reading an article by me. Thanks for reading! I challenge you to one or more of the following reactions:

  • Give it a try. Find a few people, get together, explain what you want to do, and get going!
  • Comment and tell me what you're doing to make disciples. I would LOVE for your strategy to inform mine.
  • Pass this on to someone else! E-mail it to a friend. Post it on Facebook. Whatever

I plan on more updates as my strategy changes. So follow this blog if you want updates!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Making Disciples in Family Groups

The Desire:
  • Build disciples of Jesus who are willing to follow Him as: spouses, parents, children, friends, siblings, etc.
  • Build genuine and deepening relationships with other families that are seeking to follow Christ.
  • Build a supporting community with others who will go, are going, and have gone through our same life experiences.
  • Build intentionality into our lives, both at gatherings and between gatherings.
  • Build relationships between generations, giving our children the opportunity to relate to adults outside of the 'normal' relationships: child/teacher, child/youth worker, etc.
  • Build living models to follow for each other as: spouses, parents, children, friends, siblings, etc.

The Reasons:
  • Hebrews 10:24-25 "And let us take thought of how to spur one another on to love and good works, not abandoning our own meetings, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and even more so because you see the day drawing near."
  • Matthew 28:19-20 "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always,to the end of the age."
  • I Thessalonians 2:8 "we were happy to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us."

The Plan:
  • Find four-ish families. Avoid affinity to build community. Include people from different walks of life, different church organizations, single parents, different ethnicities, etc.
  • Meet monthly. We could meet more, but most families are already over-scheduled. Everyone needs to bring calendars to each gathering. The next gathering can then be scheduled for a day and time that each family has free. Meetings should be planned for 2+ hours.
  • Meet in homes. Whoever is starting the group could/should host the first meetings. Being in a house quickly lowers the level of pretension and helps families be more authentic.
  • Eat a meal. This is optional depending on the day and time. But if we do, make sure all families, not just the host family, prepares and brings food. This is not one family entertaining guests, but rather a group of families using a meal to fellowship.
  • Share prayer requests as a big group. Write down each other's prayer needs as a reminder between gatherings and to review the next gathering. If possible, pray for them.
  • Split guys and girls for accountability. This could mean writing accountability questions (per A Strategy for Making Disciples.) Or it could be as simple as sharing one or two specific things that each person needs to be asked about at the next gathering or discussing what we've read in our Bibles recently.
  • Divide by two. After one year of meeting divide into two groups of families. Each group should prayerfully seek two-ish families to invite to join their new group, with the eventual goal of having two family groups with fourish families each.

Using Technology (instead of getting used)

My real goal in life is to make disciples of Jesus.

I want to make sure that e-mail, social media and any other technology helps me do this, instead of distracting me.  I don't feel like we can jump ship on e-mail, facebook, etc because so much personal and relational communication happens over these mediums.  But to make sure I'm not the one getting used, I'm drawing the following lines in the proverbial sands of Silicon Valley.

  • Line 1: Personally respond to as many people as possible, keeping in mind that not all e-mail you receive comes from people.
  • Line 2: Punch out responses to e-mails twice a day at most. (And only once daily during busy seasons.)  Pick a time and stick with it.  This fall I'm going to try after lunch.
  • Line 3: Keep it simple.  Review and its accompanying websites.
  • Line 4: If you find yourself giving the same responses to multiple people, consider using an e-mail template (ie Gmail's "Canned Responses").
  • Line 5: Be nice! Say please and thank you. Ask for prayer requests. Ask questions related to your previous knowledge of the person and their circumstances.
  • Line 6: Use an RSS reader program to keep your Inbox clear of newsletters, blog updates, etc. My personal favorite is Google Reader.
  • Line 1: Make 1 list of Friends to Invest In.  Set a limit of how many friends this will be. (Not sure on the number here: 50? 150?)
  • Line 2: "Listen and respond" to this list for about 10 minutes each day.  Like e-mail, pick a time and stick with it.
  • Line 3: Don't spend any additional time on Facebook, as it has the tendency to suck you in.
  • Line 4: Use Google reader for notifications so you don't feel the need to check back in to Facebook multiple times each day.
  • Line 5: Be very judicious about who you accept as friends, especially when it comes to females.  If your wife would raise her eyebrows at who you accepted, don't do it.

Cell Phone
  • Line 1: Have 'no texting' times.  For me this means put the phone out of site from 5-8pm.
  • Line 2: Prioritize the people in front of you over the random person calling.