Friday, May 19, 2006

The Radical Leap - Not Finished Yet!

This series on "The Radical Leap" will continue next week! If you are familiar with the book you will recognize that I "skipped" an important point--this was done on purpose. We will tackle it on Monday.

Steve Farber e-mailed me the other day. He has been following this series. He asked me to post his e-mail. Here it is:

Hi Lance,
I tried to post this on your blog, but I'm not registered on
blogger...please post this for me:

I'm inspired by what you're doing here, Pastor Lance. Keep up the great
questions...your community is very lucky to have you. I invited my blog readers to visit you over the
course of the week. Aloha!

Steve Farber

Prove it!

“Are you really an Extreme Leader? Prove it. Prove it through the alignment between your words and your actions. Prove it by standing up for what’s right. Prove it through measurable, tangible signs of progress. Prove it through your own experience. Prove it through your phenomenal successes. Prove it through your glorious failures. And prove it all on these three levels: (1) Prove it to others. (2) Prove it to yourself. (3) Prove to others that you’re proving it to yourself.”

-Steve Farber, “The Radical Leap,” page 174.

Have you ever played the game called HORSE? I played it when I was younger. It involved a basketball, two or more players, skill and some luck. The way we played it, if a person missed a shot that gave them the letter “E,” then the person who made the original shot had to “prove it” by making the shot again. Was the person who originally made the shot skillful enough to make it again?

Not everyone is an Extreme Leader. Many proclaim to be leaders. Some are… some aren’t. True leaders prove it over and over again. The business world has its Extreme Leader—they are in high demand. Does the Church have Extreme Leaders? I can name a few. Does the PCUSA have any Extreme Leaders? I am having trouble naming even one! I can think of lots of “good” people who are in leadership positions. I can think of people who have given their lives to the church. Good people! But what about Extreme Leaders?

The PCUSA has had several decades of a leadership void. The denomination keeps doing the same old things and we keep losing 40,000+ people per year. The problem is not just the denomination. The leadership problem runs through most of our churches.

Can I “prove” that I am an Extreme Leader? The next few months will tell. Our church is facing several major challenges. Will I be willing to stand up for what is right even if it costs me my job? Can I prove through measurable progress? Can I prove it through my successes and failures?

Farber says that we need to prove it to others, to ourselves and to others that you are proving it ourselves. In the church, I think we need to modify this a bit. First, we God to prove it to us. Second, we need to prove it to ourselves. Third, we need to prove it to others. And finally, we need to prove it to others that we are proving it to ourselves.

In the PCUSA, our “Book of Order” (our rule book), makes it difficult for the pastor to be an Extreme Leader. The Session (church speak for our church leadership board) officially calls the shots. The pastor can be an Extreme Leader but it is difficult within our structure. That is part of the reason that we have so few leaders at the national level.

Our local churches (and our denomination) need Extreme Leaders who are willing to prove it. Without these leaders our denomination will fade into irrelevance.

Am I willing to be one of those Extreme Leaders who are willing to prove it? To be honest, for my church—YES! I am willing to put it all on the line for those people I love, respect, care for, laugh with and cry with. These are the people that God has called me to pastor/shepherd. I am willing to prove it to them over and over again. I will lead with word and deed. I will lead with love and energy. God is holding me accountable for Evergreen Presbyterian Church.

Am I willing to be one of those Extreme Leaders who are willing to prove it to the PCUSA? To be honest, probably not. I have tried at the Presbytery level. I am confident that a small cheer went up when I went off of General Council. I refused to be a “yes” person. I finally gave up. The PCUSA bureaucracy kills Extreme Leaders. The PCUSA has drifted very far from its biblical roots. The national church is out of touch with the local church. If I saw even a small hint that there was hope for the PCUSA then I might be willing to step up to the plate. But until then…

Are you willing to prove that you are an extreme leader for your church? For the PCUSA?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Generate Energy

(blogger's note: As I finish this post I am OUT of energy. I am in Hawaii with my wife and daughter -- our son is still in college is Seattle. Today we spent 3 hours snorkeling and then my daugher and I had a 2 hour surfing lesson. I am exhausted and ache from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet. I need energy!)

“Extreme Leaders generate energy but a few tacos will do in a pinch…”

-Steve Farber, The Radical Leap,” page 71.

Presbyterians have been called “the frozen chosen.” There is some truth to this nick-name. A glacier moves faster than the PCUSA. A glacier fears no rock or geologic formation. The glacier will gradually grind away at that which stands in its path. The only thing a glacier fears (that is if ice can “fear”) is heat/energy. Heat/energy melts the glacier! No wonder the PCUSA fears large, growing churches. Large, growing, churches are led by charismatic, strong pastors. These pastors have vision and can motivate the masses. Extreme Leaders can melt the frozen chosen! This can only be accomplished by generating energy—God inspired energy!

Where do I get my energy charged up? Where do you? If it isn’t at the filling station of the presence of God then we are using the wrong energy source. My frozen heart and life can only be melted by sitting at the feet of Christ and experiencing his LOVE. This love-inspired energy transforms you & me, the churches we serve and the world in which we live.

There are things that suck God’s energy from us. What sucks the energy from you may be very different from the things that suck the energy from me. Farber says that we should, “purge the suckers.” We need to get rid of energy suckers! Energy suckers are those “unnecessary, time-consuming, bureaucratic policies and procedures that suck our energy.” Churches are filled with energy suckers. What can we do to get rid of those energy suckers?

Here are some energy suckers that I have reduced or eliminated (note: some of you may feel that I am not being a “good Presbyterian” with what I am about to say):

  • I don’t go to Presbytery meetings unless there is something of substance that is going to happen there. I can READ. I do not need to have report after report READ to me. Can what happens at a Presbytery meeting change the world? You bet. But it generally doesn’t. It barely keeps people awake. There is seldom anything that generates energy or excitement for me or my church at a Presbytery meeting. The five hours (or more) that a Presbytery meeting requires can never be recovered. There are important meetings—those I attend! I have purged Presbytery meetings that are a waste of time (note: the leadership at my church knows and supports my stance on Presbytery meetings.).
  • Committee meetings are generally a sucker of energy. A monthly meeting for the sake of meeting is a waste of time. Our church has gone to task oriented work groups (task forces) to carry out most of our ministry. These are very specific in their purpose. They are empowered people to initiate and implement. Eliminate as many committee meetings as possible. After all, a committee is where you send an idea that you want killed!
  • Being spread too thin is an energy sucker. Churches are masters at this. Many churches send the message that the pastor is to be at every meeting/gathering that happens in the church’s life. Every year our church’s Women’s Association has an end-of-the-year luncheon. It is always on my day off (Friday). I NEVER get two days off in a row. I work six days a week—every week—and seven days on some weeks. This is just to get the things done that need to be done. I have begun to reduce the number of things that I attend. Being spread too thin is an energy sucker. Churches can suck the energy out of the people who attend the church. The same people show up and are involved in EVERYTHING. Focusing their energy would much more to be accomplished. We need to encourage people to be focused in their ministry efforts to keep from being spread too thin.
  • I won’t serve on another Presbytery committee unless it is focus on changing the world! I have served on Committee on Ministry (even as moderator), General Counsel, Long Range Planning Committee, Session Records Committee and Camping Committee (to name a few). The bureaucracy sucks the life out of our denomination.
  • Failure to DECIDE ONCE AND FOR ALL about ordination standards SUCKS the life out of the PCUSA. It is killing the church. Decide one way or another and then leave it alone. If people leave—they leave (and I may be one of them). What remains will be healthier.

The Church/church needs Extreme Leaders that generate Godly energy. We can change the world!

What are the “energy suckers” in your life and church? What do you think are the “energy suckers” in the PCUSA?

Cultivate Love

“The Extreme Leader consciously and intentionally cultivates love in order to generate boundless energy and inspire courageous audacity. And he or she must provide the proof that it’s all been worthwhile: proof through the alignment between word and action; proof through the standing for what’s right; proof through measurable, tangible signs of progress; and proof through the experience of phenomenal success as well as glorious failure.”

-Steve Farber, “The Radical Leap,” page 51.

“Love is the ultimate motivation for the extreme Leader: love of something or someone; love of a cause; love of a principle; love of the people you work with and the customers you serve; love of the future you and yours can create together; love of the business you conduct together every day. Think about it…”

-Steve Farber, “The Radical Leap,” page 165.

Imagine… a business leader talking about love! Not the bottom line. Not about the price of the company stock. An Extreme Leader has to love what they do, where they work, the people they work with, where the company is going, and how together they can improve/change the world—beginning with their small corner of the world.

Now imagine… pastors, denominational leaders, presbytery leaders and leaders in individual congregations talking about love. Wait a minute… we talk about it all the time. Now is the time to stop talking about it—and do something about it. For those in the church, we are referring to our love for God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I am not talking about love for an institution (the church). I am not talking about a love for a “style” of church or worship. I am not talking about love for what I am comfortable with. I am talking about a love for God and his desire to transform this world. Not a political transformation—though some political change may be needed. God desires that none should perish. We need to Go… to Tell. To earn the right to be heard we may need to address human needs. But, do we love God and his calling enough to be willing to pay the price for that love?

Too often, we confuse love for God with love for the Church/church (a “C” designates the entire Church and a “c” designates an individual church or denomination). Should we love the Church/church? You bet. Should we love the Church/church when it is doing things that displease God? Yes, we should. However, that same love means that we should work tirelessly to move the church from what it is currently doing (displeasing God) to what it should be doing (pleasing God and changing the world). Our love for the Church/church means we give our all to it, and then we give some more! Finally, our love for the Church may mean that we leave a church because it has strayed too far from God’s plan and that it refuses to change. Remember, individual churches come and go—the Church is the “bride of Christ” and will remain until he returns in glory.

Do I love God and the people where I pastor enough to be willing to lose my safety and security? Do the people see, smell, touch, hear and taste my love for God and for them? Do they really know how much I love the task that God has put before us?

Farber challenges the reader to answer several questions. He wants us to answer the questions out loud. “Why do I love this business, this company?” “Why do I love this project, this idea, this system, this procedure, this policy?” “Why do I love my customers?” “How will I show that love in the way I work with, serve, and lead the people around me?”

As church leaders, we need to slightly rework these questions (after all, they need to be in “church speak!). Why do I love God (Father, Son & Holy Spirit) and the mission he has before his followers? Why do I love serving a church as a pastor/leader? Why do I love the people in my church and the people in our area who do not have a church? How will I show that love to the people in my church and the people in our area who do not have a church.

How can I/we cultivate love? Farber suggests:

At least once a day, write a ‘Professional Love Note,’ a personal, handwritten note of appreciation, thanks, or recognition:

  1. Think about a specific person at work.
  2. List that person’s finest qualities and/or greatest achievements.
  3. Reflect on why you appreciate those qualities and achievements.
  4. Write the note.
  5. Give the note.

Make it a habit, not an assignment. In other words, always write from your heart, and express your sincere appreciation. The note bridges words with action; you’re demonstrating love through the act of writing and delivering it.”

-Steve Farber, “The Radical Leap,” page 166.

I am committing to this tangible, REAL way of cultivating love within the church. I am also committing to try and find ways to cultivate love within the Church. I desire to be an Extreme Leader that “cultivates love.”

Will you join me on this quest to become an Extreme Leader? How are you going to cultivate love?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Would you risk your safety and security?

When necessary, the Extreme Leader will risk his or her own safety and security in order to grow the business and—just as important—develop as a human being.”

-Steve Farber, “The Radical Leap,” page 27

The business world needs Extreme Leaders. The world has become “flat.” A businessman in New York has a presentation to give the next morning. Before leaving the office, he electronically sends his data to a “contracted firm” in India. While he sleeps, an exceptionally skilled worker in India, whose day is just beginning, puts the data into a top-notch presentation and sends it back to New York. The next day, the New York businessman walks into the office, grabs the material and gives the presentation. The world has changed. Businesses that try to keep doing things the “same-old-way will not survive. Extreme leadership will be required for survival.

The church needs Extreme Leaders even more than the business world!

Martin Luther was an Extreme Leader. He walked towards the door of the Wittenberg church—a piece of paper was in his hands. The words on that piece of paper would change his life, forever. That piece of paper would rock the foundations of the Christian world. Would he follow through with his plan to “nail” them to the church door? He was an Extreme Leader—and changed the world!

Are you willing to be an Extreme Leader? Am I willing to be an Extreme Leader?

The other day I had lunch with a Messianic pastor friend of mine (note: he is a great preacher and he preached at my church last Sunday-I am in Hawaii). He asked me, “How does a Presbyterian pastor find a new church?” I told him about our LLLOOONNNGGG process. I have known pastors that tried for years to find a new church. The long “call” process (church speak for finding a new pastoral position) can cause us to walk carefully, lest we lose our job. FEAR.

Am I willing to risk my safety and security (being the pastor at my current church) by being an Extreme Leader? Are you? I have two kids in college. We recently signed the “documents” for a different home (a few miles from where we currently live). I have been at the church for almost ten years (mid June). Our church has changed significantly in those years. We have transformed our Sunday worship. We have added a non-traditional Saturday night service called “Destination 338.” We have moved from committees to task forces that empower people to make ministry decisions and implement those new ministries. Yet… have I been an Extreme Leader? I have never felt that my safety and security were at risk.

The times may be a changing!

Here’s the way I’d put it: Love generates Energy, inspires Audacity, and requires Proof.”

-Steve Farber, “The Radical Leap,” page 251

LEAP (Love Energy Audacity Proof) is the mark of an Extreme Leader. Do I LOVE God enough… Jesus enough… the church enough to be willing to risk my safety and security? My love for God, Jesus and the church should give me ENERGY—and does! This love and energy should give me the courage and inspiration to act with AUDACITY as I follow the Lord’s leading. Am I willing to act with faithful audacity? My life must be a living example of that PROOF of my Love. Following through with LEAP could lead to unrest in my church. It could lead to unrest in my Presbytery (the regional governing body I that oversees my church and ministry, to some extent). Following through with LEAP could get me fired! Am I willing to pay that price? Would you be willing to pay that price?

Our church is in a crummy location. Someone is going to get killed turning into, or out of, our church property. We have people in the church that helped build it from the ground up. Relocating the church several miles north would enable us to better reach our community for Christ. Our leadership board (called the “session”) is prayerfully considering whether to explore such a move. Am I willing to “go to the mat” for this cause knowing that the health and long-term ministry of our churc “demand” that we move? God has called us to reach the greater Graham, Washington, area. Can we effectively do that from our current location? Are there other barriers that are keeping us from changing the world around us? That keep us from changing Graham?

Will I be an Extreme Leader?

What challenges do you face in your ministry? Are you willing to “pay the price” of being an Extreme Leader?

Monday, May 15, 2006

The Radical Leap

My wife is a CPA. She works for a major, multi-national accounting firm. No, she doesn’t do taxes! She does audits. She is at the “manager” level (hopefully, a “director” before long!). The “company” has a group from her office working with a “coach” (my term, not theirs). She is a part of that group. The “company” wants to develop leaders.

An amazing concept—developing leaders. Jesus was in the business of developing leaders. He spent three years with a small group—training and empowering them. The Holy Spirit picked up the job after Jesus ascended into heaven. Their training wasn’t complete until they went to heaven to be with the Lord.

Questions… How does the PCUSA develop leaders? How do Presbyteries develop leaders? How do churches develop leaders? Are pastors leaders?

My wife has to read a book called The Radical Leap, by Steve Farber. The sub-title of the book is A Personal Lesson in Extreme Leadership. I picked up the book the other day while sitting in her office and started reading it. It caught my attention. Many of the concepts were applicable to the church! This week I am going to look at some of the ideas in Farber’s book and see how they can translate to my life, your life, my church, your church, the PCUSA and all of life. Get ready to take a “radical leap.”

We’ve been conditioned to believe that fear is bad. And, yeah, fear can save your life or keep you from doing something stupid, but avoiding it can also keep you from doing something great, from learning something new, and from growing as a human being. Fear is a natural part of growth, and since growth, change, and evolution are all on the Extreme Leader’s agenda, fear comes with the territory… a leader lives under a microscope. I’m not saying it’s fair or just, but people watch everything a leader does. Everything. They watch the body language and facial expressions; they listen to the tone of voice; they observe the decisions the leader makes; they listen to the leader’s questions and how they’re asked. Therefore, the most powerful tool a leader has is himself or herself.” (The Radical Leap, p. 21, 22)

Pastors, church leaders, denominational leaders and Presbytery leaders don’t like fear. We avoid it. We run from it. We ignore it. We must grasp that fear COMES WITH THE TERRITORY.

Fear is all around the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) – PCUSA from here on out. We are losing members. Giving to national and regional church bodies is dwindling. Entrenched leadership is not trusted by “the people in the pews.” Change is happening whether it is wanted or not. Fear. Fear! Fear!!

How do we as leaders face our fears? What do people see when they see us facing the future? Our reactions are being viewed by the folks in our churches. They see our body language. They see our facial expressions. They listen to the tone in our voice. Does what they see inspire? Are they willing to follow where Christ is leading us to go? Are we tools that Christ is using to shape his church or are we useless, dull tools that need sharpening or to be discarded?

The church I serve is faced with many challenges—opportunities. Our weekend attendance is around 100-110. Thirty-five + of our church family are 75 years of age or older. Many were founding members of the church. Our church property is 2.5 miles outside of Pierce County’s urban growth boundary. Thousands are moving into the area—2.5 miles north of our church. They ALMOST NEVER drive south. There is very little reason from them to drive south. There is no local newspaper. No local radio station. Advertising is almost impossible. We don’t even have a town. We are south of the population explosion. We are there, but the newcomers don’t even know it.

How will I be an extreme leader for Christ and his church as it faces a challenging future?

How will you be an extreme leader for Christ and his church as the church faces a challenging future?