Wednesday, January 31, 2007

When does a church win?

Here’s a thought... if a church is growing, seeing lives changed, growing the kingdom and making disciples, is it winning? Most of the time we would say yes. But I had a thought today. I was listening to Joseph Minchelli’s Podcast, The Starbucks Experience, and he was talking about how different branches of the same business can no longer be successful on their own, at the expense of their sister stores. He says that to be successful you must focus on the corporation as a whole. Stores must cooperate, instead of compete.

That got me thinking about the church. I know we would never say this, but churches are always in competition with one another. We compete over programs. We compete over attendance. We compete about giving. We compete about buildings. And all around us we see some churches that are growing and many more that are plateauing or declining. What we do is we focus on the individual churches (specifically, our individual church...especially if things are going well) and how they are doing instead of focusing on the whole Church in any given city or town.

Let me illustrate. I live in Spartanburg, SC. We have around 500 churches in our county. A few of them are booming and growing and are what we would call successful churches. They are seeing lives changed. People are coming to Jesus. But are they really successful? What if we were to focus on the Church, as a whole in any given region, instead of any single church? Would we say that the Church is winning? Or might we have to sweep that under the rug and only focus on the localized “success” stories? I so much want The Point to contribute to the Church as a whole. Our name, The Point, reflects that passion. A definition for Point is: A small representation of a much larger object. May we all be about building The Church. There is too much at stake for us to settle for anything less.

What do I know? This who last post could have been a waste. It was just something I was thinking about.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

One of those days...Leadership Lessons 1 & 2

Today is one of those days when I’ve been slapped in the face with my leadership inadequacies. I feel as if there is so much left for me to learn, and I have so far to go to become the leader that God has called and created me to be. Here’s Leadership Lesson #1: Have the tough conversations sooner rather than later. Leadership Lesson #2: Be clear about expectations and the consequences for not meeting those expectations.

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Monday, January 29, 2007

10 ways to not plant a church

Ben Arment had this great post on 10 ways to not plant a church. Click here to read. It encouraged me. If you are on our team may it encourage you.

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Sunday night reflections

Last night we did a bit of follow up from the previous week's message. You can listen online here. I shared how we need to Investigate before we Initiate (thank you Andy Stanley). What I mean by that is this: If we really are going to make disciples who make disciples, if we really are going to connect people who are far away from God to God, if we really are going to create an engaging, relevant and irresistible gathering that's worth inviting our unchurched friends to, if we are going to make a dent in the unchurched population of Spartanburg County, then it makes sense for us to do a little investigation to discover the hopes, dreams, stresses, concerns, fears and needs of the people who are unchurched. To do that I said we need to do three things:
  1. We need ask the right question of God: God, if you had your will and your way, what would this church look like in relation to the people you want us to reach (I stole that from Putman and Stetzer's book Breaking the Missional Code)?
  2. We need to talk with and listen to God on behalf of the people we are trying to reach. (This coming Sunday we're going to Prayer Walk at 11 AM as a start).
  3. We need to ask the right questions of the right people. The right people aren't those who already are a part of a church. The right people are those who are unchurched.
I am looking forward to us discovering the answers to those questions together so that we can make disciples who make disciples.

I'm trying to be cautious and not get my expectations too high, but I feel like we've got a new hope at The Point. Last night we had 4 new people (all came because they were invited by friends) and it feels like we've got a little momentum going.

It's really God's doing, so I want to give Him the credit. But he's using some of you to do it. You are the ones inviting people. You are the ones volunteering. I want to give a big shout out to Scott and Janae for stepping up and asking, "Where do you want me to serve?" That is huge. May God continue to grant us favor!

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Dinner Groups

For the month of January we've been doing small groups a bit differently. We've been getting together each week with a different mix of people to eat, laugh, talk, share and get to know each other a bit better.

Tonight we got invited to the Argo's house. They were great hosts and it was amazing how open people were. (Who knew that William was scared of falling?) Thanks to the Argos, the Kinzies, the Blackwells and my wife for opening their homes and providing food for the sake of community. You are AMAZING!!! The Point is blessed to have you on its team.

An Unleash Invite

I wanted to invite everyone from our team to go with me to Unleash. It's a conference being put on by Newspring on March 15. I will be going and would love if some of you would join me.

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Comfort: Ours or theirs

Anyone who's been a part of The Point for any length of time will recognize these verses: Listen! I Hear the voice of someone shouting, "Make a highway for the Lord through the wilderness. Make a straight, smooth road through the desert for our God. Fill the valleys and level the hills. Straighten out the curves and smooth off the rough spots. Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed and all people will see it together (Isaiah 40:3-5 NLT emphasis mine).

I love that passage because I think it gets to the heart of who we are and who we will always be as a church. We want to do whatever it takes to bring people who are far away from God to a place where they are disciples who are making disciples.

But so often we, as Christians, get in the way of that because it can be very uncomfortable for us. We want to be comfortable in church...after all, we're the one's who are on the inside, right? (Churchplanters.com has a great post on that that you can read here.) But the thing we've got to remember is that our heavenly Father's heart is for those who are on the outside.

So let's work to create a church where outsiders feel comfortable. Let's be like our heavenly Father. Let's be less concerned with our comfort and more concerned with those who don't yet have what we have.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The B.I.T.S. Principle

So what am I talking about? Kibble's and bits? Alpha-bits? Kilobits? Bits and Pieces?

I must confess, I stole this idea from this church planter in Las Vegas (you can what he wrote here). B.I.T.S. stands for (warning: this may be slightly offensive): Butts In The Seats.

I challenged, and have been challenging our team to invite people. It's not that I just want to have a bunch of people coming to The Point (even though that would be awesome), but if we really are going to help people who are far away from God become connected to God then we need relational inroads into the lives of people who are far away from God.

So here's how it works: I have a certain relational network. I have a few people in my relational network who are far away from God, but unfortuately, most of the people in my relational network are Christians. But let's say that I invite someone from my relational network to The Point and they come, they like what's happening (who wouldn't?) and they decide to invite other people. This original person that I invited has some people in their relational network that aren't in my relational network, so they invite someone out of their relational network. Well, the person that they invite has their own unique relational network with people who have their own unique relational networks with people who have their own unique relational networks. You get the point.

So, when I invites someone I have the potential to influence many, many more people down the line because of the potential of each person's unique relational network.

That's why the B.I.T.S. principle is so important. When we have people coming and putting their Butts In The Seat then we are increasing our potential to influence and connect with people who are far away from God.

So who can you invite? (And if you don't attend The Point this principle is universal and will work in your context too.)

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I am a bad pastor

I’ve got a confession to make. I am a bad pastor. I still feel a little funny when someone introduces me as their pastor. It’s just a bit weird. Here’s one reason why I’m a bad pastor. When people are sick or when they have family that is sick, I’m not really as sympathetic as I should be. Don’t get me wrong, I do care for these people and their families. I’ll pray for them and their families, but I think I’m missing that pastoral gene that most pastors have.

Maybe that’s why God is allowing me to go through this medical mystery with my dad. For those of you who don’t know, my dad’s been on a 4 month journey to figure out if he has cancer. I think they are closer now to discovering something, but any firm diagnosis gets pushed back until they do another test. Actually, I’m writing this post from the waiting room in Augusta, GA as my dad has a Bronchoscopy.

Over the past few months I’ve had to experience what others have experienced. I think God is using this experience to soften my heart.

Now, I’m still a bad pastor, but God is giving me a new lens through which to view other’s pain and suffering. I just wish I didn’t have to learn this lesson at my dad’s expense.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

One more thing about Heroes

This is a show that I would like to be on. I’d love to be a character with a cool power that ends up dying in some valiant fashion saving other heroes. If anyone reading this blog has connections and could hook me up…

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Heroes - Chapter 12

Man! I love Heroes. I think my three favorite, can’t miss shows on TV are Heroes, Lost and 24. It bites that 24 and Heroes now share a time slot. I’ve chosen Heroes. Maybe I can get my prehistoric VCR to work and record 24 (or somebody nice could send me a Tivo, I heard they are really cool!). But for now it’s Heroes.

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Kudos to Wofford

Nathan, Matthew and I went to the Wofford/UT Chattanooga basketball game on Saturday night. It was Upwards night so we got in for $4 a piece. The game was exciting, the cost was great, but the real fun came with about 7 minutes left to go in the game.

Matthew, my three and a half year old, was approached about pedaling a race car across the court during a timeout. He was all for it. So Matthew, and three other little boys, got their names called out over the intercom and raced across the gym. I wish I had a picture.

I know they were just trying to get kids involved and the crowd excited, but they gave my family a memory that we'll never forget, and for that I say kudos and thanks!

Sunday night reflections

Here are a few reflections on our Gathering last night.
- We had 4 new people who were all invited by a friend. AWESOME!
- Some previously uninvolved folks committed to coming to a Dinner Group.
- A few people told me they were ready to increase their involvement.
- Our Idea Group (reading Simple Church) discussion was great.
- I shared where we, as The Point, are going and what we need to get there:

  • We are going to do whatever it takes to make disciples who make disciples.
  • We are going to create an engaging, relevant and irresistible worship gathering that's worth inviting our unchurched friends to.
  • We are going to be incarnational and missional by creating fun, relevant and meaningful projects to serve our city and show people Jesus.
  • We are going to create and exciting children's ministry that partners with parents to help them disciple their own children.
  • We are going to create reproducing small groups where people can be real and genuine, and experience authentic Christian community.
  • We are going to make a dent in the unchurched population of Spartanburg County by doing whatever we can to reach those who are far away from God.
  • We are going to make Spartanburg a better place to live.
That's where we're going. Here's what we need to get there:
  • We need Staff.
  • We need you to give.
  • We need and incredible band.
  • We need you to invite (I'll blog later on the B.I.T.S. Principle).
  • We need small group leaders.
  • We need you to let us know where you can serve.

I am so pumped about where we're going and what God is doing. You can listen to the message online by clicking here.

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Friday, January 19, 2007

Purposefulness

Read a great article in Entrepreneur Magazine today titled, Building the 21st Century Leader. Among qualities that are essential for a 21st century leader is Purposefulness. The article states:
Experts are split on whether having a strong vision is a good thing. "Leadership is about going somewhere," Blanchard says. "You need a clear vision that's about who you are, your picture of the future, where you're going." But Linsky counters, "Vision is as much a constraint as a resource. In my obersvation, CEO's get invested in their vision, and then they don't see contrary data." What's better these days, Linsky says, is for leaders to have a strong sense of purpose they can express to their workers--a compelling reason for everyone at the company to come to work.
This really spoke to me. I'm not as strong of a vision caster as I thought I was, but I do know the purpose behind doing what we're doing at The Point. It's to build the kingdom. I so much want my life to count for something bigger than my small, short, adventure-filled years on this planet.

And here's the thing about vision. It's a picture of a prefered future. It's really my picture of how I think the future should be. It's not a bad thing to have a picture of the future, especially when it gives you something to shoot for.

But vision is limited in that I can only see with my own limited perspective. I come to the vision with the unique background, experiences, passions, gifts and strengths that God gave me...but those are unique to me and so my vision can be short-sighted. Having purposefulness is grander than a vision. Being a part of building the kingdom is a way for my small, tiny vision to be a part of something much bigger.

Maybe this makes no sense... just something to think about.

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Wanna share

Do you like to share? I'm ok with sharing some things. I'll let Liz use my iPod. I'm not to hot on sharing food, but I like when others share their food with me :). Well, The Point has an opportunity to share something that's not ours.

Got a phone call from Chris Pollard, pastor of The Journey Church here in Spartanburg. It's a church that is reaching out to those who struggle with addictions and who are on the path to recovery. They are going to be meeting at the B on Sunday mornings and he wanted to know what he could do to make setup for both of us easier.

I've just got to say that I am thankful that there's a place that both of us can meet and use. I believe God is using The Journey Church and am glad that we're connected through a facility. Pray for The Journey Church.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Coming this Sunday...

I can't wait for this Sunday night at The Point. As you know we've been "gleaning" some lessons from Nehemiah. From chapter 1:1-4 we learned When you don't know the way, mourn, fast and pray. And from Neh. 1:5-11 we learned we need to Pray like is all depends on God and Work like it all depends on us.

This coming Sunday (6 PM @ the B) we're going to be looking at Neh. 2:1-10 and I'll be laying our where we are going and what it's going to take to get there.

You need to be there and you need to bring 5 people with you! I am exploding with anticipation!

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A few comments

I know this has nothing to do with The Point, but last night was the conclusion of the 4 hour premiere of 24. It was amazing. Things started a bit slow on Sunday night, but the explosion at the end of last nights episode left me speechless. Who knew? The problem now is that it comes on at the same time as Heroes. What am I going to do?

Read a great post today from Dave Ferguson entitled Dream of God. You can check it out here.

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Sermons Online

I am so excited to announce that our sermons are now online. Just go to The Point's website and the link is at the bottom of the home page. I just posted the talk from January 7. It seems that yesterday's talk didn't record for one reason or another, so if I posted it you'd only get to hear silence (which might not be a bad thing).

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Sunday night reflections

I have to say this...I love it when new people come. We had two new guests come to check us out last night. I love it even more when we have people come back. Having returners is a very good thing. Everyone who came for the first time last week came back this week. Very, very cool. I've got to give God the credit.

I honestly think they came back for Levi. He was passed around like a cold last night. We'll use whatever means possible to get people to come back. :)

Here's an interesting observation...the people we've been attracting lately seem to be radiating out from Crossroads Coffee. Crossroads is a local, college student owned and run coffee shop. They provide our coffee and now it looks like we're connecting with a group of people that work or patron the place. What's God up to? I don't know, but it is interesting.

Another observation... most of our new people are single or newly-married. We're not really connecting with families yet. I'm not complaining, just making an observation. I passionately want us to connect with families (partly because I have one), but I am so thankful to be connecting with a group that is normally ignored by churches.

Like I said last night, I feel like I'm in way over my head. I am way out of my league in this whole church planting thing. I need God to show up and help me and use me and speak to me and work through me more than I ever have before. I know that sounds cheesy and spiritual, but I feel like a middle schooler being asked to be the lead architect for the new Freedom Tower in NYC. I would appreciate your prayers.

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Friday, January 12, 2007

Three wise men

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Mystery quote

Christianity is not about the bless-me club. It's not about the holy huddle. It's about others.

Ok, who do you think said that? Got any guesses? Bono, the lead singer for U2 said this. Isn't it kind of sad that Bono realizes something that so many Christians in America don't?

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Another FREE book has arrived

Just got my complementary copy of The Blogging Church by Brian Bailey. Since The Point is less than a year old I was able to win a copy. All I've got to do is write a review about the book. I am so thankful for generous people who pass along resources for free. Levi and I can't wait to start reading. I figure I need to start him off on this whole blogging thing at an early age. At first glance it looks like it will be a great read, and besides, it was free!!!

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Crazy Love

I was listening to Erwin McManus from Mosaic the other day and he said this (I'm paraphrasing):

Did you know that our Gatherings aren't just for those of us who are followers of Christ just to come and enjoy each other and enjoy God. If we don't open up our lives to the people in the world around us we are wasting our time. Most of us, when we're looking for a church, we look for a church that's convenient for us. We look for something that fits into our lives and our schedules, with our likes and with people who are like us. But we need to transition to being the church that's crazy about people, that is characterized by Crazy Love.


I love the idea of Crazy Love. That's really what the Heavenly Father showed us when he sent his Son to die for our sins. That's pretty crazy. I'm sure DSS would get called today if a father did that. It's really crazy to invest in people who might reject you. It really crazy to love people who don't love you. It's really crazy to, as a church, prioritize those who don't believe what we believe.

I resonate with what Erwin said. That is my passion. We don't need another church that just becomes a holy club for the already rescued. We need a church that exists to rescue those who are far away from God. Will you partner with The Point to do that?

That might mean that you are a bit uncomfortable. It involves developing relationships with people who are far away from God. It involves inviting them, and quite possibly, or probably being rejected, but being willing to continue the relationship in the face of rejection. So, who can you invite? This Sunday would be a great time to take a risk and invite somebody.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Reviewing The Fred Factor

Just finished reading The Fred Factor by Mark Sanborn. It's a good little book on how passion in your work and life can turn the ordinary into the extraordinary.

I love that phrase: Turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. Life is so ordinary. Most people are so ordinary. Church is so ordinary. The way we do our jobs is ordinary. We've got ordinary family and ordinary friends. But what if we weren't satisfied with the ordinary? What if we began striving to make each day extraordinary? Do you think people would notice? How do you think your coworkers, your family, your neighbors, your friends would respond?

Sanborn says it really all boils down to love, service and putting others before yourself. Seems to me like he might have stolen that from some Rabbi that lived about 2000 years ago. It just goes to show you how relevant and practical following Jesus really is.

But back to the review...I want to share four principles for turning the ordinary into the extraordinary:
1. Everyone makes a difference. Duh! The only question at the end of the day is "What kind of difference did you make?" I love this quote: Nobody can prevent you from choosing to be exceptional.
2. Everything is built on relationships. We've all heard it said that "people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." Relationships are key because it's only through a relationship that you can get to know someone enough to serve them in a way that's helpful and meaningful. Sanborn says, relationship building is the most important objective because the quality of the relationship determines the quality of service.
3. You must continually create value for others. We usually want others to value us, but Fred's do the opposite. Use the imagination that God gave you (and yes he did give you an imagination...it just might be dormant) to out-think others and to come up with creative ways to bless other people (I use the word "bless," not Mark, but blessing people is the best way that Christ followers can create value for others).
4. You can reinvent yourself regularly. No matter what job you hold, what industry you work in or where you live in the world, you wake up every morning with a blank slate, and you can make your business and your life anything you choose. In other words, I have a choice as to whether I settle for the ordinary or I turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. The choice is yours: Choose wisely.

The Fred Factor has some good Kingdom reminders about how to treat others all the trappings of a secular business book. Love, Serve, Value, Bless, go the extra mile...turn your ordinary into the extraordinary.

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Chase the lion manifesto

I read this on Mark Batterson's blog today. I think it has a lot to say to everyone on our church planting team:

Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death. Set God-sized goals. Pursue God-ordained passions. Grab life by the mane. Go after a dream that is destined to fail without divine intervention. Keep asking questions. Keep making mistakes. Keep seeking God. Stop pointing out problems and become part of the solution. Stop repeating the past and start creating the future. Stop playing it safe and start taking risks. Expand your horizons. Accumulate experiences. Consider the lilies. Enjoy the journey. Find every excuse you can to celebrate everything you can. Live like today is the first day and last day of your life. Don't let what's wrong with you keep you from worshipping what's right with God. Burn sinful bridges. Blaze a new trail. Criticize by creating. Worry less about what people think and more about what God thinks. Don't try to be who you're not. Be yourself. Laugh at yourself. Quit holding out. Quit holding back. Quit running away. Chase the lion!

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Monday, January 08, 2007

Remarkable

There's a great blog by Seth Godin about being remarkable. You can read it here.

It got me thinking. Why isn't church that remarkable. To be remarkable means that you're able to remark about it. Jesus was remarkable. The church is His body, so we should be remarkable too, right? But so often we are far from remarkable.

I really desire The Point to be remarkable. I don't want us to just be another church that takes up a few hours in our congregation's life. I want us to be so remarkable that whether you're an athiest, a 9 year old, a homosexual, a college student or someone who's been a Christian for 25 years you walk away remarking about how God used The Point to change you.

We're not there yet, but I think we're headed in the right direction. I am excited about what's in store for us in the future.

I would love to hear your ideas about how you think the church can be remarkable.

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Sunday, January 07, 2007

Sunday night thoughts

Tonight was pretty rockin'. We had our first service at our new time and back at the BCM building. It was weird at first only having a gathering at night, but I think God shined some favor our way. We had some new folks, all of whom said they are coming back. There was just a good feel. People talked. God was good. I've got to give Him the credit for a good evening. I can't wait to see what He wants to do and I'm just glad I get to be a part.

BTW: I need to send out a big thanks to Kevin and Susan. We got to go out to dinner last night at PF Changs with them. Good food. Great friends. I am so thankful to have them on our team and as friends (and besides that Kevin says he reads my blog, that two whole people reading this thing). Afterwards we came back to our house to play electronic Clue. I'm not a game person, so I wasn't sure what to expect, but it was a blast (and I almost won!). One thing this church planting experience has done is allow us to develop some new friendships with some awesome folks.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Great creativity

Just found a hilarious commercial for a The Stone's Christmas Eve service in Canton, GA. You've got to check this out.

The 7 B's of Relationships

Life's really all about relationships. We have relationships with family, relationships with friends, relationships with enemies, a relationship with God. Relationships are important. We were created for relationships. The problem is not our need for relationships, but our inability to form decent relationships.

One of our values at The Point is Authentic Community. That means that we have real relationships, that means that we care enough to pursue new relationships.

To be effective for the Kingdom we've got to get better at developing relationships with people. In The Fred Factor, by Mark Sanborn, Mark gives the 7 B's of Relationships. I thought I'd pass them on to you.

1. Be Real. Sounds simple, but so often we end up being someone other that who God created us to be. Genuineness, transparency and authenticity are the first steps to good relationships.
2. Be interested (not just interesting). This is huge. If you're like me then you like to toot your own horn so that you look impressive. That doesn't do much for relationship building. But being interested in others, caring for others and showing interest in their life, family, job, etc. is a huge contributor to real relationships.
3. Be a better listener. I like for people to listen to me, but in order to build a relationship with another person I need to put them first. I think this is one reason James says, Be quick to listen, slow to speak....
4. Be empathetic. After you listen you can better put yourself in another person's shoes. We don't know what others are going through.
5. Be honest. I love how Sanborn says it: Say what you'll do, and do what you say. In other words, don't make promises you can't keep. Don't create expectations you can't fulfill. Avoid overrepresenting and overpromising. Be a man, woman, or organizations of your word. That's integrity.
6. Be helpful. Who have you helped today? Enough said.
7. Be prompt. This is a big one for a time Nazi like me. Being on time for appointments, meetings, small group, worship, school, whatever says to others that you value them or what they are doing.

In our quest for Authentic Community let us be known as people who care enough to take the first step to developing relationships with others.

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Connect, Discover, Respond

Listened to a short podcast this AM as I was working out. It's entitled, The Starbucks Experience Podcast. It's some short lessons on leadership learnings from Starbucks. No matter what you opinion of Starbucks is, there is a lot to learn from the coffee gurus.

This morning the guy talked about this customer service issue. Good customer service comes when we connect with the customer, discover what they need, and respond accordingly. The customer becomes the focus and the employee becomes the servant.

I think that has a lot to say to us as Christians. How often are we so focused on our own agendas or wants or wishes that we forget to really care for and meet the needs of the people around us?

A book I'm currently reading, The Fred Factor, talks about this. I highly recommend the book. It talks about how Freds make extraordinary out of the ordinary.

What am I trying to say? We need to care for people. When someone comes to The Point we need to connect with them (get to know their name, what they do for a living, etc.), discover what their needs are (do they have kids, are they away from home at college, are they Christians), and finally we need to respond accordingly (show them where their kids go, invite them to sit with us, have them over for dinner, invite them to your small group).

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

I believe in you

I believe in you...those words are some of the most powerful words in the world. They motivate us. They inspire us. They keep us going. All of us need people in our lives that believe in us.

But here's the problem...most us us have people in our lives that unintentionally say the opposite. They don't mean to, at least I'm trying to give them the benefit of the doubt. Or maybe they don't say anything, which is as good as saying "I don't believe in you."

My favorite speakers to listen to are those who's talks have "I believe in you" peppered throughout.

As pastor and church planter of The Point I need people who will speak, "I believe in you" into my life. This isn't a shameless plug for encouragement, but a confession of a need. It's also a reminder to me about the kind of person I want to be.

So what does God want you to do? What are you called to do? I believe in you. I believe in you.