Categories
Church Leadership Good News

Bottlenecks

A bottleneck is a phenomenon where the performance or capacity of an entire system is limited by a single or limited number of components or resources. The term bottleneck is taken from the ‘assets are water’ metaphor. As water is poured out of a bottle, the rate of outflow is limited by the width of the conduit of exit—that is, bottleneck. By increasing the width of the bottleneck one can increase the rate at which the water flows out of the neck at different frequencies. Such limiting components of a system are sometimes referred to as bottleneck points.

Bottlenecks are one reason the church can’t grow to full capacity in the current model. It’s not that the Gospel of Jesus Christ isn’t appealing to more people. It’s that the mode with which the American church choses to operate is driven to a single bottleneck: The worship service. 

With a clearly defined bottleneck and the low trust, high control primary management style of most in church leadership– we are seeing other negative non-monetary economic principles come into play.

3 non-prescriptive solutions to finding church growth

  1. Embrace a high trust, low control management-style.
  2. Create additional entry points to biblical community. (Non-worship service endpoint)
  3. Capitalize on Americans culturally hard-coded draw to good news.
Categories
social media

Every idea is a network

Ideas as networks

You have ideas. We all have ideas. Some of them are brilliant and some of them aren’t. But every idea (pursued) is a network.

As you explore your idea you bump into people. Some are new people to you and some are old friends. Each of those connections makes connections with other people based on the concept of your idea. And you might bump into people who have a very similar idea, something the 18th century philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder called zeitgeist.

The result of your idea– something you conceived of while sitting on the toilet or in a dream or while you were bored in a staff meeting– can create a vast network of interconnected people whose primary connection is your idea.

A good idea generates energy and momentum. Sometimes even a dead end generates new connections which further energize the idea. Can you help my idea? Can you collaborate on it? Can you make the idea successful? Can you help me think about the idea? 

Here’s the deal: Whether you have an idea that will make your neighborhood a better place to live or an idea that will make you a bagillionaire… you need to give your idea the freedom to breath, to live, and to take on a life of it’s own.

The difference between an idea that changes things and an idea you have on the toilet? The network you allow that idea to ignite.

Categories
Film

The Parking Lot Movie

I’m into obscure documentaries. Actually, anything biographical or anthropological intruiges me. So when NetFlix popped up with the suggestion of The Parking Lot Movie I was sold in about 8 seconds. Well, actually I pay $9.99 a month, so I guess I was already sold.

What happens when you put a bunch of philosophy, anthropology, and religion students in charge of a job marked primarily by hours of introspective inducing boredom interrupted with terse moments of anger from people in fancy cars?

That’s the 25 year question embarked upon by the owner of the Corner Parking Lot near the University of Virginia. To say that the job is cerebral is an understatement. Yet the owner of the lot is fascinated by the impact of tiny interactions with the general public. Instead of hiring people who would consider it “just a job” he has hired a cast of characters who try to find a deeper meaning in the mundane. Some of the attendants turn the experience into something fun and memorable. Others try to get patrons to think with witty philosophical quips. All of them get angry when people driving $50,000 cars try to talk them out of paying $2 for parking. And all of them teeter-totter between rage and zen-like peace with their lot in life.

All of which makes this documentary completely fascinating and fun.

The film raises interesting questions about entitlement, happiness, and the relationship between the stuff that we have and the people we are.

What does that have to do with people in ministry? Just about everything.

Fair warning: The film has plenty of foul language. Not intended as a recommendation for children or adults afraid of the f-word.

Bonus: Here’s a music video from the filmmaker. This was buried in the credits unfairly.

Categories
Christian Living Church Leadership

Myth: God opens and closes doors

I’ve heard this phrase to the point where I think people actually believe this is somehow a biblical concept.

God has opened the door for me to ____.

I was pursuing something I really felt called to, but God closed the door.

That’s not in the Bible folks. It is a non-biblical, non-Christian philosophy called fatalism.

I believe this little phrase, God opens and closes doors, has lead to people falsely blaming God for missed opportunities. We put this philosophy of open and closed doors above biblical concepts like perseverance, patience, and long-suffering.

Instead, many have bought into a mentality that it’s meant to be, God will open doors. If it isn’t meant to be, God will close doors.

Again, that’s fatalism. That isn’t how God works. Nor is it how God’s people are asked to look at the world.

This is what God says about opening doors:

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:20

  • Did David tell his friends, “Yeah, I was anointed as the next king, I don’t know though. Clearly, Saul doesn’t like me so I think God is closing that door?
  • I don’t think God cared too much about Jonah’s “closing the door” on going to Ninevah.
  • I don’t remember Jesus telling Paul the whole blinding thing was an open door to a life in ministry.
  • And a ship-wreck was clearly a “closed door” if I’ve ever seen one. But did that stop him?
  • Persecutions of the first apostles weren’t seen as God closing doors. The only door that ended their ministry typically involved lions.
  • Pharaoh refusing to release the Jews for the first 9 plagues wasn’t God closing a door.
  • Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had an open door to a fiery furnace. But that didn’t stop them, did it?
  • Seems like the doors were closed around old Jericho, weren’t they? Did that stop God’s people from taking action?

On and on we see that Scripture is not fatalistic about vocation, doing good, doing right, or fulfilling our call!

But God does work in us and through us when we persevere, when we are patient in affliction, when we long-suffer for doing right.

God rewards the righteous. God smiles on those who seek justice. God hears and answers prayer. God wants us to seek wise-council. God’s calling is true. God can move literal and figurative mountains for the faithful.

God calls us and asks us to depend on Him and Him alone.

He could care less about our education. (Paul) He could care less about our abilities. (Moses) He could care less about our lack of faith. (Jonah) He could care less about our past failures. (David)

When God asks us to do something open and closed doors are meaningless.

If He is asking you to do something He will make a way.

Rather than worrying about if the door is open or closed we are asked to open the door. We may have to kick it in. And we may need to buy a sledge-hammer to make a way where there is no way.

But waiting for doors to open or doors to close is meaningly, dangerous, and destructive. The only door you should be closing is on fatalism. The only door you should be opening is to Jesus, “Here I am, use me how you want. I am yours. You are my Savior and Lord.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

Categories
Christian Living illustrations

A or B thinking

Wipeout is a metephor for life

The thing that I really love about Wipeout is that I can see myself being on the show. There is something about the story of the show that makes me want to insert myself into the narrative. I don’t know about you, but when I watch the show I’m constantly thinking about how I would react to a situation or how I would have done it differently.

Watching other people fall, fail, and probably get hurt is attractive to me.

There is something so train wreck about Wipeout that makes it interesting and intruiging.

I want it. But what is “it?”

Why can’t I stop watching?!?

3rd person perspective

I like it because I am not in it. The reason it is so funny on television is because the people on the ground are in the first person and they are forced to think linear about Wipeout while at home we are in the third person and can see everything.

They only get to see what is in front of them. They don’t know how other players have completed the obstacle. They don’t have the view we have at home. We are above the action while they are in it.

They are trying to problem solve the maze of each apparatus in real time first person.

We are the humans watching the mouse work its way through a complicated maze. When you have a third person perspective, the game is easy and the mouse looks stupid.

Person after person makes the same mistake and you are left to just scream at the television… “Don’t do it that way! You’re going to fa… Oh, did you see him fall? Ouch!

The Wipeout mousetrap forces the participant into A vs. B thinking while the third person perspective clearly shows the answer is either A or B.

Sometimes the answer is C

My life is sometimes an episode of Wipeout. Life often feels squished into a maze of A & B choices.

But I’m learning more and more that the answer in A & B circumstances is actually C.

  • C: None of the above
  • C: All of the above
  • C: Another idea

This is why life isn’t Wipeout.

Life feels like a series of A or B choices. And if you get them right, you’ll succeed in life.

But that’s incorrect. Life is full of choices that look like A vs. B. But C is often the only right answer.

Stuck?

I know a lot of people who feel stuck right now.

They don’t feel like life affords them a lot of options.

Do I continue down this path or do I start something new?

I hate my job but the economy sucks and I don’t want to be unemployed right now.

The trick is not settling for A or B when the answer might be C.

The answer is– adjust your perspective.

Categories
Culture

Change as Technology

I love to track changes in technology. I can’t help looking my sons Nintendo DS, his prize possession, and remember what it was like when I received by Nintento Gameboy back in the day.

If you are anything like me you are also infatuated with tracking these changes. It doesn’t matter what you are into– computers, television shows, sewing machines– you can look back and remark on changes to the technology you love.

One of my favorite past times is talking about the change technology cycle.

But do we stop to think and think of change as a technology itself?

Wait… did you catch that?

Change is a technology. Absolutely.

Philosophically speaking we believe in change. Our society conveys it and our science confirms it. Change is necessary.

  • Change means innovative.
  • Change means keeping ahead, keeping fresh.
  • Change means alive.
  • Change means evolving.
  • Change means refinement.
  • Change means you are fighting against the effects of entropy.

Does it actually mean those things? Sometimes yes and sometimes no. But we almost always believe change is either good or bad.

When we look at change as a technology we gain the ability to zoom out the lens and examine the underlying currents, reasoning, and relationships which change creates. When we see change as technology we are able to recognize where we’ve been, why we are where we are now, and potentially what will come next.

Categories
Church Leadership hmm... thoughts

Animism Invades Christianity

animism-christianity

Are people generally looking to do bad things in the world? Is the world full of evil people set out to destroy you? If you take some doctrine too seriously you fall into this heretical view of life.

Here’s what I mean. A lot of Christians go through life scared of “the world.” You can show them proof that crime is down in America. You can ask them about the people that they know personally. And you can ask them about their personal experiences of good people versus evil people. And yet a perversion of the doctrine of man will lead them to believe that all people are out to get them. Trust me, there’s a reason for this.

Any reasonable observation of human behavior reveals the opposite… most people are generally good. Every person is not a potential murderer or rapist. Every person isn’t trying to rob you. Every person is not trying to knock you down. On and on.

In short, we have a  tendency to believe the Fall of man overrides the benevolence of God. We do believe that all Goodness in the world comes from God, right?

So why do most believers in Jesus Christ believe that the world is evil and full of people out to get them? My opinion is this: Too often the church, a place they trust to tell them the truth, is the one perpetrating this view of life that God’s creation is all-evil, all the time!

Why? Because creating a culture of fear leads to increased giving. (Increased giving means your church is successful, right?) Appealing to fear is easy access to cash. It’s a primal response true of people of all walks of life and belief systems. And the people who give to God out of fear don’t want to believe that they got ripped off… so they inherently believe that their giving has somehow protected them from the stuff the leader scared them about. (the church closing, their kids being conscripted by the world, their family falling apart, etc.) This is far different from giving an offering from a cheerful heart, isn’t it? Giving to a cause purely as a way to appease God to protect them from the boogie man… that’s not Christianity at all– that’s animism!

Take some time to observe how church leaders use fear to raise money. [This doesn’t happen everywhere or all the time.] Watch TV and pay close attention to how a charity uses fear to separate you from your cash. Fear is the easiest way to convince a person to donate. I would dare say that many church leaders are so ingrained in this culture of fear that they don’t even intentionally use fear to raise money. But they do it instinctively because they know it brings the money. I won’t give examples of the phrases leaders use to do this. I want to challenge you to observe it for yourself. Oh, it’s ingrained in sophisticated ways!

My belief system recognizes that while there is evil in the world, and while we are all inherently sinners to the core… people are generally good. People generally chose to do good over evil. The world is safe. And I refuse  to allow fear  to override enjoying the benevolence of God in His creation. See my examples below for proofs.

Addendum #1: Of course, the culture of fear isn’t just for believers. Fear of bad stuff happening leads you to vote for candidates, vote to increase your taxes, support political ideologies contrary to your belief system– on and on.Any time someone is trying to manipulate you to their position… watch how they intuitively use fear and perpetrate this heretical view that the world is a horrible place.

Addendum #2: I’ve used fear to get you to read this blog post– the title and imagery were chosen to appeal to your sense of fear. Twisted stuff, isn’t it?

Categories
hmm... thoughts

What if you’re asking the wrong question?

With some of my friends I’ve had the same soul conversation 100 times. Together we bang our heads against the wall asking the big question we are facing. With various friends that soul question takes various forms. “Why aren’t my kids following Jesus? Why isn’t my business taking off? Why do I struggle with my faith? Why can’t life be easier? Why does God not answer my prayer? Why isn’t my church growing? How can I be better at running my youth group?”

Let’s face a truism. All of us have a deep soul question. Whether its a matter in your relationships, your faith, your profession, or somewhere else… we are all able to identify the one nagging quesiton that haunts us day and night. Go ahead, fill in the blank. My soul question is ____________________________?

Dang, it feels good just to say it, doesn’t it? Know this… While your soul question is unique, we are all united in having a question our soul longs to see answered.

My thought here is simple.

Have you ever stopped to wonder if you’re just not asking the right question?

Let’s be honest. If you’ve had this soul question for more than a couple weeks, you are probably asking the wrong question! With myself and the people around me there comes a magical moment when we realize we’ve been beating our heads against the wall for years… and continuing to bang it harder and harder isn’t producing anything more than a headache.

So what do I do about it? Ask a different question. I can speak from my own experience to tell you that the answer is not more introspection. For me, the answer to finding peace with my own soul questions, more importantly… my ability to reframe the question so that I know I’m at least asking the right question, tends to lie in one of these three sources.

#1 Seeking wise counsel. That’s spiritual mumbo jumbo for saying I talk to people who are smarter than me on the given field my question seems to fall into. Many times I’ve had someone look at me and say, “Adam, you’re missing the point. The point of what you’re talking about is ______.”

#2 Reading the Word. You knew that was coming, didn’t you? Here’s what I’m talking about. The story of Israel found in the Old Testament is full of leaders asking the wrong question… then God leading them to the right question. These stories help me reframe the questions in my life.

#3 Reading books. I’m drawn mostly to biographies, autobiographies, and non-fiction in general. There is so much wisdom in reading of others folly, upbringing, life transformation, and triumph. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been reading a persons story and I realized… I’m asking the wrong question!

The point isn’t the methods I use to reframe the soul questions in my life. The point is that, if you are wrestling, make sure you’re asking the right question.