Category Archives: Personal Growth

Reaching out to Bees and Moths

Bee attracted to sweet nectar

Sweet nectar attracts bees, and people too!

Bees are attracted to sweet nectar, and moths are attracted to light. People are attracted to other people who love them, who are kind to them, who truly accept them for who they are. People who shine the grace filled the light of Christ into their lives.

It is sad to me that I still see an exclusive, sectarian, judgmental, even superior attitude in many Christians and churches. Why is this? Do we as Followers of Christ have it all together? Are we above reproach at all times? I know I’m not, and it seems to me that if we choose to believe that of ourselves, and let others believe that about us, then we are no better than the “Pharisees and Teachers of the Law” of Jesus’ day.

Jesus said, “Come to me.” He didn’t say get it all together, dress a certain way, clean up your language, be a teetotaler, etc., and then come to me. He said come to me and let my love heal you, restore you. “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10

This whole train of thought came about when I recently read the below article by Jud Wilhite.

Neither Do I Condemn You
By Jud Wilhite

I talked to a guy recently who was really lamenting that fact that more pastors aren’t preaching hellfire, brimstone and condemnation. He felt like the problem with Christianity is that everybody just believes God loves you.
Really? As I talk with people in Las Vegas who are not Christians, as well as many who are, I find lots of people who already believe God hates them or at best tolerates them. Like the guy with the tattoo that said, “God hates us all.” To me this isn’t news, it is assumed.
The good news is that God loved us so much he sent his son to die in our place and take the punishment for sin. This is the greatest picture of love and it implies that yes… God loves us!
It’s like one of my favorite stories in John 8 where we read about a woman whose encounter with Jesus teaches us about guilt, grace, and forgiveness. She was dragged before Jesus by religious leaders who angrily throw her in front of him. “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” (John 8:4-5)
Stone faces and stones in their hands. The woman must have been so terrified and embarrassed. In moments, she was exposed and hurled onto death row. From secret delight to public humiliation. The accusation – guilty of adultery – punishable by death.
This whole scene is fishy to begin with, though. How does one happen to catch someone in the act of adultery? And it takes two to tango – so where is this man? He is equally guilty. Maybe he was paid off to set her up or he could have been friends with these religious leaders. One thing is for sure – the religious leaders were using this question as a trap so they could have a basis for accusing Jesus (John 8:6). Rather than offering the woman help, they set her up. She had nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, and her guilt was real.
At first, Jesus did not respond to the religious leaders’ accusations. He bent down and wrote on the ground with his finger. This is the only record of Jesus writing. People have speculated that he wrote the sins of the religious leaders gathered around. Some say he wrote Scripture. Maybe he just doodled!
As he knelt, the leaders kept questioning him; they planned to snare Jesus in a catch-22. If he sentenced the woman to death, the Roman government would intervene. They alone determined an execution. If Jesus condoned a stoning, he might lose popularity. The crowd had followed him and had been attracted to his compassion. But if he told the leaders to let her go, they would accuse him of violating an Old Testament law.
They thought they had him cornered. But Jesus rose and spoke one of the most profound statements of Scripture: “If any of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7). Then he knelt down and continued writing.
What followed? Silence. A few awkward moments of anger turning to introspection. The rocks fell to the ground one at a time. By moving the focus off of the woman, Jesus had forced them to see their own guilt. He wasn’t concerned about the woman’s innocence, but rather that she was treated fairly. If she was to be judged, the witnesses were to come forth and be just and impartial (Deuteronomy 19:15-19). And the religious leaders were neither of those things. Jesus was not trying to throw out the process of law and legal procedure, but rather exposing the trial as a sham!
Once everyone had left and Jesus was alone with the woman, he asked, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replies with, “No one, sir.” Then Jesus declared… “Then neither do I condemn you” (John 8:10-11).
Beautiful words from the lips of a Savior. He came not to condemn the world but to save the world (John 3:17). He showed her pure, unmerited, undeserved grace. We are quick to judge, but what accusations could be leveled at us? This story gives us caution. Too often Christians, and churches, shoot their wounded. When people fail, they need to be restored with a heart of compassion. It’s too easy to judge people who don’t have our particular sin struggle.
It’s time to show grace. The same grace Christ offers us, despite all of our short-comings. The grace he offers everyone.

Looking at the idea of Grace verses Judgement from a church growth point of view, if bees are attracted to sweet nectar, and moths are attracted to light, is your church, are you, projecting sweetness and light in a way that says, “ I’m still on this journey too; lets walk together”? Because remember, Church growth is not about numbers, but it’s about seeking and saving the lost.

Until next Time:

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28 – 30

Being Thankful at Thanksgiving

Gratitude

Gratitdude 365 Days a Year

I recently read a story about Charles Dickens and a lecture tour he did in America. The story goes that he told one audience that we here in this country are a bit mixed up. He said we should not have one Thanksgiving Day, but that we should have 364 Thanksgiving Days. The one day left over would be used just for complaining and griping; the other 364 to thank God. He said we tend to do the opposite. We complain for 364 days, and then, perhaps, on one day count our blessings.

That left me wondering; how many of us actually take the time to be Thankful even on Thanksgiving? Or do we get so caught up in the turkeys, pies, cranberry sauce and football to remember why we have the day off. Yes, the Pilgrims had a great feast with their new friends, but the reason they had the feast was to express gratitude. First, to God for blessing them with a great harvest, and also, to thank the Native People who had shared their knowledge and resources with them.

If your answer is no, or you are not sure if you show gratitude on Thanksgiving (or any other day) here is some incentives to change some habits…

Ten Years of Research Shows the Benefits of Gratitude

A growing body of research has tied an attitude of gratitude with a number of positive emotional and physical health benefits. A November 2010 article in The Wall Street Journal summarized the research:

Adults who frequently feel grateful have more energy, more optimism, more social connections and more happiness than those who do not, according to studies conducted over the past decade. They’re also less likely to be depressed, envious, greedy, or alcoholics. They earn more money, sleep more soundly, exercise more regularly, and have greater resistance to viral infections.

Now, researchers are finding that gratitude brings similar benefits in children and adolescents. [Studies also show that] kids who feel and act grateful tend to be less materialistic, get better grades, set higher goals, complain of fewer headaches and stomach aches, and feel more satisfied with their friends, families, and schools than those who don’t.

The researchers concluded, “A lot of these findings are things we learned in kindergarten or our grandmothers told us, but now we have scientific evidence to prove them …. The key is not to leave it on the Thanksgiving table.”
Melinda Beck, “Thank You. No, Thank You,” The Wall Street Journal (11-23-10)

So this year as you sit down to your feast, remember to be thankful, express gratitude for the blessings in your life, and then continue that gratitude for the remaining 364days of the year.

God Bless and Happy Thanksgiving!

Until next time,
Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:
It is a rare person who, when his cup frequently runs over, can thank God instead of complaining about the limited size of his mug!     —Bob Russell

Dream Again

Dream again

Your Never Too Young or Too Old

Recently, I have had the opportunity to speak frequently on the topic of  “Dream Again.” In these talks I remind people that no dream is too big or too small. I also tell people that, “you are never too young or too old to pursue your dreams.” I have sighted such people as Joan of Arc, Bill Gates and Mark  Zuckerberg on the “too young” side of the spectrum and Harlan (Colonel) Sanders, Mary Kay and Julia Child on the “too old” side of the spectrum.

A couple weeks ago this concept was brought to life in a very real way. I was a guest speaker a great church, that is about two hours from my home church. After speaking on “Dream Again” many people approached me after each service to tell me about their dreams (either unfulfilled or fulfilled). One particular gentlemen really stood out to me.  This gentleman was in his 60’s and spoke with a profuse stutter.  It took him at least three times as long to tell his story as a non-stuttering person would have. His story was this… He had always wanted to sing in the choir because when he sings he doesn’t stutter. He had, had this dream his whole life. he had hung on to it and not let anyone take it from him.  Well last year he was invited to join the church choir, and recently he had the privilege of singing a solo.

As he told his story his face told the story of profound joy. The joy of a passion realized, and a dream fulfilled. What dreams are laying dormant in you? What dreams are you still chasing?  I encourage you to keep going; keep chasing that thing that God has placed in your heart. I encourage you to DREAM AGAIN!

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“For of All Sad Words of Tongue and Pen, the Saddest are These, It Might Have Been…..” – John Greenleaf Whittier

Choices that Guard your Heart and Help you to Grow

balanced life

A balanced life is a key to spiritual growth

At Celera we are truly blessed with some of the best leadership and church growth coaches in the world. These are men and women who pastor at Mega, Mega churches, author best selling books, strategize for the likes of John Maxwell, and are innovators to the extreme.  One of our newest coaches, Richie Hughes, is no exception. Richie has been in leadership at one of the biggest churches in country, and has now authored his first book: Start Here Go Anywhere. Recently, Richie was a guest writer for Dan Reiland (another Celera coach) for The Pastor’ Coach, and the article tied in so well with my last post regarding the importance of rest, that I wanted to share the article with you here.

“Moving Forward in Your Spiritual Life”

by Richie Hughes

“I’m not going back, I’m moving ahead. I’m here to declare to you, my past is over. In YOU, old things are made new, surrendered my life to Christ, I’m moving forward!” The lyrics to this song by my good friend Ricardo Sanchez have transformed many lives, mine being one.

As leaders, we are constantly reviewing and analyzing data that is critically important, but in reality, it is all yesterday’s news. Don’t get me wrong. As a former executive pastor of Free Chapel in Gainesville, GA and Irvine, CA we must be somewhat obsessed with data. An old basketball coach of mine used to say, “The stats don’t lie!” I found that to be so true. Churches like businesses must be into numbers. Our budgets, attendance, baptisms, etc. all measure the growth or lack thereof in our ministries. The growth of the church is important, but what about your growth, and most importantly, your spiritual growth? There are no hard “stats” for that, so how do you know when you are moving forward?

I remember when my Senior Pastor, Jentezen Franklin informed me that we were going to launch a church in Irvine, CA. Wow! (A bunch of guys from the South doing church on the West Coast? Really?) My mind began to spin, not with fear or doubt, but excitement! I wondered aloud, would our ministry model from GA work in CA? How would we transition staff to our new location? How are we going to pay for all of this? Ok, maybe just a little bit of apprehension rolled in.

Make no mistake, God can do anything He wants and no group of men can ever take credit for what God has done at Free Chapel, but as I was reminiscing with a close pastor friend just recently at Cornerstone in Athens, GA, God always exceeds our expectations when we give Him all of ourselves in our effort. So how do you give Him all of yourself? In our staff coaching sessions, I often share what I believe are three critical components of moving forward in our own spiritual lives:

1. Preserve YOUR Individual Identity.

We must be ourselves, plain and simple. God knows we all wish we could communicate like Andy Stanley, John Maxwell or Rick Warren, or maybe our voice fill the room like Mac Powell from Third Day in the worship experience. But I have found that God loves not only those guys, but He loves you and me just the same. More amazingly to me, He likes us! Now, I’m not talking about a Facebook click for a like, but God really enjoys our communication style, our worship style and everything that makes us who we are. We as leaders don’t have to be the most creative pastor in town. Yes, God loves creativity and people appreciate the preparation, but think about this: as a former high school basketball coach, I never called plays for my team to run with the intent of showing how smart I was as a coach. I called plays to win the game! Likewise we should not start new programs, campaigns or teaching series to show that we are more creative than that “other” church down the road, let’s do series and programs that reach people, change lives and win the game! I remember a reporter asking my friend and Atlanta Braves pitcher, John Smoltz what was his “best” pitch? I loved his answer: John didn’t reply my 96 MPH fastball or my 90 MPH slider or my incredible change up, he simply said, “The one that gets the hitter out.” John got it right! Leaders, do we understand the ultimate goal? How about our staff? In the midst of all this, it’s important to be yourself!

2. Realize the importance of Real Relationships.

As I travel from church to church, this issue is the one I see so many leaders doing poorly. To stay fresh and continue our personal growth in Christ, it’s important to:

Find a hobby. You might think, “I don’t have time for a hobby.” I hear it everywhere I go. You need to find time. Take up running, fishing, golf or the latest craze I have seen is at the shooting range. I’m not going to say what the virtual targets are and it troubles me a little to see so many “gun friendly” pastors who get a little crazy out there! But I am a firm believer that without a release, your effectiveness as a leader and even a communicator will suffer greatly. Be careful though, my competitive spirit will sometimes overtake me and I may just “accidentally” throw a club on the golf course when the breaks don’t go my way. Note to self: That could be hazardous to your testimony! Stop throwing clubs.

Find close friends outside your church body. The conversation has got to be about something other than the church all of the time! During my time as an executive pastor, I intentionally had a small core of about four people that were my “best” friends. Of the four, only one attended our church. We enjoyed friendships with parents on the soccer field and basketball court while watching our children compete. Of course my golfing buddies were patient enough to hang out with me on my day off. The bottom line is to find a release, it makes your time with God that much more special.

3. Preserve and Protect your Personal Passion.

One of my favorite worship leaders, Israel Houghton wrote a song called “Go back to your first Love.” When I listen to the lyrics, it reminds me of my personal salvation experience. Do you remember that moment? Of course you do! Are you still as passionate in your personal relationship with God, or are you spending so much time and energy leading others that your personal time with God has diminished? Admittedly, I am guilty! When I started as an executive pastor at a mega church, I was so consumed with the church and the people that in my first three months in that position, I was hospitalized with ulcers. I had to evaluate some things and in doing so realized that my personal growth in Christ was suffering, not to mention my body.

Maybe you are like I was, reading every leadership book, blog, etc. and doing your best to keep up with the latest trends in ministry. Here is what I determined: ask and believe God. Time in prayer and devotion will always trump overworking, over downloading, and over-analyzing the things we do constantly as leaders. I’ll say it like I heard it from the Lord, “Who do you think inspired all of those leaders to write those thoughts? Those thoughts came from me!”

Lastly, I am reminded of what helped bring me back into spiritual growth and development:

1. My personal worship time.

I hope as leaders that we participate in the worship segment of service. Like you, my cell phone stays hot with texts from department heads and volunteers and we seem to find ways to put out fires throughout our weekend services. But what about the fire in our hearts? Do we allow ourselves to just take a moment and experience God? Our church must have something pretty good to offer or no one would come. I encourage YOU to worship in the service you have worked so hard to plan for others, as much as possible. Other times for me are when I worship in the car blaring out worship tunes and most days when I run, I fill my ears with worship music and carelessly sing along just enjoying my time with HIM. Find your space and time to worship.

2. Read the Bible for pleasure, not just for sermons or teachings.

Wow! I remember when someone told me that. It was like a bucket of cold water in my face! Probably like you if you teach, I usually sit down with my Bible, pen, paper and laptop all at once. This advice was good for me. Sometimes we need to just read the Bible. Period! No agenda, just out of the pure joy of reading the greatest book ever written. Will you get sermon ideas? Yep, but that is a bonus, not the intent. Life Church’s YOUversion has made it possible to read the Bible anywhere, anytime. Download the app to your phone and just enjoy the Word of God.

By practicing just a few things I’ve shared, you as a leader can not only increase productivity in yourself, but teaching these principles will have a trickle down effect in your leadership of others. More importantly, your personal relationship with God will grow and become, or return, to that level of passion that God seeks from you and seeks for you.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

If we are to go forward, we must go back and rediscover those precious values – that all reality hinges on moral foundations and that all reality has spiritual control. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Ministering from a Place of Rest

be still

Take time to rest

At our most recent Celera Roundtable, one of the coaches, Dave Stone, was speaking to us about “ministering from a place of rest.”  Picture this, a room full of pastors from across the country, most of them lead pastors, hearing the passionate plea to take time to rest. If you are a pastor of a growing church, or any church for that matter, you know the irony in that.  Dave broke down several areas that he takes time for rest in his own life. First, he makes sure to take a day off every week. Not a half day or a few hours here and there, a whole day. That was the first area of conviction for me. Then he made the jaw dropping statement that he, Dave Stone, pastor of one of the largest churches in the country, takes the entire month of July off! You could hear the collective gasp in the room.  Not only does he take the month off, his board of Elders forbids him to even step foot on campus during that month.

Some time after that conference I was speaking to my executive Pastor, Jared Dunn, and it was mutually decided (actually Jared insisted) that I take the month of July off. After some initial reluctance, I agreed. So for the first time in my life I took an entire month off from work, and it was fantastic. I had some great time with my family, and a lot of great time to rest and gather my strength (physical, mental and spiritual) for the push ahead.

I am back now and ready to take off running. I came across this article on Focus on the Family, and I wanted to share a portion of it with you. You can read the entire article at Focus on the Family. These are principles that can be applied not just to pastor or people in church leadership, but in every area of life.

The pastor’s need to rest and retreat

Written by Jerry Ritskes

When you get asked how you are, do you find yourself proudly (but with some frustration) answering that you are “busy”? There is a world to win, programs to organize, people to train and a church to maintain. No wonder ministry is so busy. We are short on finances, people and time. It seems the only way to make it is to work a little bit harder.

Eugene Peterson, in his book The Contemplative Pastor, makes this almost absurd statement “that the adjective busy set as a modifier to pastor should sound to our ears like adulterous to characterize a wife or embezzling to describe a  banker.” Can he really mean this? Isn’t busyness a sign that I’m making a difference for the kingdom? Isn’t it proof that I’m being a good and faithful steward? I don’t think so. I believe that busyness takes pastors away from what they are truly called to do.

Driven to busyness

I have often been so busy with “doing ministry” that I have no time to be with God. How silly is this? Peter Scazzero, in his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, identifies this as one of the top 10 symptoms of emotionally unhealthy spirituality – “doing for God instead of being with God.” Driving ourselves into busyness could be a sign that we’re trying to earn God’s approval, counter poor self-worth, quieten the negative self-talk we’ve been listening to, or we feel that saving the world is our responsibility. For whatever reason, we keep driving ourselves into doing more – and it makes truly hearing God’s voice very difficult.

Sabbath

The principle of the Sabbath is extremely important. Sabbath is a time to stop our work, not when it is completed, but when we need to stop. It is pacing our lives and recognizing our human limitations.  Sabbath frees us from the need to obtain God’s acceptance by being productive. It is resting from our efforts, and trusting God’s.

Our congregations not only look to us to teach them with our sermons, they are looking to us to as an example of what it means to walk with Christ. When they see us going “mach 10 with our hair on fire,” they interpret that as what a believer should do. We inadvertently teach that it is somehow not enough to enjoy being a child of God.  As a pastor, when I take time to slow down or even stop, this reaffirms to others that “there is a Saviour, but it is not me.”
Listening

I love the word-picture Ruth Haley Barton gives us in Invitation to Silence and Solitude. Our lives are like a jar of river water – agitated and murky. As soon as you stop moving the jar and let it sit, the sediment begins to settle and it becomes clearer. When we take time for quiet, the sediment in our lives begins to settle, and the things God is trying to tell us becomes clearer. When we take time to listen to God’s voice, He helps us to find perspective on what He is calling us to do, rather than on what we feel compelled to do.

Making the time

I’ve often said “I’d like to take a breather, but I can’t seem to make it happen. It’s just too busy.” While there are seasons in our schedule that require more time and attention than others, there is still the need to keep ourselves in tune with our Creator. Here is a “low-tech” but effective way of making time for rest and listening: Plan it. All you have to do is put it into your schedule, like you would schedule any other demand on your time, and then keep it. When something comes up that conflicts with the time you’ve planned, you can say “I’m sorry, but I’m booked then. Can we find some other time?” Unless we are intentional about taking time to be quiet before the Lord, and unless we can do it without feeling guilty, we will never really find the time to do it.

When I take time to rest and listen to God’s voice, what happens? I begin to hear His calming voice that tells me I’m His beloved child. I begin to find a “Holy balance” to my life. I become more of who He made me to be, and not nearly so concerned with performing to gain people’s approval. As The Message paraphrases Matthew 11:28-29, I begin to live “freely and lightly.”

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. – Mark 6:30-32

Success and Leadership Principles We Can Learn From Baseball

success lessons from baseball

Lessons from the Great American Pass Time

My son and I just completed our annual trek to visit baseball stadiums across the country. We are on a journey to see a major league game in each of the 30 stadiums. This year we were at 24, 25and 26! With so much baseball on my mind, I thought this would be the perfect time to write about the many leadership/success lessons to be learned from the greatest sport in the world. (I’m not biased at all!) I have sourced excerpts from two different articles for the information.

Baseball and Leadership

Baseball is a game of resilience. Last night: 0 for 4. Hit into a double play, struck out, grounded out and hit to a fielder’s choice. Tomorrow, you have to dig back into the batter’s box and go after it again. Positions of leadership require the same resilience and short term memory. You may get beat up pretty good today. Customer complaint, union grievance, three people called in sick, budget cuts and useless meeting. Tomorrow, you dig back in and go after again.

Baseball is a game of adaptability. First time up the guy blasted an inside fastball 450 feet into the left field seats. Second time up, fast ball away, slider away and cutter down. When methods do not yield the desired results, baseball players adapt. Great leaders are also adaptable. When a coaching method does not provide fruit, they change the approach. When they are not connecting with a team member, they examine and modify their style. Great leaders are situational adapters based on the needs of team members and the need of the organization.

Baseball is a game of inherent unfairness. The offensive player stands alone against nine members of the opposition. The batter has no idea what is coming. Even with best effort and contact, the chances of success range from 25% to 35%. Leaders face the same long odds. Their highest objective is to achieve victory and results when they face of group of competing goals.

Baseball is a game that rewards the clever. As with adaptability, baseball games often hinge on the smallest and most ingenious plays. A pick-off at first base. A hit and run with two outs. A squeeze bunt. Leaders too will be rewarded for cleverness. Rather than simply replicating the results of predecessors or maintaining the status quo, the modern leader is required to seek different and creative methods and solutions.

Baseball is a beautiful when played well. The pivot at second base during a double play. A two hit shut-out. The towering magnificence of a three run, walk-off home run. Leadership is also a beautiful thing to behold when it is done well. All team members functioning within their roles like a symphony and the leader is the conductor. Minor adjustments are being made and the system is running on all cylinders. Performance is peak. Dysfunction is non-existent.
www.evancarmichael.com/Human-Resources/3485/Baseball-and-Leadership.html

Leadership lessons from the Baseball Field

Some would consider the 1971 Macon Ironmen High School Baseball team as the “Hoosiers” of high school baseball. The coach, Lynn Sweet, an English teacher with no baseball experience was the last resort for a group of players on the verge of having their program eliminated. The great thing about Coach Sweet is that he did not let his ego or those that scoffed at his unconventional coaching methods get in the way. He implemented a powerful combination of collaboration and authoritative leadership, which focused on the best result for the team and left individual egos on the bench.

Sweet had a special effect on all the kids. He threw batting practice and played pickup games with the boys; other times he let them run their own practices, watching from the bench, so they’d feel empowered by the independence.  He cultivated a teaching style which balanced discipline with collaboration and discussion, allowing all voices and talents to be seen and heard.

He believed that there’s a lot to be learned in defeat. And determined success by how much the kids enjoyed themselves, rather than just how much they won. He also fostered a sense of community and encouraged the boys to do things together outside of baseball, enabling them to build their relationships.

As a result of Coach Sweet’s leadership style, the baseball team of Macon High School went on to the 1971 Illinois State Championship. And even though he never measured success just by the number of games won, they beat many baseball teams. Teams from schools four times their size, with more resources, more experience and more exposure to competition. The one thing that Coach Sweet had over all of his competition was superior leadership. Through his balance between collaboration and authoritative leadership he was able to create a vision for the Macon baseball team that everyone else saw as impossible, including the players. But once he was able to have them experience success based on his unconventional coaching methods, the players started to buy into this impossible dream.

Though they did not win the State Championship, the experience for the coach and the players left a lasting leadership imprint for the rest of their lives. Coach Sweet is a great example for all of us. His actions exemplified those of a Conscious Leader™. Balancing collaboration with authoritative leadership in a purposeful and intentional manner, he allowed the individual talents to shine. Each player had the freedom to make mistakes and grow from their experiences. Furthermore, he made sure that the players were accountable to each other and played for the spirit of the team. Whether we are a coach, parent, CEO or manager it is our responsibility to understand our abilities and our team’s abilities and to create a compelling vision. True inspiration will lead the team to maximize their talent so the “team” can accomplish their vision.
info.farrleadership.com/bid/47190/Leadership-lessons-from-the-Baseball-Field

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“I know how I feel about baseball. That’s the easy part. But communicating with people is what’s important.” – Terry Francona

The Healthy Church and Church Growth

helalthy church growth

A Healthy Church leads to a Growing a Church

Recently our Executive Pastor, Jared Dunn, sent this great email out to the entire staff. Jared has been with us just seven months and we are already seeing great things happen. His insights below on the importance of a healthy church are fantastic and oh so true.

Becoming a HEALTHY Church

Pursuing church health allows us to focus on the legitimate desire to see our church flourish without some of the impure motivations that might trip us up. As we pursue church health, we’ll most likely experience church growth as a by product. This paradigm shift places the priority on keeping our church healthy and trusting God to do the rest. Church health falls easily within our stewardship roles as church leaders. Church growth is God’s department and the attendance of the church will ultimately grow or decline in accordance with His will. Most would agree this makes intuitive sense and yet how many of us live each day as if both health and growth were up to us?
It can be very freeing to focus on what God has called us to do and let Him bring the people.

Keys to Lasting Health and Vitality:

If you’re looking for church growth principles, here’s one: church growth begins with church health, not the other way around. We see in nature that healthy things grow. It’s that simple! This is by no means a new concept, but it’s still true.

But how do you know if you’re a healthy church? What can you use as a measuring stick? Based on extensive field testing and research with thousands of churches and individuals, we’ve compiled these church health categories and use them regularly in helping churches measure and monitor their own church health:

› God’s Empowering Presence
› God-Exalting Worship
› Spiritual Disciplines
› Learning and Growing in Community
› A Commitment to Loving and Caring Relationships › Servant-Leadership Development › An Outward Focus › Wise Administration and Accountability › Networking with the Body of Christ › Stewardship and Generosity

I encourage you to lean toward the following attributes in pursuit of lasting health and vitality:

› Stay Humble.
Humble people listen, humble churches listen. They are open to what God has to say to them and what other people have to say to them. The day we stop listening is the day pride begins to eat away at the framework of our ministry. The key to lasting health and vitality is to stay humble and grounded.

› Be Teachable.
A life-long learner who is submitted to the will of God has nearly limitless potential. Are you open to learning new things? Do you acknowledge your mistakes or cast blame on others? Are you willing to defer to others who have specialized expertise?

› Exude Gratitude.
Stop regularly to count your blessings. Express gratitude to God for all He has done and continues to do in the life of your church. Regularly show appreciation to those around you who are faithfully serving. People rarely complain of being excessively appreciated.

› Remain Open.
Open hands. Open hearts. Open minds. Open people are pliable in God’s hands. Are you open to feedback and change? Do you let people see your humanity and imperfections or do you lead from behind a rigid, got-it-all-together exterior? Are you open to other people’s ideas or do all the good ideas have to originate with you?

In closing, I am absolutely committed to partnering with you to make South Hills a place that is absolutely healthy, a place where we all can flourish in our gifts and calling, and grow into all that God has for us. I believe in you and thank God for the privilege to serve you!

Much love, respect, and blessings,

Jared Dunn

Until next Time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“A healthy church is a congregation that increasingly reflects God’s character as his character has been revealed in his Word.” – Mark Denver

Celera Roundtable 2011

roundtable conferance

Roundtable Conferences are Highly Beneficial to Personal and Organizational Growth

I have had the privilege over the years to attend several Roundtable type events. These events have been among the most impactful training/teaching times in my life.  The opportunity to sit in a room with a small number of other participants and glean knowledge and insight from great leaders is one I will continually take. I always learn so much more in these kinds of settings rather that in a room full of hundreds or thousands of participants, as you are able to look the coaches in the eye and interact with them, asking questions and getting answers.

On May 12th and 13th Celera hosted our annual Roundtable event. We had approximately thirty pastors and church leaders in attendance and two fantastic coaches. For those of you who were there, you know how amazing it was. Dave Stone and Mark Cole were phenomenal; we all (myself included) took pages of notes. Here are some comments from a few of the participants from this year’s event…

That was one of the best leadership events I have attended. Loved the openness of all three, Dave, Mark, and Chris. The most impactful part was just the atmosphere and genuineness of the time. Loved the stories of family and friends. Loved that there was no sense of “we want to impress you”, but a very genuine humility. I told my staff we are all going next year.   – Brad Grams

 

I enjoyed the transparency and honesty from both Dave and Mark.  They opened up their personal lives and shared their struggles, which made the sessions very relative.  All the points of topic were great and it moved fast. I was thankful to be there and felt very uplifted when I left.  Thanks again.  – Johnny  Hodges

 

All of us from our church LOVED it!!  Best part was the small intimate setting with only a handful of leaders in attendance.  It allowed for such incredible depth to the discussions.  The coaches were both unbelievable.  God really spoke to us through them and challenged us.  Celera did a great job of blending the coaches.  This should definitely be repeated.  Mark had more of a pure leadership/organizational leadership edge to him while Dave had the ministry/pastor edge to his leadership.  Great stuff! – Randy Sherwood

 

Thank you for all you did to put together last week’s (Roundtable) meeting. I found it very helpful.  How often do those happen?  I’m in for the next one! – Mark Oberbeck

I highly encourage you to seek out Roundtable type training events.  Don’t get me, wrong large scale leadership/personal growth events are great, and I attend those as well. There is just something about a Roundtable environment that breads growth. Personal growth, leadership growth, organizational,church growth; all of these things and more are given mega nourishment in Roundtable environments. Continually seek to better yourself through books, audios, and coaching of various kinds, and be sure to add Roundtables to your repertoire of learning tools.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

Men are anxious to improve their circumstances, but are unwilling to improve themselves; they therefore remain bound.

James Allen

Handshake is Here

Handshake - What the Great Do that Others Don't

My New book, Handshake – What the Great Do that others Don’t, launches this weekend, April 23rd and 24th. I truly beleive this book will help anyone who is wanting to be successful in their lives.  Handshake is also set up in such a way that it works well for a group study. The book will be available at our Main Street Campus. It will also be available for the order of a hard copy and digitally at the Celera website.  It will soon also be available on Kindle, NOOK, iPad, and Sony Reader.  All proceeds from the book go right back into the Celera ministry.

Here is what others are saying about the book.

“Chris Sonksen’s new book, Handshake, powerfully demonstrates that success is obtainable for anyone who wants it.  Through the real life stories of these inspiring individuals, Chris reveals that success is less about the talent we have and more about the choices we make.  READ IT, LEARN IT, LIVE IT!”

Mark Batterson

Lead Pastor/Founder National Community Church and Best Selling Author

 

“This book can certainly be used as a compass to keep anyone on track to being better.  I never started out to be great or even thinking I could be, but as I read Chris’ book Handshake, I began to realize that doing these same things took me from the cotton fields in Alabama, all the way to a premier in the Rose Bowl.”

Coach Bill Yoast

The man behind the hit movie, “Remember the Titans” 

 

 “This book is for all those who continue to chase after their dreams against-all-odds. Handshake, is the perfect guide for those willing to never lose sight of their quest for greatness.

Rudy Ruettiger, The man behind the TriStar motion picture “RUDY”

 

 “I would encourage everyone to read this inspiring book; especially those who are feeling defeated and hopeless.”

Marlene Owens Rankin, daughter of Jesse Owens,

V.P. and Managing Director

The Jesse Owens Foundation

 

 “These 10 Daily Choices not only separate the good from great, but they are essentials in achieving great things and living life beyond mere good intentions.”

 Stephen Arterburn, founder and chairman of New Life Ministries

 

 “Inspirational stories from an inspirational leader – Chris Sonksen’s Handshake, delivers practical and uplifting insights that can help you increase the quality of your life and productivity of your career.”

Dr. Dan Reiland, Executive Pastor

12 Stone Church

Lawrenceville, GA

 

 “Chris Sonksen re-introduces us to some of the most influential leaders in history, and by dissecting their lives, enables them to mentor us today. You will love the stories and the practical take-aways in each chapter. This book represents your chance to sit down and be coached by the most effective people anywhere. I know you’ll enjoy them as I have.”

 Dr. Tim Elmore, President of GrowingLeaders.com

& former V.P. for John Maxwell’s INJOY

 

“Chris lays out clear principles in this book that can help everyone achieve their full potential.  These are many of the same principles that helped my teammates and I achieve excellence in the Olympic Games as we brought home the Gold.  Chris reminds us that even in everyday life, accomplishing great things is a choice and we can all make it happen.”

Leah O’Brien Amico, 3-time Olympic Gold Medalist

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“Don’t lower your expectations to meet your performance. Raise your level of performance to meet your expectations. Expect the best of yourself, and then do what is necessary to make it a reality.”

– Ralph Marston

The Choice of Excellence

Walt Disney excellence

Walt Disney Strove for Excelence

We are thrilled that, after a bit of a delay, my new book Handshake has gone to print and will be available in just a couple of short weeks. Here is one more sneak peek from the book…

Walt Disney and the Choice of Excellence:

Disneyland has become an icon in American culture.  People from all over the world visit this place that began as a dream on a wooden bench in the 1940’s.  It is the home of some of the greatest animated characters such as:  Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, Snow White, Mary Poppins, Beauty and the Beast, Nemo, Aladdin and the list continues to grow year after year.  Children that are fascinated by it grow up to be adults that love it.

After all these years, Disneyland has managed to maintain it’s pursuit of excellence, even after the death of Walt Disney on December 15, 1966.  It continues to be the dominating amusement park throughout the world.  Go and visit any other amusement park and you will not find the same performance standards that you will find at Disneyland.  The grounds are cleaner, the landscaping is manicured, the rides are better maintained and the productions are performed at a higher level.  Walt’s pursuit of excellence continues throughout the Disney Empire and as usual, excellence has paid off.

Regarding excellence, the author, James Gardner once said, “Some people have greatness thrust upon them.  Very few have excellence thrust upon them…they achieve it.  They do not achieve it unwittingly by ‘doing what comes naturally’ and they don’t stumble into it in the course of amusing themselves.  All excellence involves discipline and tenacity of purpose.”

In this chapter you will learn these 5 steps to pursuing excellence…

1) Create a healthy drive for excellence

2) Choose it everyday, even when the emotions aren’t there

3) Realize that you cannot be the best in everything you do

4) Create processes that enable excellence

5) Think backwards

It is a passion in my own life to strive for excellence, and I challenge you to choose the same.

Until next time,

Chris Sonsken,

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“Excellence can be obtained if you:
…care more than others think is wise;
…risk more than others think is safe;
…dream more than others think is practical;
…expect more than others think is possible.” – Unknown