Blog Archives

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

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Step Back to Move Forward

Step back growth

Step back, Re-focus, Move on

On the Australian coat of arms is a picture of an emu and a kangaroo. These animals were chosen because they share a characteristic that appealed to our forefathers. Both the emu and kangaroo can move only forward, not back. The emu’s three-toed foot causes it to fall if it tries to go backwards, and the kangaroo is prevented from moving in reverse by its large tail.

I love this illustration; I am all about moving forward, keeping your eyes on the goal, never give up, but I have learned that sometimes you have to take a step to move forward. Everyone, whether it be in business, your personal life, church growth, will hit a slump or get a curve ball. When that happens we get the opportunity to pause and reevaluate. The article below is a great illustration of someone stepping back to move forward.

Efrain Escudero Looking back to move forward
By Jordan Newmark April 08, 2012

When a professional athlete rebounds from a slump or a setback, the easiest conclusion to jump to is that they added something “new”. A change in routine, mindset, workout, technique or anything that has been recently tweaked by the world’s latest and greatest ideas.

For many, this is the case, but for others, like UFC lightweight Efrain Escudero, rediscovering what they did in the past is how they progressed in the future. For “Hecho en Mexico”, the journey back to the Octagon was accomplished by fighting for the reason that originally drew Escudero to the sport: because it was fun. … “I went back and saw my old tapes, my old highlight videos, and what I did in them – I had fun,” states Escudero. “Every time I went to the cage I was having fun. I wasn’t scared, I wasn’t nervous, I was ready to have fun. Getting called back up to the UFC, I had fun having to bust my butt again to get back where I belong.” 

Recently, we had a couple of key staff members move on for very positive, personal reasons. When this happened we knew we would have to make some major changes, so we took this opportunity to step back, not to dwell in a pity party, but in keeping our eyes on our goals, to pause, redirect and move forward again. We are truly excited about our new structure and direction. We are expecting great things to happen!

So while we may at times pause and step back our constant direction over time is forward.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

Plan backwards as well as forward. Set objectives and trace back to see how to achieve them. You may find that no path can get you there. Plan forward to see where your steps will take you, which may not be clear or intuitive. – Donald Rumsfeld

First Impressions

First impressions

Ushers and greeters are your church’s first impression.

I’m sure you have all heard the saying that you only get one chance to make a first impression. It is true in your personal life, and it is true in your church.   An area of serving that is often overlooked in churches is that of Usher.  Not everyone can be an usher. Just as not everyone can be a worship leader, work in child care, repair the building, or preach the sermon. We each have our unique God given gifts, and that includes people who are wired to be good ushers. I love how well Dan Reiland outlines the importance and “how to’s” of the usher ministry in the article below.

“Your Usher Ministry”

by Dan Reiland

One of my favorite ministries to lead is the usher team. Their role is so important, but often undervalued, undertrained, and less than organized.

The ushers are a huge force in setting the tone for worship and helping to prepare the people to hear and respond to the Word of God.

I’m pulling a portion of the training notes for our usher team and adapting for this article. If you would like the full usher training manual (free) CLICK HERE!

An usher is a spiritual ambassador for the local church – God’s ordained and organized body of believers. The usher serves as a “first representative” of Jesus Christ for a worship service. Though we thoroughly enjoy the creative edge of our worship services, make no mistake, this is a holy event where God is meeting with His people.

From the tabernacle in the Old Testament to the temple and synagogue in the New Testament, God’s presence and the teaching of His word is of supreme importance.

Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Exodus 40:34

They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. Mark 1:21-22

At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. John 8:2

Who Can Serve as an Usher?

Not just anyone can be an usher. In the same way that not just anyone can sing in the choir, work in children’s ministry or lead a small group. The right gifts, passion, and ability make a big difference.

As you recruit new ushers keep spiritual qualities, characteristics and usher responsibilities in mind. Please make sure you work in coordination with your section leader or a service leader rather than practicing “random recruiting.”

The fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23 is a solid guideline for a good usher. This is not about perfection, but a heartfelt motive and desire to live a life of a spirit-filled believer.

Qualifications of an Usher

• You understand the vital role of the usher ministry.

• You enjoy and care about people.

• You possess a servant heart.

• You are committed to the vision of “your church name.”

• You are supportive of the leadership at “your church name.”

Responsibilities of an Usher

1. Committed leadership

• Prepare yourself spiritually.

A good usher comes prepared mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. This is not to be seen as a duty, but a privilege to connect with God as part of your preparation. Don’t feel like this requires an hour of Bible study before you show up. God is far more interested in the commitment of your heart than the amount of your time. Take a few moments at home to connect with God and ask Him to use you as a representative of His love and an agent of His redemptive plan.

• Take initiative!

This is huge. The cardinal sin of an usher is to not pay attention. At all times watch what is going on in your section and jump in to handle it. If you aren’t sure what to do, ask your section leader. The only wrong choice is to do nothing. Never assume “someone” else is taking care of the need. Pay attention, take initiative, and make it happen!!

• Absorb the pressure of the moment, don’t transfer it.

Most of the ministry of an usher is pure joy. Seriously, it’s a lot of fun. But on occasion there are moments of pressure when someone is upset or something isn’t working right. In these moments never transfer the pressure to the person entering into their worship experience. You are the leader. You absorb the pressure. Get help if you need it, but never make the issue their problem. You help deliver a solution.

• Own your section, lead your section, shepherd your section.

This is exciting. In an average environment with average ushers, once the seats are filled the ushers relax and mentally check out. As a leader you are empowered to take ownership of the area of seats you serve in and give leadership where needed. Think of your area like you are responsible to do everything in your power to ensure that all those people have the best opportunity possible to connect with and hear from God. You can shepherd the people by getting to know them, praying for them, learning their names, and meeting appropriate needs.

• Follow the direction of your head usher.

All good leaders are good followers. It is important that you follow the leadership of the person responsible to lead you. Be supportive and encouraging. Offer suggestions if you have good ideas, but don’t be overly sensitive if your ideas aren’t used. Your head usher will do his or her best to serve and lead you and the rest of their team well.

2. Core tasks

In each of these areas you will receive practical hands-on training.

• Help people find a seat.

This seems obvious, but there is an art to it. The art is all about making people, especially new people and people far from God, feel comfortable. Their insecurities can rise and their feelings of self-consciousness prevent them from connecting with God.

Imagine what it feels like to walk into an unfamiliar restaurant or other environment and not know what to do. Do I seat myself or do I wait to be seated? Who do I talk to if I have a question? Who do I tell if I have special circumstances? (e.g. potential medical condition)

Your job is to move toward and engage people quickly and with confidence to help them know what to do. Don’t leave people hanging. Let them know that you can handle anything they need, and that you are the one that can make this a smooth and enjoyable experience.

Don’t make them come to you and ask. You approach them with confidence and a smile. Take charge with grace and poise.

• Collect the offering.

On a divine level, the offering is part of worship. It is the opportunity for worshippers to express their love, trust and obedience toward God. On a practical level, the financial needs of a large church are significant. Your smooth and coordinated execution of an offering can and does impact the resources that fund the Kingdom. On a security level, this is one of the most detailed functions of an usher.

You will be trained in the actual physical process for receiving an offering in a live session.

You will receive detailed training that will help us ensure compliance with legal guidelines and practical security issues.

• Assist in the execution of special moments.

Many churches are known for creativity in their worship services. From motorcycles to doughnuts, to tractors and bottles of coke, you just never know what may be coming down the aisles! Some of the special moments are fun, some are crazy, and some are deeply spiritual. Things like crossing a bridge, writing in journals, or taking communion. The service of an usher is crucial to these moments being leveraged toward life-change.

We are depending on your flexibility. Don’t get flustered when last minute changes are made. That will happen. Just keep positive, stay flexible and know that creativity is at work “making the magic” that makes all the difference.

• Get an accurate people count.

Why does this matter so much? Why must these numbers be so accurate? Why can’t we just make a good estimate? The answer is that every number represents a person. We want to be good stewards of all that God has entrusted to us and therefore it matters that we know how well we are reaching people. Just like in the book of Acts, they counted, recorded, and celebrated how many people were saved . . . we count too!

• Re-set and clean up the auditorium.

People will leave papers, cups and “stuff”. The glamorous part of an usher’s ministry is cleaning up after each service. In addition, supplies such as Bibles and pens are replenished.

Remember, many hands make light work. If all ushers jump in and help, it takes about 10 minutes.

3. Common sense

• Maintain proper appearance and personal hygiene.

• Show up on time.

o Section leaders 40 minutes before the service. o Ushers 30 minutes before the service.

• Read the bulletin – get informed, stay informed.

• Wear your name tag.

• You are not required to usher every Sunday, but when you are on the schedule, give it 100%.

• If you are on the schedule and can’t make it, it is imperative that you call your section leader.

• Smile, talk to people, and learn their names!!

Yes, there’s more, and as mentioned, you can have the complete training booklet – CLICK HERE!

Happy Ushering!!


Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.  – 1 Corinthians 12:20-25

People Versus Numbers

counting

It's not just about the numbers

Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in numbers.  If we are not careful, we can get so caught up in the attendance count that we forget about the people. Is it truly about the loving care of a flock, or is it simply about “Church Growth?”  Don’t get me wrong… I’m all for church growth. But is that growth a result of truly meeting needs, or simply because you have the best worship team in town? (Which we do!)

If you are in a larger church it is unrealistic that the lead pastor will truly know each person in your congregation. However, it is the lead  pastor’s responsibility that every effort is being made on the part of other pastoral staff and/or lay leadership to know and meet the needs of the individuals in your church.

I recently came across this article that draws a clear picture of what only focusing on head count can look like…

Numbers

An item by Sally Cunnech in Leadership magazine illustrates the importance of giving attention to needs, not just to numbers. She wrote, “During World War II, economist E.F. Schumacher, then a young statistician, worked on a farm. Each day he would count the 32 head of cattle, then turn his attention elsewhere. One day an old farmer told him that if all he did was count the cattle, they wouldn’t flourish. Sure enough, one day he counted 31; one was dead in the bushes. Now Schumacher understood the farmer: you must watch the quality of each animal. ‘Look him in the eye; study the sheen of his coat. You may not know how many cattle you have, but you might save the life of one that is sick.'”

Great advice whether it’s for the Sunday school teacher or the pastor. A full class or a crowded church isn’t necessarily a healthy class or a spiritual church. To find out people’s spiritual condition, you must “look them in the eye.” Then you can minister to their needs.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“Without a sense of caring, there can be no sense of community.”
-Anthony J. D’Angelo

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 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

Bill Gates and the power of Vision

Bill Gates Vision

Bill Gates is a man of Vision

Vision is Powerful! This excerpt from my new book, Handshake, highlights the life of Bill Gate and his incredible Vision. He is a man with a highly focused,with a constant vision and an adaptable strategy… What are your thoughts about vision?

Bill Gates and the Choice of Vision

Over the past several years computers have taken the world by storm.  Business people, parents, students and children are using them.  We use them to store information, write letters, keep track of finances, design graphics and send information.  They started out filling entire rooms, but now some can literally fit in the palm of your hand.  And when you think of computers you most likely think of one individual, Bill Gates…

…With a reported fortune of $54 billion, Gates retained the top spot in 2001 Forbes magazine survey of the 400 wealthiest Americans. In 1994, he married Melinda French, a Microsoft employee, and they now reside in a 40,000 square foot home on Lake Washington.  Taking after his mother, Gates claims that he will give away the majority of his fortune through charitable contributions.  His largest contribution came in August of 1999 when he donated $6 billion to his charitable foundation, the largest donation ever made by a living individual.  Recently, it was reported that if Bill Gates wanted to spend his fortune in the next 40 years, he would have to spend $2.74 million every day.  (I sure wish I could help him!)

Bill Gates is a man with vision and the entire world has benefited.  “It is the idea (vision) that unites people in the common effort, not the charisma of the leader,” writes Robert Greenleaf in The Leadership Crisis.  These words could not be truer for Bill Gates.  He is not a charismatic leader but his vision is big and people follow it.

In this chapter you will learn how to create a plan for your vision

Step 1 – Dream without reservation
Step 2 – Put your dreams/vision in writing
Step 3 – Make a plan for your dream/vision
Step 4 – Be committed to do whatever it takes

Your will also learn the step-by step instructions for creating your own personal vision.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“There is something magical about vision.” – Anthony Robbins

Oprah Winfrey and Thinking Big

Oprah - think big

Oprah Winfrey Thinks Big

There is a quote by Daniel H Burnham that states, “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably will themselves not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will not die.” There is such amazing truth in that statement. The next chapter of Handshake highlights a woman who did just that. She made and continues to make big plans, and she stirs the souls of men and women around the world. In this except, we will take a look at the life of Oprah Winfrey and her choice to think big.

Oprah Winfrey and the Choice of Thinking Big

Oprah’s path that led from her grandmother’s farm in Kosciusko, Mississippi to becoming the first African-American woman billionaire is a story of unwavering focus and the ability to think beyond her circumstances. Oprah Winfrey serves as our hero in this chapter as someone who learned to think big.  When education may have not happened without the hard work of earning a scholarship, she thought big.  When others may have been limited by a painful past, she chose to think big.  Seeing the needs of children and families, she established programs that would make a difference because she decided to think big.

William Arthur Ward claims, “Nothing limits achievements like small thinking; Nothing expands possibilities like unleashed thinking.”  We are limited by our thinking. In the case of Oprah Winfrey, she was faced with multiple issues that could have limited her thinking.  She once said, “Nobody had any clue that my life could be anything but working in some factory or a cotton field in Mississippi.”  Others may have thought that about her, but she refused to accept that way of thinking.

That’s what thinking big will do for you; it will shape your future into an image of success.  It will bring you to a place that you were meant to be.

In this chapter you will learn the rewards of Thinking Big. The benefits include…

1)  Makes dreams possible

2)  Opens opportunities

3)  Gathers the great

4)  Forces teamwork

5)  Gives you influence

6)  Turns circumstances into stepping stones

7)  Unleashes potential

8)  Promotes growth

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“As long as your going to be thinking anyway, think big.”
– Donald Trump