Bad Questions Stop Good Movement

city-life-5-1446453-1599x2404We have a negativity bias in our brains. This simply means we are more wired to review, and remember negative outcomes. We all know this is true, just do a presentation and have 3 people say it was great, and one person trash it and you obsess over the one person.

But what can sometimes happen is that because of this, we are more likely to create an obstacle to movement rather than capitalizing on movement.

I’ll give you an example.

Let’s say you have a new idea, a new proposal, or some great new shift in your industry. This is a good thing, and a needed thing and you bring it to your supervisor, your spouse, or whomever else. You sense some reluctance; you sense some hesitation, you sense things aren’t going well. Then you say the psychologically worst possible thing:  “Well why don’t you think this will work?”

And here is why this is a bad question. It primes people for negative responses. It actually causes people to think of more reasons than they currently have for what is wrong with your idea. It actually starts to gain speed in their brain, and weight for all the reasons your idea is a bad idea, and solidify it before it’s even had a chance to be processed. And once people have staked out an opinion or position it is really hard to shift.

Maybe you’ve seen this happen.

Maybe this has happened to you in a meeting.

Maybe you’re guessing now why your last pitch floundered.

So what’s a better question or way to go?

  • What if this works how would that change things?
  • What are some good reasons this is something to try to figure out?
  • How might this change things positively if it worked?

Push the positive, and let their brains do the rest. It might just help you create some new movement and new initiatives!

The Expectation Gap in Leadership

mind-the-gap-1484157-1280x960I want to talk about something in leadership I call the “expectation gap”.

The truth is that all leaders are always looking forward, and see “where we could be”. That’s inherent in being a leader, seeing the goal, the vision, and the hope.

But that creates an “expectation gap”. The “gap” between where we are at, and where we hope to be. And this gap exists for leaders in all sorts of areas in business, church, or even in relationships. We see where we hope to be, where we are working towards, but we aren’t there yet.

The trouble is that this “gap” can cause discouragement easily and quickly, because we have never “arrived”. We are never able to be content, and at ease because there is always more to do. This is inherent in any leader to drive for continual progress, growth, and excellence. But what do we do with the “gap”? How do we not let it discourage us, nor also create in us a sense of apathy?

Well to ensure that I don’t get discouraged, or apathetic I ask myself one question: is the gap shrinking or growing? Are we getting closer to the goal? Are we making progress? Because that’s what really matters to me – progress and movement. This helps me not to be discouraged that we’re not there yet, but also not apathetic that the journey is never completed. That question focuses me on the things that I think matters for leaders: movement, progress, and growth. Because the gap will always exist; so the point isn’t to get rid of the gap but continually shrink the gap.

Where is God Taking Us?

1243996_56375506On Sunday we dreamed together where God was taking our church. Our dream to is to be changed by Jesus, and to change lives with Jesus. But what does that look like in the future?

To answer that question I shared seven little signposts that point to where I believe God is taking us. I think these little signs help us get a picture of the future God might have for us. And I asked the church to dream with us, and to see if these are the signposts to our future. Here are the seven signposts:

Signpost #1: Be the Church to the Area

The point for us isn’t to be the biggest or best church in the area, but to be God’s church to the area. I could care less about being cool and hip, I want us to be faithful. The point isn’t for us to be a giant church, but a church fulfilling God’s calling. The point is that there is no competition in God’s kingdom; that we will seek to bless the community.

Signpost #2: Creating Disciples Over Decisions

The point is that for a long time the church focused on getting people to make a decision about Jesus, rather than becoming a disciple of Jesus. I think God is asking us to flip this around. That we would focus on creating disciples, over people simply making one decision about Jesus. Being a disciple isn’t about making one decision to follow Jesus, but a daily decision to follow Jesus – and that needs to be our focus.

Signpost #3: Everyone has a place, and everyone has a role

As I look into the future I see a church where everyone has a place and a role. That we are all serving as the church (not necessarily in the church building or programs). But that each and everyone would be using the gifts God has given us to build up each other, and bless the world. The truth is you cannot follow Jesus and spectate.

Signpost #4: Our Church is a Family

This point is that our church resonates and continues to adopt the metaphor of church as a family. This doesn’t mean you need to have a family to attend, but that when you join us you gain a family. That we would be committed to one another, care for one another, and journey together. Like all family we will be dysfunctional, and there will be difficulty, but we will get through it together.

Signpost #5: Locally Grounded and Globally Focused

I think the days are gone where you can just focus on overseas missions, or local ministries. I believe we need to do both. That we need to be locally grounded, in our communities and neighborhoods and bringing transformation; and also globally focused partnering with people long-term all over the world to bring life.

Signpost #6: Going Deeper with Jesus

I believe a focus in our future is depth with Jesus. Shallow following of Jesus doesn’t change us, and it doesn’t change lives. So I think we will continue to have a greater focus on deeply following Jesus and taking the next step from wherever you are at.

Signpost #7: Gracious and Generous

And last, but not least, I believe our calling cards in the future will be grace and generosity. That we will build bridges through our graciousness and generosity. That we will be committed to being a people of grace and gift.

So as I look into the future that’s where I see God taking us. This certainly isn’t the end of the conversation, it’s just the beginning. But my prayer is that God might have us dream together to find his dreams for us.



Teaching Notes

Big Idea: God, where are you taking us?

Teaching Points:

  • God, where are you taking us?
  • Without a vision the people perish – Proverbs 29:18
  • A vision isn’t just a vision statement
  • Without a picture of where you are headed your life will likely run off course
  • To be changed by Jesus, and to change lives with Jesus
  • Signpost #1: Be the Church to the Area
  • The point isn’t for us to be a giant church, but a faithful church.
  • Signpost #2: Creating Disciples Over Decisions
  • Being a disciple isn’t about making one decision to follow Jesus, but a daily decision to follow Jesus.
  • Signpost #3: Everyone has a place, and everyone has a role
  • You cannot follow Jesus and spectate
  • Signpost #4: Our Church is a Family
  • Signpost #5: Locally Grounded and Globally Focused
  • Signpost #6: Going Deeper with Jesus
  • Signpost #7: Gracious and Generous

Adult Discussion Questions:

Where do you think Jesus is taking us as a church? Which signpost most resonated with you? Are there any you’re not sure about? What signpost might you add?

Discussion Question for Families:

Ask your kids one question around the table this week. “What do you think are God’s dreams for our family?” and let the discussion begin.

Challenge for the Week: Dream with us – and pray about where God is leading us.

Dreaming with God

1136764_21619849On Sunday we are looking at an exciting question: “Where are you taking us God?”

Because here is what I believe – God has a trajectory for our lives. This includes your personal life, and our corporate life as a church.

I believe that God has plans, desires, and even dreams for us. So on Sunday I want to dream together and ask the question, “God what is your vision for our church? Where are you leading us? Where might you be taking us? What might be in our future?”

And this is so important because simply by asking this question you get drawn closer to someone. You might even have experienced this, that when you first started dating someone the thing that drew you close was dreaming about your future together. Getting married. Having kids. Whatever. And one of the things I’ve noticed is that when marriages start to struggle, they’ve stopped dreaming together.

And what is true in our dating lives, and marriages is true with God as well. As we dream together we grow closer to God, we listen better to God, we share ourselves and ask him to share himself.

So come Sunday I’m going to share seven signposts to where, I think, God is leading us, and I’m going to ask you to dream with him.

And so before then why not ask God this question, “What dreams do you have for me and my church”. You might not be part of our church, that’s fine, but what dreams might God have for your church? I think we need to get into the habit of dreaming with God because if we ever want to find his future for us – it starts by dreaming with him.

Finding God’s Purpose for Our Church

Plattsville_Missionary_ChurchThere is an old Chinese proverb that says:

If your vision is for a year, plant wheat.

If your vision is for ten years, plant trees.

If your vision is for a lifetime, plant people.

I think it’s really true and quite deep. A vision that lasts a lifetime must be centred on people. That’s what we really ended up exploring on Sunday. How Jesus Christ changes people. How he changes lives, and how he invites us into doing the same thing.

On Sunday we talked about Jesus’ mission and vision for life found in Luke 4. Here he states and shares what he is here to do. He is absolutely clear he is here to free people, to provide healing, to provide restoration, and to set things right again. In short, he is here to change all of life, in the here and now. Jesus is about changing lives in the present. And he is still about doing that today. And he actually invites us into changing lives with him. Becoming like Jesus means participating with Jesus in what he is doing.

So on Sunday we discovered our foundation for the next series. Our deep desire and goal is this: to be changed by Jesus, and join Jesus in changing lives.

Our goal is to first have our lives absolutely transformed by Jesus Christ. You can’t share something you don’t have. So we first need to experience life, transformation, and change before we can ever begin to share that with others. Our deep desire is that anyone who joins with us will not remain the same. That through Jesus Christ being active in our church each person would experience lasting life change. They would find restoration, healing, hope, and new life.

But if that transformation just remains with us it will turn stagnant and bitter. As a church we are also equally called to share life with others. We are called to change lives with Jesus. That “with” is important because it recognizes that God is already active in our friends, family, and communities. We aren’t bringing Jesus with us into relationships. We are discovering where Jesus is already active in relationships and starting there. Through our commitment to serve, to bless, to give, we believe we will see change. We see change happen only when we are living life like Jesus Christ ~ with a posture of grace, openness, willingness to enter someone else’s world, and most of all humility.

That is our deep deep hope. I could care less about us being the biggest or best church in the area.  I care a lot about being the church to the area. We are not content to run nice services if those services don’’ send us out into the community seeing life change in our friends, family and neighbors.

So this is what we want to be doing, and in all honesty, it’s what we’ve been trying to do for a while. Now we simply want to become more intentional, because as I said in my last post: you don’t drift into making a difference. Making a difference starts with making a decision and that’s what we did on Sunday. Making a decision to be changed by Jesus, and to partner with him to change others.

So that’s our decision about where we are going. But maybe for you today it’d be worth making a decision of your own. Why not take a moment and ask him how today you can join in what he is doing. And then why not do this each and everyday. Because my guess is if we do that we will not only be changed by Jesus, but changing others with Jesus.

Sermon Notes

Big Idea: Being changed by Jesus, and changing lives with Jesus

Take Aways…

+       Where is your life headed?

+       If you don’t plan where you are going, you’ll end up going nowhere

+       Churches and Christians in general have a vague idea of what we are called to do.

+       That people who do great things, set out to do great things

+       You don’t drift into making a difference

+       Vague direction leads to a lack of action

+       New life isn’t coming it’s here because Jesus is here

+       If it’s not Good News for everyone, it’s not Good News for anyone

+       Jesus is here to change all of life

+       The Christian life isn’t a self-interested one

+       Being changed by Jesus, and changing lives with Jesus 

Adult / Group Discussion Questions

What direction is your life headed? If you were to answer the question, “Jesus is leading me (where)…” what would you say?  What has Jesus already changed in you? What freedom, restoration, and hope has he given in you? What do you think he wants to change in you? How might he do this, or what is he asking you to do?

How is your life having an impact and changing others? Are there those in your workplace, family, or neighborhood God is calling to leave an impact? Do you have any ideas how you might do that?

Are there people you can journey with over the next few weeks? How can you make that happen?

Who should you invite to church, or to journey with you discovering how Jesus wants to change us, and change lives through us?

Discussion Questions for Young Families            Talk with your kids about what Jesus is about: us being changed by Jesus, and changing lives with Jesus. Ask your kids how Jesus has changed them. Really listen to their answers. Ask them how they might help change the lives of their friends. And then help them do it. 

Challenge for this Week Commit to the Journey, Journey with Others, Invite Others on the Journey


Finding the Right Destination: Vision, and Direction

On Sunday we are launching a new series at the church.1145632_61514054

We are going to be asking a key question:

Where are our lives headed?

This is important because if we don’t examine our destination, time can slide by and we can end up saying, “How did we get here”. The point is that if we want to have an impact in this world, it comes by aligning the direction of our lives with God’s direction. Because my honest belief is this: we don’t ever drift into making a difference. So we need to examine where our lives are heading, and live with intention.

So we have been wrestling, asking, and discerning where God is leading us? What has he been birthing in us? What are we called to do?

And these are crucial questions for everyone of us to be asking. Because we don’t drift into making a difference. Vague intentions often lead to a lack of action.  Jesus though came with a clear mission, and vision of what he was going to do. He summarized it in the “Good News”, he lived it out and shared it with everyone. Jesus had no ambiguity in what he was doing. This is what we are going to be examining on Sunday what Jesus’ calling was, and still is. Through this we can discover how we fit into Jesus’ calling on earth.

So I think it’s important for everyone to be asking the question, “Jesus, where are you leading me?” And this is what we are doing on Sunday, just corporately as a community. 

So that’s where we are going on Sunday. The question I have for you is simple. Where is God leading you? In life? In your church? In work? In your family? Where is he leading you?

It is too easy to continue on a direction, without thinking about the destination. So talk with God about where he would have you go, about the next steps, about what he would have you do. Because the essence of faith is to follow, but to do that we have to be led. So why not spend some time with Jesus talking with him about following, and being led. And come Sunday that’s what we are talking about too.


Are You Doing a Great Work?

Two Sunday’s ago I preached on the verse, “I am doing a great work and cannot come down”. You can download it here.

The main point was that I encouraged the church to ask God what their great work was. I really believe that God has something for each of us, old or young. What you and I may be called to can be quite different, but whatever God calls us to is important and a “great work”. So I invited the church to write down on a small card what “My Great Work Is…” Then as a way of committing to it I gave the church a chance to bring their cards forward during the service. My promise to them was that anyone who brought a card forward, I would pray for them, for their calling, and believe in them. We believe that prayer changes lives. And I truly believe that through prayer we can help to change others’ lives and to support them in their “Great work”

What I didn’t realize would be how much my life would be changed by reading these short little cards. Over the last week and a bit as I’ve read dozens and dozens of them I’ve been overwhelmed by what God wants to do in this little place. People are committing to make their  marriages the best ever. People are committing to lead others to Jesus. People are committing to launching a new ministry, a new business, or launch their kids well. I thought I would be able to help change their lives by praying for them; but now I’ve realized that my life has been changed by reading these little cards. These cards represent just some of what God wants to do in and through us and for us. It’s exciting, it’s amazing, and it’s overwhelming in a wonderful way.

So I thought I’d give you the same invitation I gave to the church on that Sunday. To take a moment and think about what your great work is. If you had a card saying “My Great Work Is…” what would you write down?

I believe God wants us to do great things with him. The question is, “what is he asking you to do”? And if you know and want me to pray over your great work too, just let me know and I’ll pray.

So over the next few months I’ll be praying about God doing “great work” in and through us. I know that people will be changed because he’s already used these little cards to change me…

Professional Dream Killers

The reality is some people feel their job is to be professional dream killers. These are people who when you share the difference your called to make often start with a statement like this: “Let me be the Devil’s advocate; Let’s bring this back to reality; We don’t deal in dreams but in facts” etc…

 The reality is as soon as you start to try to make a difference someone will start to try to stop it. They’ll say this is reality, this has been tried before, it can’t be done, you’re not the right person, or you’re not qualified. You might have a professional dream killer in your office, family, board, committee, or even church. The question is how do you overcome the obstacles they put in your place? What is the right way to move forward? How do you overcome the questions when they stop being “nice, helpful questions” to purpose hurtful and destructive comments?

Because the truth is, if you have ever tried to follow God’s dream for your life – you have encountered challenge, obstacles, and hurtful people. You have had to face professional dream killers. So how do you overcome it? What has helped you? What hasn’t worked?

And then on Sunday we are going to find out how Nehemiah overcame his own professional dream killers. We’ll see how he both met their challenges and overcame them. Because if we want to reach our God-given visions, we’re going to have to learn how to overcome obstacles and opposition. But that’s why God’s calling you to make a difference, not because it’s easy but because it’s worthwhile…

How to Launch a Vision

So on Sunday we talked about the practical steps Nehemiah takes to see his vision start to come to fruition. We see the steps he takes that leads to action, progress, and development. We came away with three steps:

  • Deal with reality
  • Share with clarity
  • Own your responsibility

Nehemiah begins by dealing with reality. He shows up in Jerusalem and doesn’t assume he knows the people, place, or process to build the wall. Instead he waits and inspects the wall before going public with the vision. Because a vision shared prematurely dies quickly. A vision that isn’t connected to reality doesn’t succeed. So he adjusts his plans and figures out how to the build the wall not in theory but in practice. So he first deals with reality before sharing publicly.

He then shares his vision, but he shares it with clarity in 4 steps. He says what the problem is, what the solution is, why it needs to be done, and why the timing is right. Each of these steps leads to clarity and then commitment on behalf of the people. He shares that the problem is the walls are burnt and down, that the solution is to build the walls, that it needs to be done because they are a disgrace, but it’s the right time because God is with them at this very moment. So they all agree and begin to build the wall.

The last thing Nehemiah does is he owns his personal responsibility in the vision. He consistently speaks of “we” rather than “they”. He doesnt’ show up and give the city officials the plan, resources, and letters and then say “Now you build the wall”. No, he knows that if God has given him the vision, he is to be part of carrying it out. Too often people get a vision and then expect their church, their pastor, or their little committee to program it, run it, and own it. The truth is we need to personally own and be responsible for what God gives us. We can’t expect others to risk or give more than we are personally willing to give or risk.

So with Nehemiah we see him deal with reality, share with clarity, and own his personal responsibility. And when he takes these steps his vision launches and begins to succeed. So in our own personal visions, dreams, or desires there is a lot we can take away. We need to deal with the reality of where our family, business, or ministry is at. We need to share with clarity why change needs to happen. And we need to own our personal part in the whole vision. Those are the steps Nehemiah takes, and I believe there is wisdom in following his model. Because at the end of the story Nehemiah gets the wall built, a people restored, and a future is renewed. And I think we’d all like to live a life with that type of legacy and meaning…

Adult Discussion Questions: Has God given you something to live for? If not yet, how can you find out. If so, what is the reality you are dealing with? What is the problem, the solution, why it needs to be done, and why this is the right timing? How have you seen people’s visions “compete” before? How can we ensure our personal visions don’t ever compete but complete God’s overall design? How much are you personally willing to give for your vision?

Challenge This Week: Deal with Reality – Inspect the Walls of your vision

Learning to Launch Well

This Sunday we are going to be looking at something very practical. When God gives you something to live for ~ how do you actually go about doing it? Let’s say like Nehemiah you’ve been given a vision, a passion, or a burden for something. You’ve been waiting, praying, and preparing and the door to walk forward opens. So you start to tentatively believe and move forward to God’s vision for your life. What do you practically do to ensure you’ll succeed?

Because the truth is, it can be both exciting and terrifying to start to try to make a difference. When you start to step out into God’s dream for your life you can be worried it will falter, you can reach opposition, and you can be unsure of the next steps. So on Sunday we are going to look at the steps Nehemiah takes and how they relate to our own personal lives. How if you want to start a ministry, launch a business, save a relationship, we can discover some practical steps to moving forward. And then next week we’re looking at how to deal with opposition. But for this week we’re going to look at the steps to take to launch a vision well.

But before we get there if you were to decide on a few next steps for yourself personally what would they be? If you were to launch that business, that ministry, to start that new job or calling, what might some of your initial thoughts be? Think about those and then come Sunday we’ll see if they are similar to the steps of Nehemiah…

To catch up on the series before Sunday download all the sermons here.