Monday, December 16, 2013

Overcoming the giants in your life

Being a Baylor athlete and graduate, I've known what it is like to be the whipping dog, enduring years of getting beat down in sports.  Being a private Christian University presents quite a challenge in a league filled with giant state universities.  As recent as three years ago, many said Baylor didn't belong playing with the big boys. It was impossible for this private school to compete in the big sports. But something changed a few seasons ago, starting with the women's basketball team.  Baylor began to whip both the basketball and football Goliath's more than they lost.  And now, the little University that couldn't, has risen to the elite ranks of the college football and basketball rankings with their first BCS bowl game and national championships in women's basketball and an NIT championship in men's basketball. Exactly how Baylor accomplished this, not just in one sport but in the big three; football, and men's and women's basketball, would be a great study in overcoming what others perceived as insurmountable odds.

Malcolm Gladwell's book, David and Goliath tackles exactly that subject, the battles and victories of the weak over the mighty.. He uses a lot of examples and research to show that what many perceive as advantages may well be disadvantages and what looks to the world as a disadvantage may actually be to your advantage. Young David of the Old Testament dismissed the king's method of arming himself, (conventional wisdom), and used his unique slingshot skills to take advantage of a big, well armed, Goliath.  All were surprised that the little, undermatched David could conquer Golitath so easily.  But when you look at how he did it, you see that David used what was perceived as Goliath's strengths against him and his strengths were actually weaknesses.  watch Gladwell talk about David and Goliath 

Baylor has somehow taken its disadvantage (being a smaller Christian school) and turned that into an advantage to lure the kind of coaches and athletes to the school to make this remarkable turnaround that many believed impossible. The football team has transformed it's image into a entertaining, high flying, offensive team with contemporary, colorful uniforms.  Now high school athletes perceive that it is cool to be a Bear and when they come for a visit, they experience community, values and an intimacy that they may not get at other schools.  And winning makes it all the easier to draw the kind of athletes that you want. 

On the flip side is the giant University of Texas. The creation of The Longhorn TV network was perceived to be an incredible advantage for the Longhorns, so much so, that Texas A&M left the Big 12 as other schools cried foul!  But since the start of the network, the UT football, basketball and baseball teams have fallen to their lowest levels in decades. Now the jury is still out on how much of an advantage the network will actually be for UT athletics. Most everyone agrees (except Aggies) that Texas will return to the top and it may just be a coincidence that the football, baseball, basketball and women's basketball team's struggles have coincided with the start of the network. But could it be that the added responsibilities of the network to the coaches has affected negatively on their coaching? Perhaps starting such a venture has taken the focus from the games themselves. Who knows. But what everyone perceived as a huge advantage may actually be a disadvantage.

Another great example of what we believe to be a disadvantage, has actually been the stimulus to rapid growth of the Gospel in China.  The government's persecution of the institutional Church in China has caused the movement to go underground and grow rapidly through small groups. You may read about how Christianity has thrived in China in the face of massive persecution. 

Gladwell's premise along with the many examples in the Bible, show us that perception is not always reality. What we often see as disabilities, problems, and challenges with insurmountable odds can often be used as actual advantages and the training ground that propels us to success.  The unique weaknesses in our life can become our greatest strength when we place them into the hands of God and allow Him to use them for His glory!  And sometimes what we think are great advantages, such as wealth, power and size can actually be weaknesses.  

Never allow the giants in your life to intimidate you. As you work to defeat or overcome them, God will use each one to help you become the person He created you to be and to accomplish what God wants you to achieve.

2 Cor. 12:9-10
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 
Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Our Works Colored In By The Father


I saw this wonderful post on Facebook and was fascinated by the drawings of Tatsputin. 
This father takes simple pictures drawn by his children and colors in the drawings while on the plane during business trips.  Whenever he returns home, his children always look forward to seeing the results.  

Check out these incredible drawings

As I scrolled down through the amazing drawings, I thought how great an illustration this is to what God does to our endeavors.  Ephesians 3:20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us. When we put our labor and efforts into God's hands, the Bible says God will turn our lives and work into so much more, more than we can even imagine.  Even in times when we fear we are not up to the task, if we just obey Him, and try, God will take our simple efforts and add color so that our undertaking is often God's masterpiece.  

As I look back on my life, I am amazed to see how God has used circumstances and my puny efforts to bring about life change in me and in others. I never thought when I chose to follow God, that I'd be able to go to the places I've traveled and share the Gospel with the many I've been able to.  

However, I don't know the half of what God has accomplished through me.  We don't get to see the completed picture on earth.  We will only get to see the true extent of how much God has colored in our accomplishments when we get to heaven.  Won't we all be surprised (just as the children who drew the picture when they saw what their father had done) when we get to heaven and see the impact of our obedience to God and how he has magnified our efforts for His kingdom to His glory.  

When we feel inadequate or incapable of doing what God has called us to do, we should put our trust in Him, obey and leave the results up to our Father who colors in all of our works by and through His grace.  John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  

Monday, November 11, 2013

Four things we can learn from the Incognito - Martin fiasco


I have found the sensationalized story of the so-called bullying of Jonathan Martin by fellow offensive lineman Richie Incognito an interesting study in human behavior.   The story of this conflicted relationship between fellow NFL linemen blew up when when Martin took his problems to the press and the word "bullying" was used.  It has given the world a sneak peak into a locker room of the NFL and a study of a unique relationship between two athletes. Many are asking whether this relationship was an anomaly or whether it represents a bigger sample of life in the NFL. Others speculate whether a 350 pound man can really be bullied.  Not matter what you believe, there are some things we can learn from the story.

1) Leadership matters
Many of the Dolphins describe Incognito as the leader on the team.  He says that the vulgar language was just the way they communicated in the locker room.  But as the leader, Incognito fostered this kind of culture by participating in it.  He had the power as a leader to change culture but was either an instigator or complacent and allowed it to happen.  I don't believe all locker rooms have this sort of culture.  I am not naive.  I know that the language may not be what I would hear in my world, but this goes way beyond cursing.  There are many Christians in the NFL and many of them are leaders on teams.  I have a hard time seeing this kind of culture on a team that is lead by strong Christians.

2) Words mean something
What you say, even when you believe your words are said in love or in jest have an impact beyond your intent.  For example, I teach in a prison dorm each week which is a Faith-based dorm. There are 56 guys in this dorm living together, trying to learn how to live as Christians. One of the inmates is a short Honduran man who often leads worship in Spanish. He is a positive man who always has a smile on his face and I believe is sincerely loved by the rest of the guys. But he is very short and after he stands to answer a question, there is always someone who shouts out, "stand up"!  I know this is said in jest, and a lot of the guys laugh, but why would anyone point out a particular shortcoming over and over?  It is a reinforcement of a negative identity and is not the language you want to use to someone you love.  We learn this sort of language growing up.  It's sort of a way to prop oneself up, to make yourself feel superior by tearing another down.  And we can pick up the insecurities of others and often use them to remind them who is superior, even to people we are supposed to love and value, often times our own spouse.  The Bible has a lot to say about the tongue and the damage it can do.  Proverbs 12:8, Titus 2:8, James 3:5 ...But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.  It certainly has set Richie Incognito's life on fire.

3) Real love lifts up, does not tear down.
Incognito claims he said these things out of love for his friend Martin. It is a perverse way to show your concern for a friend.  1 Corinthians 13:4 reminds us what true love is...Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
I don't find any of the these adjectives of love in the action of Incognito.  It is interesting that he describes himself as a good person, yet his actions tell another story.  We all can fall into the same trap, thinking we are one thing and yet acting quite the opposite.  Often we will continue to live in a state of denial until our actions are spotlighted and brought to our attention.  It helps to have another person who can tell us when we venture off course so we don't fall away from what we know is the truth.  If Richie had a Christian believer who cared for him, who could stand up to him and speak truth to him, things might have been different.  Obviously Martin wasn't strong enough to be that person.

3) Where we get our identity is the key
Eleanor Roosevelt said "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."  This is true when your identity comes from Christ. When our identity is Christ, we can overcome any attempt to belittle us.  Both Incognito and Martin show their insecurities by their actions and words.  If they were followers of Christ, they would not feel compelled to speak obscenities and racial slurs to prove their mettle and toughness and there would be no need to compare themselves to others. A believer's identity comes from what God's word tells us, not what others say. A mature believer should have a healthy perspective of who they are and how they should conduct oneself resulting in a toughness that rises above other's attempts to tear them down.

Friday, October 11, 2013

What disgusts me about our politicians and the church

I try not to get political on my blog however I'm so disgusted with our politicians that I must express my discontent.  What angers me most is when our politicians or any organization, put their interests ahead of the interests of the people or the body in which they were created to serve.  I detest those who are more concerned with preserving their own power than doing the right thing.  When I hear that we must vote this way or get behind this movement because it benefits the party, I am immediately turned off.  
Both political parties are guilty of this.  The democrats are making a lot of policy, not to help our country but to either aid their own party or hurt the republicans.  Some of their actions border on violating laws or constitutional rights in order to preserve their political power.   Examples are the IRS scandal and Benghazi.  This really disgusts me!  

But I also get upset at Republicans when they put the party ahead of the good of the people.  I've seen the argument that any immigration action that gives a pathway to citizenship for illegals would hurt Republicans because the majority would vote democratic.  It doesn't matter what the right thing to do is, what is most important is what helps the party.  This disgusts me. 

I'm angered because It reminds me of the Pharisees and their self-preserving actions against Jesus and the early Christian church.  It is exactly the reason Jesus battled the Pharisees because he recognized their self-righteous, self-serving system that valued power over the needs of the people they were given the responsibility to serve.  

I'm disgusted when churches put building their own kingdom ahead of building God's kingdom.  It makes my stomach turn when a pastor enlists and uses people to build his own kingdom "in the name of God." I get queasy when I see a budget that is weighted heavily on serving the members instead of reaching the lost. 

It is so easy to lose focus and forsake your purpose.  The Pharisees did it, the church has done it, our political parties have surely done it, and I'm guilty also. It's an age old problem that began in the garden.  But that doesn't excuse anyone's selfish actions, especially our religious and political leaders, who were put into that position to serve others.  That is why it is so important to remember your purpose and your values. When you live and act from your true purpose, you are less prone to fall into the trap of serving yourself.  

Let's hold all of our leaders accountable to honor and stay true to their purpose and values.  And let us all remember our God-given purpose; to be salt and light in this dark world.  

Friday, September 20, 2013

Using Social Media to Share the Gospel


The world is becoming smaller every day and the opportunity through social media and the web to share the Gospel continues to explode.  But the biggest challenge for me is how to do this effectively, to actually bring seekers to Christ instead of turning them away.  There are three resources I ran across recently that can be a great asset for effective online evangelism. 

The first is ExploreGod.com.  This incredible website is part of a coordinated effort among Austin churches and organizations to share the Gospel with seekers.  The movement was started by a Christian with a passion to see people come to know Christ who put a couple million dollars of his own money to make it happen. From what I understand, over 300 Austin churches of all denominations are participating with sermons and small group curriculum to answer some of the biggest questions unbelievers have about Christianity.  The idea is to get people and groups talking about God. Members of the churches are encouraged to ask their non-believing friends to church and to their Small Group. The website answers tons of questions with well produced videos and written answers. It is a great resource for all Christians and seekers. 

Another website is yesheis.com.  This is a similar website to Explore God with great videos, cartoons, music, testimonies and other resources that help answer questions and comfort people who are in pain or searching for answers.  Here is one of the illustrated videos from the website that explains the basics of Christianity.
Wanting some good advice on how to evangelize effectively and almost anything relating to the web and evangelism can be found at Web Evangelism Bulletin

How do you use the internet and social media to further the Gospel? 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Keeping Your Eye On The Prize

Often times the fine line between success and failure is focus.  Whether in sports, business or church work, those who can overcome the distractions that come their way and keep their focus on the mission are the ones who succeed.   It's what Michael Jordan had in the last seconds of a game and Tiger Woods had in his prime.  It is what separates the great athletes from the good ones.  It is what Paul admonishes us to do in Philippians 3:14.

Jesus' laser focus is documented by John in his gospel as you see how the crowds, Religious leaders and even his own disciples try to persuade him to follow their own agenda.  Jesus overcomes all manner of temptation and persecution, keeping his eye on his purpose and the mission of the cross. Jesus had a direct line to the Father to keep him focused and on the right path.  We also have a direct line to Jesus (prayer) and we have the Holy Spirit (power to do what is right) and scripture to direct us and help us make the right decision.  We have plenty to keep us on the right track, its just a matter of using it.  So here are some practical tips to keep you focused.
  • Remind yourself each morning of your purpose and to whom you belong.  In John 5:19, Jesus explains that He comes from the father and only does what the Father tells him to do.  He knows his purpose and from where it comes.  As followers of Jesus, we should remind ourselves every day of Ephesians 2:10, that we are created in the image of God, that we are His workmanship, masterpiece, created to do great works, uniquely designed and prepared for in advance by God for you.  
  • Develop a plumb-line for making decisions.  I use Colossions 1:10 as my plumb line. Will my action please God? Will it bear fruit for God?  Will it help me grow in my relationship with God? If I answer no to any of these then I know it's not the will of God.  If yes to all of these, then God gives me the green light. And if my action is in sync with my purpose then I know I should proceed full steam ahead.  
  • Put your blinders on and ear plugs in regularly. Jesus talked about his sheep knowing his voice.  They can distinguish his voice from the many others that could distract them and lead them astray. One way we can hear His voice is to get away from the noise of the world as Jesus often did to communicate with his Father.  Turn off the world, read scripture and meditate on His word and talk to Jesus on a regular basis.  
  • Prioritize your actions or "to do" list according to your purpose.  Tackle tasks that best help you reach your goals to achieving your purpose.  Often these are the most difficult which is why we often put them aside and procrastinate. Chip away at the big rocks and you'll soon discover that you have accomplished more than you realize.
  • Do regular check ups and course corrections.  Humans are much like sheep in that they easily wander off from the herd just following the green grass, their food source.  We generally don't jump way off course in one giant leap.  Most often we drift with small steps, sometimes almost imperceptible. If you don't take a reading every so often, you can find yourself miles from your destination.  Accountability partners can help you stay on course and let you know when you stray but you they can only hold you accountable to that which you allow them to.  Be open and honest about your goals and where you are.  
  • Remove, stop doing anything that keeps you from accomplishing your purpose. Hebrews 12:1-2.  It could be as simple as stop spending so much time on the computer.  Often times the biggest detriment to our purpose are the small subtle habits we begin to establish. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Is good enough, good enough?


Recently I read the book Deliberate Simplicity by Dave Browning of Christ the King Church which argues the point that good enough is good enough in ministry, that the pursuit of excellence that many pastors and leaders pursue in churches may actually be a stumbling block to ministry.  Now that's a new one.  And it really got me thinking.   

I've grown up with the mindset that we should always strive for excellence in our work for the kingdom, citing Colossians 3:23 "whatever you do unto the Lord, do it with all of your heart", as my reference verse.  I recall being asked the question several years ago, why would anyone come to our church over the one down the street.  My answer was that we do things better, with excellence.  As I look back now I realize that is certainly one way to attract people to your church but probably not the Biblical way.  Now I agree with Browning that excellence should not be our goal after all. 

It is a very real struggle to keep up with not only the world, but also churches in our neighborhoods, to always come up with the bigger and better.  And there should always be a tension and desire to do things better with "all of our heart".  We shouldn't ever do anything half-hearted for Jesus.  The church has been notorious for lacking quality in ministry, doing it without creativity, imagination and inspiration.  But should excellence be the goal of the church?

As I look back on my thirty years in ministry, even though I thought I believed in the concept of doing everything with excellence, I didn't do ministry by that standard.  Not until I read the book, Deliberate Simplicity, did I understand that excellence was never my goal.  What I desired all along was transformation and it does not take excellence to transform someone.  Actually the pursuit of excellence in ministry often times becomes a stumbling block to transformation.  Rick Warren wrote, "You have heard it said, 'if it can't be done without excellence, don't do it'.  Well Jesus never said that.   The truth is almost everything we do is done poorly when we first start doing it - that's how we learn.  At Saddleback Church we practice the 'good enough' principle.  It doesn't have to be perfect for God to use it and bless it.  We would rather involve thousands of people in ministry than have a perfect church run by a few elites."  

Doing things with "all of your heart" in Col. 3:23 does not mean with excellence.  It is a motivation to do things with a heart for Christ, not to please people or reach some man imposed standard of how things should be done. When my motivation is transformation to Christ-likeness, then when I am putting together a mission trip, I am more concerned with having a team of individuals that need transforming, that are willing to be transformed and those that can help transform those in which we are  ministering to.  I'm not trying to put together the perfect team that will get the task done with excellence.
A worship leader struggles with the tension between excellence and good enough every week.  Do I limit the team to just the three or four best singers, or do I include others who don't quite meet the excellence standard?  If you are more concerned with the sound than with transformation of your team members, allowing them to grow and use their giftedness for Christ, then you will exclude those who don't measure up.  It is ironic that it is easier using only the top singers each week, not having to develop less than great talent.  

An unhealthy focus on doing everything with "excellence" can take your focus off of relationships and put it on the task.  It can cause volunteers and staff to avoid risk, to avoid taking chances and innovative things.  We seldom do things quite as well the first time.  It will limit the number of people who are involved in ministry because we are prone to do it ourselves or use the experts and paid staff.   This is a real issue in churches.  Pastors and staff must deal with the tension between effective ministry and "excellent" ministry on a regular basis

In a new church plant, with limited resources, you try to stretch every cent as far as it can go to reach people for Christ.  Most new plants worship in less than excellent spaces, use less than excellent sound systems, have less than excellent children's and youth ministries.  And yet  church plants have a much better evangelical effectiveness than large, churches.  Excellence has no bearing on the evangelical effectiveness and that is the point.

Should you always "do your best"?  Of course, but with the proper goal in mind.  We can't keep up with the world's insatiable demand for bigger and better and we don't have to, if we keep our focus on the true prize; transformation into the likeness of Jesus. Then we can let go of the burden of "excellence" and be satisfied with good enough.                    
                                                                                                

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Not sure if you are doing a good job at work? You are not alone.


As a chaplain for businesses with Marketplace Ministries, I get to talk to a lot of employees and hear their issues and concerns. Recently one shared that she was very stressed out about her workload.  As I asked a few more questions one issue surfaced that may have been the source of her stress.  She explained that she never really knew whether she was doing a good job.  She just went about her job everyday trying to stay on top of everything.  I could tell that she had very high standards, maybe a little bit of a perfectionist in a job that was difficult to measure success and impossible to be perfect.  She explained that although the company had yearly reviews, she had never received any sort of commendation or even a pat on the back.  The review process mostly focused on what went wrong and the mistakes that were made. 

The conversation sparked an interest in finding out how typical her experience was. I began to ask employees in other companies whether they felt much satisfaction and reward from doing their job and how much positive feedback they received from their supervisors.  I was surprised that most of those I talked to said they received little to no positive feedback and they didn't feel much of a sense of accomplishment in their job beyond a paycheck.  One confided that he just tried to survive until the weekend when he got a couple days off.    

I asked a company's CEO the same question and he confided that it was really difficult to measure success in his job on a daily basis. So, to get immediate satisfaction he would go home and do tasks like chopping wood for firewood. It gave him a sense of accomplishment that he didn't receive at work.  Isn’t it sad that he couldn’t feel good at the end of a day about the work in which he had dedicated his life? 

We are created to be responsible. (Genesis 1:26). We all feel better when we have responsibility and when we take care of what we are responsible for.  And we are happiest when we feel we have done a good job.   Watch this Andy Stanley video concerning our need for fulfillment in our work.  We all have a great need for fulfillment in our jobs and this was confirmed in my informal survey of employees. Almost all said it was extremely important having a feeling of accomplishment and knowing that they were appreciated for the work they did. 
I'd love to hear from others about their work experience.  

As an employee;
  • How often do you receive praise or positive feedback?  
  • How valuable is it to you to get a pat on the back?
  • Does receiving positive impact motivate you to do better?
As an owner, manager, or supervisor;
  • How valuable is it to have employees who are happy or fulfilled in their work?  
  • How do you measure success beyond the bottom line?  
  • How often and how well do you acknowledge your employees or church volunteers for a job well done?
  • How do you celebrate success?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

So You Want To Be A Super Pastor?


I have never seen a pastor preach in a superman's outfit, but for many it would be appropriate.  Pastors are often looked up to and expected to be supermen, able to evangelize hundreds of thousands to the Lord, motivate thousands to live righteous lives, counsel hundreds off the brink of despair, shepherd the flock 24/7, break down the Word to help us understand it with remarkable clarity, and visit each and every member when they are in the hospital.  

After all, pastors are super righteous and super spiritual.  They are what we all aspire to be.  The sad truth is, that is what the church has been led to expect.   The problem is, this is a lie and the bigger problem is that pastors oftentimes perpetuate the myth.  The congregation is eager to put the pastor on a pedestal and many times the pastor is willing to climb up there.  

It's not just a problem that the pastor is a poser, leading others to believe they are something they are not, but also that the pastor has to then work to keep up the charade.  This brings an inordinate amount of stress to a job that is stressful already.  It also affects a pastor's spiritual and emotional well being and sets up the pastor for a moral failure or spiritual and/or emotional meltdown.

You see this manifested when a pastor feels as if he is the only one who is able to do the work of the church.  After all, I am super pastor and if I don't do the job, then it won't be done quite as well as it should be done.  The pastor does all the preaching, baptizing, and teaching.  I recently attended a worship service where the pastor led the worship, made the announcements, welcomed the guests and then preached a 45 minute sermon.  What happened to equipping the saints for ministry?

It's understandable that pastors to want to prove themselves to their new church members and so they take on almost everything in their young church, sometimes by necessity.  I've counseled several church planters who were on the verge of a mental and physical breakdown between year 1 and 2 because they were doing so much without much help.  They each shared with me that they felt like they were carrying the church on their shoulders and in reality, they were! When you put yourself on the pedestal and become super pastor, the rest of the flock will be more than willing to sit back and let you do everything.  The ministry won't grow past what you can do or control.  So the stressed out pastor, who is at the end of his rope, knows the church is stagnant and needs to grow but knows he can't add anything else on his plate.  He sees no way out except to give up and close the church.

What's the answer?  Resist the urge to be regarded as super pastor.  Don't allow your congregation to put you on a pedestal.  Be real in your preaching and transparent with your leaders. Be transparent and share your hurts, habits and hangups.  We all have them and by being honest and open, your congregation will be able to identify with you better. You'll be more appealing to those who are searching.  Sure, you may scare away the super righteous ones.  But, like Jesus, those shouldn't be the target of our ministry.  

I counseled each struggling church planter to go to their leadership and church and share how you feel. Admit that you can't do it!  Because you can't do it without God and without the assistance of your church members.  Tell them you desperately need their help.  In every case, when the pastor honestly shared how he felt to his members, the church was excited to step up and help. There was even a sense of revival in some of the churches as a result of the pastor's honesty.  

I quote from the movie, The Devil's Advocate, "Pride is the devil's favorite sin."  It has brought down many men and many good pastors. It can be so subtle but It may be the biggest stumbling block for young pastors trying to grow a church. So many believe they must emulate their super pastor of their past. Recognize your pride for what it is, resist the temptation to put on a cape, and release your members for the ministry.  Train, equip and mentor your leaders and you'll find that many can do the ministry much better than you.  That is the way to grow a healthy and dynamic church and avoid the burnout that so many fall prey to.  

Monday, June 17, 2013

Is this critical element missing in your preaching?


A mediocre person tells. A good person explains. A superior person demonstrates. A great person inspires others to see for themselves." - Harvey Mackay

I came across this quote the other day, which I quickly put into my most favorite quote folder.  It made me think of the former great football coach of Baylor University, Grant Teaff.  Teaff was an incredible motivator who turned that football program around in the 70’s leading them to the Southwest Conference championship with the miracle on the Brazos in 1974.  His inspiring stories and coaching moves are legendary and considered the key to his greatness as a coach.  I was fortunate to be a student athlete at Baylor when we won the conference.  

One legend was how he used the illustration of eating a worm to inspire his team to victory.  Coach Teaff wanted to emphasize taking care of details so he shared the ice fisherman’s secret to catching fish.  Coach Teaff said the secret was to keep the worms warm.  He explained that the ice fisherman would keep the worms in his mouth until it was time to put them on the hook.  Warm worms attracted the fish and that small step was the difference between catching a lot of fish or coming home without any.  The coach then pulled out a big long earth worm and put it in his mouth, saying the difference between winning and losing was taking care of the small details.  The players went berserk, ran out on to the field and pulled off an incredible upset. 

If I were to give what I thought is the most important thing for a pastor to strive for outside of being Biblically sound, it would be to inspire his flock.  When you prepare a sermon, Bible study, lecture or testimony, think about what you want to accomplish.  Shouldn’t you always have a goal to inspire others to change.  What sets the great preacher apart from the good is inspiration.

When I walk away from a great sermon, I'm motivated to change.  As I thought more about the significance of inspiration, I could see how important it is for all those who want to make a difference in the world.  Whether you are preaching, teaching, coaching or parenting, inspiration is such a critical ingredient to helping others change, and yet so many miss the opportunity.

Preaching today often is either all intellect and no inspiration or all hype and no substance. There is a trend in many churches today to emphasize teaching and imparting information in the name of discipleship. The goal is to dump a lot of information and hope some of it sticks.  The problem is that without inspiring others to own it, apply it, and share it with others, the information is just that.  Inspiration is what separates the mediocre from the superior communicator.   We can criticize the preachers who preach to thousands each week for their lack of deep content but what most every one of them has in common is that they do a great job of inspiring.

Whether you are a preacher, coach, parent, teacher or mentor, to be great, you must consistently inspire others.  Aim to inspire. 
Watch this great film about Grant Teaff and a game in the 1973 season

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Parting of the Black Asphalt


On our recent Peru mission trip God actually provided a miracle right before our eyes to humble me and knock me on the head to remind me of what I preach, that "Missional" is not a strategy, program or type of church, but a mindset, a lifestyle that God has called us to live.

It's easy to be "missional" on a mission trip. We go to share the Gospel and our focus and mindset is on that 24/7 while on the trip. But when we get home our focus returns to the distractions and concerns of the world and sharing the Gospel often takes a backseat. Being "missional" can easily become a one time event.

During our trip to Peru our team was all about being missional, sharing the Gospel in an orphanage, a school, in homes and during worship services every day. We had a packed schedule and I was preaching or sharing three and four times a day. At the end of this incredible trip our team was scheduled to take a trip to Machu Picchu, one of the seven wonders of the world. We all looked forward to the icing on the cake so to speak and took off early on the last day to catch the train that would take us to Machu Picchu.

We had allowed a good 3 hours to make the 2 hour trip. But an hour into the route, we were stopped by road construction. Both lanes were blocked and we were one car in a line of 7 or 8 waiting to go through. After waiting 15 minutes or so, most every one had gotten out of the trucks and cars and were milling around wondering how long it was going to be. Now there were 40 or so vehicles in line waiting.

Our translator, a young Christian Peruvian named Miguel asked me whether I wanted to share the Gospel with the driver of our bus while we waited. I remember thinking, sharing the Gospel was the last thing on my mind at this time. I was worn out from the last five days of sharing and now all my focus was on getting to Machu Picchu. After all, we had invested $2400 on the trip up there. Yes, it cost each person $240 to go see this site and now we were in jeopardy of not making it in time. My mind was focused on this. I didn't want to talk about anything else.

I asked one of our Spanish speakers to go ask the man holding the Alto sign how long it would be. He wandered down and came back with not the answer we wanted to hear. He said it will be another hour before anyone can go through. We had already waited over 30 minutes. Another hour meant we would miss the train and there was no other way to get there.

Miguel suggested we should pray as a team. I responded something about it was not up to God but up to the man who was holding the alto sign whether we could go through or not. My spirit was so defeated that I didn't want to pray in a group. I did offer up a half-hearted prayer, "if there is a way you can help us make it through God, please help us!" But now I had little hope of making it through. I couldn't see us making it, short of a miracle.

Miguel ran up to me and suggested that we all gather our passports and tickets to Machu Picchu together and he was going to take them up to the man in charge of the construction to plead to him to let us through. I thought, sure, there are 100 cars and trucks waiting in line and they are going to let the Americans go through because they need to get to Machu Picchu. What are the chances of that? Well it was worth a try. 

Miguel made his way up the 100 yards and then I could see him running back. "Everyone get in the van, they are going to let us through!" Wahoo! We jumped in and made our way out of the line into the opposite lane ahead of the cars. They looked at our passports again and waved us through. Past a tollbooth and then through the construction area where they were pouring new asphalt on the road. Then back over in our lane past the 100 or so cars waiting on the other side to go through.  It was as if God had parted the road construction and we passed through!

I couldn't believe we were allowed through while all the other cars and trucks had to wait. Yes, we made it to the train in time and had a great visit to Machu Picchu.  This was a miracle and God had shown me that He was in charge of all things. Yes, our fate rested on the man who held the alto sign, but I can't help think that God had something to do with changing the road-keepers mind.

I felt like Peter, who denied Christ three times. I had done a wonderful job of sharing the Gospel during our mission but when the mission ended, my missional mindset ended also. I did what so many of us do, compartmentalize my faith. Instead of living for Christ 24-7, I put Him on the shelf when I needed Him most. I missed an opportunity to share Christ, to pray with the team and experience God's power and answer to a prayer.

God reminded me that His mission and purpose in our lives is not a once a year thing, a mission trip or a Sunday morning event. It should be an on-going approach to living. When we are in tune with God on an every moment basis, then we should be able to respond whenever He calls, not just the programed times of our lives.

For some great ideas and practical tips on living missionally, go to

How to choose the right path

“This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and ...