Run, Run, Run!

IMG_0578Next Friday (July 4) at 8 a.m. I’ll be running in the Firecracker 5K race at the Reston Town Center.  This’ll be my first race since I injured my Achilles last year as I began training for a half marathon (which I never got to, but still hope to).  I’m looking forward to it, and two SCCers are running with me next week.  You in?  Register here.


4 Leadership Quotes From Man of Steel

One of my favorite movies of recent years is Man of Steel.  If you know me, you know that I’m a big Superman fan, and the latest movie did a phenomenal job of rebooting the franchise (which really needed it, especially after the last movie).

There are so many things I could point to as leadership truths and principles from this movie – truly – but here are a couple that jumped out.

1. “Endless debates lead to nothing.”  General Zod said this to Jor-El as Jor-El tried to talk him out of leading a coup against the Kryptonian government.  Have you ever been in a meeting where the debate goes on and on and on, and NOTHING gets accomplished?  Endless debates lead to nothing.  One of my goals for every discussion in a meeting I’m in is to get to a point of resolution, where tasks or projects can be assigned to someone who is then responsible for them.  Without that, it’s just endless talking.

2. “A good death is it’s own reward.” –Faora-Ul.  Leaders understand this.  How we lead, not just out of the gate, but all the way to the finish line, matters.  Too many leaders sprint out great and then sizzle out.  The apostle Paul taught us that finishing well is critically important.  Leaders lead knowing they are in a marathon, not a sprint.

3. “People are afraid of what they don’t understand.”  –Jonathan Kent.  Think about this in the context of change.  Any leader who’s tried to lead an organization through change understands that people are afraid of what they don’t understand.  They don’t always see how what could be is better than what is – the leader’s job is to help them understand that.  That’s what visioncasting is all about – helping people understand what could be and why it should be.

4.  “There is more at stake here than just our lives.  It is the lives around us.”  –Jonathan Kent.  In the context of what I do, this one hits home.  57% of Fairfax county residents are religiously unaffiliated – they don’t know Jesus.  And they are facing a life now and an eternity apart from God, who loves them more than they can imagine.  It’s far too easy for followers of Jesus in our culture to just blend in, be like everyone else, and forget that we are here in this place for a reason.  There is more at stake here than just living our lives like everyone else.  It is the lives around us.  They matter to God and to us, and we have to do whatever it takes to connect them with Jesus.

Those four really made me think.  What quotes do you remember that impacted you?

What Are You Reading?

I love to read.  Always have, ever since I can remember.  And I’m always on the lookout for new books to read.

One of my favorite things to do with my girls is go to the library.  We’ll make a morning of it, heading over there for an hour or so, browsing among the stacks and finding new jewels that we’ve not read before.  I love to see them get excited about new books; one of my goals as a dad when our first child was born was to impart to them a love for reading.  I think that can take you farther than just about any other skill, and far too few people in our world today avail themselves of the books that are available.  I read once that the average American reads three books between graduation from high school to death.  Three books total!  I want to do everything I can to teach my girls the value of learning by reading.

I often tell leaders that reading is a non-negotiable if you want to get better.  John Maxwell has said well that “leaders are readers.”  Right now, I’m reading Breakthrough Prayer by Jim Cymbala, and queued up next is E.M.Bounds on Prayer.  This is a topic that I’ve not read nearly enough on, and I want to remedy that.  I believe prayer is a skill, just like any other type of communication, and I want to get better and better at it. It’s too important to ignore, and leaders have to set the pace.  I’ve been convicted lately by what James wrote in James 4:2 – “you have not because you ask not.”  I never want that to be true of my life or of Southview’s.

What are you reading right now?

3 Takeaways from Essentialism by Greg McKeown

downloadA friend of mine loaned me a book that she said was worth my time – Essentialism by Greg McKeown.  She wasn’t kidding – wow.  This is going to be one of the top ten books I’ve ever read.  Very insightful, very challenging.

Among the many things I walked away from this book with, here are three:

  1. The importance of clarity. According to McKeown, essentialists say no to about 90 percent of opportunities.  That’s challenging.  90 percent.  If I am clear on what I do, then it becomes much easier to filter out and say no to what I shouldn’t. But that means I have to ask hard questions. And I have to exercise some serious discipline to make it stick.
  2. The freeing possibility of no. When I say no to what I need to say no to, I say yes to what matters most.  It frees me up to do what only I can do.  How many times have I said yes to something that I regretted saying yes to?  How many times have I completely filled my calendar to the point of no margin, then realized I wasn’t really doing anything well?  Essentialists understand that when you say no, you create margin and possibilities for what you have said yes to as a priority in your life.
  3. The power of choice. Oh man. When I forget that I choose what goes on my calendar and my to do list, when I forget that I choose what I will commit my time and focus to, I allow other people to determine what my calendar and to do list look like.  By remembering that I have the power of choice, I determine what I will (and will not) focus on.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough to you.  Whether you lead in a small context or a large, or whether you’re in a church, non-profit, or business context, this book will be profitable and useful to you.  You can get it at Amazon here.

If you’ve read Essentialism, what were some of your takeaways?


3 Reminders For Developing Leaders

A formationOne of the things I love most about what I do is the opportunity to pour into new and developing leaders.  I’ve only been leading for about two decades now, and I didn’t expect this to happen for a while yet, but opportunities continue to arise for me to share with and advise younger and emerging leaders.  As I do, a common thread runs through many of these conversations, and I find myself returning again and again to three reminders that I share with them.

1) You’re in a season of preparation.  Listen more than you talk.

It is SO tempting for new and emerging leaders to speak up – often!  I remember so many times very early on in my leadership when I couldn’t wait to speak up, to share what I knew was the greatest and freshest wisdom ever to be shared in a meeting from the beginning of time.

Yeah, probably not.

I think one of the greatest lessons I ever learned was the importance of listening.  That’s how you learn.  And no one is born knowing how to lead – we all learn from somebody, somewhere.  As you are in the early stages of growing and developing as a leader, listen.  You may not (and probably won’t) always agree with what you hear, but by listening you can learn to eat the fish and leave the bones.

2) Remember that a season of preparation is just that – a season.

You won’t be here forever. There will likely come  a time when others come to you for advice, to hear what you have to say.  Right now, you have an opportunity to develop experience, insight, and wisdom, but only if you have a teachable spirit.  That’s a non-negotiable for leaders where I lead – I can teach you a lot of things, but I cannot teach you to have a teachable spirit.  You either have one or you don’t.  Make a conscious decision to have a teachable spirit, to avail yourself of this season of preparation to lead in the years and decades to come.

3)  Read. Seriously.

You’re not going to live long enough to make all the leadership mistakes yourself.  Nor should you aspire to that!  By reading about the lives and experiences of other leaders, you can learn to avoid many of the potholes that they found themselves hitting.  You can learn how to “go farther, faster,” as Andy Stanley says, by learning from people who are farther down the leadership path than you are.  John Maxwell says, correctly, that leaders are learners and leaders are readers, and he’s spot on.  If you can find a group of people who will read and discuss leadership books together, so much the better! Or maybe you can start one.

What advice would you add to this list to give to developing and emerging leaders?



The Church and the Academy

books-13I am a pastor.  I also teach as an adjunct faculty member.

I’m a student of the Bible. I’m also a student of leadership.  And I’m pursuing a Ph.D. in archaeology and Old Testament.

I live with a foot in two worlds.  And because I do, I have a perspective that I think is a little unique.

For many, many years, the church led out in academic pursuits.  Much of scholarship was written by leaders in the church over the centuries following Jesus.  But in the 19th century, with the rise of theories such as evolution and the documentary hypothesis, the church began to disengage from academic pursuits, with the result being that the academic community was no longer influenced by and impacted by followers of Jesus.  And the results were predictable.

I believe it’s time for that to change.

One day, Jesus was asked “what is the greatest commandment?”  Out of 613 laws that made up the Mosaic law, which was the greatest?

Jesus response informs today’s topic.  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” I believe that loving God with all our mind means that we have to grow intellectually, to stretch and be challenged and learn consistently.   For me, that’s a formal program of learning ending with a degree.  It’s a consistent diet of reading (and not always people I agree with!).  And it’s going and listening to people speak and lecture on a variety of topics (again, not always people I agree with!).

I want to love God with all my mind.  And I believe that as followers of Jesus, we are all called to do that.

I believe that it’s time for us to return to active involvement in the academic community.  I’m not saying all of us should be teachers or educational professionals, but I believe that all of us can contribute to the work of followers of Jesus in the academy as we are each gifted.

I’m still working out what that looks like.  I don’t have all of the answers.  But I do believe that we can no longer ignore this issue.  The next generation is watching and listening to those who teach, and if followers of Jesus don’t get involved and engage in this area, we cannot be surprised when this generation walks away from the faith.  Currently, 85% of those who grow up in church are disengaged by their 25th birthday.  I’m not ok with that.  And I believe we can do something about it.

Do you believe this is important work for the church to be involved in?  What do you see as a way the church can get involved?  How can you engage in this?  


Do You Want To Change The World?

Do you want to change the world?

Below you can watch the commencement address given in May to the graduates of the University of Texas by Naval Admiral William H. McRaven. McRaven is the commander of U.S. Special Operations, and his words are worth your time.  This has to be one of the best commencement speeches I’ve heard.

What do you think of Admiral McRaven’s charge?  Did you make your bed today?  

Challenge Accepted!

file6151303951841Thanks, Brittany!  She’s invited me into a chain-writing. nomination-based writing competition. Brittany was our first Chrysalis resident at SCC, and she set the bar high for all who would follow!  She’s now leading worship at a church in Texas, and I’m so pumped to hear how God is using her, and I believe the best is yet to come!

Now, on to the challenge…

The rules to play:

  • Thank the blogger who gave it to you.
  • Answer the 11 questions they ask you.
  • Nominate 11 bloggers with less than 500 followers.
  • Ask those 11 bloggers 11 questions.
  • Let those bloggers know they’ve been nominated so they can continue the chain!

Questions to answer:

  • If you could do or be a cause and money was no issue- what would it be?

I’ve devoted my life and career to the local church, so that would definitely be it.  If it had to be something else… I’d say providing sustainable clean water infrastructure and systems for every person on this planet.

  • What do you wish people would say about you after they spent any length of time with you?

I wish people would say that they can tell I’m trying to be more and more like Jesus every day.  I’m not there yet, but I would really like to be that guy.

  • Try to place your very first memory from childhood. What was it?

Hmm. I remember seeing a show on TV when I was maybe three or four called Ripley’s Believe It or Not.  I think that’s the first thing I remember.

  • What are 10 questions/advice you’d write to your 16-year old self?

1. Christianity is not about religious stuff.  It’s about Jesus. Get this right.

2. Introverts can lead. Don’t use that excuse and buy the lie that they can’t.

3. Be yourself – God already made other people to be them.

4. Listen more than you talk.

5. Politics is not the best way to change the world.

6. Read all you can about all you can.

7. Be intentional in who you are becoming.

8. Listen to good music, and appreciate the story of Les Miserables!

9. Start writing now.

10. Stay in touch with your friends, even when you move away.

  • If tomorrow you woke up with no-to-do list, what would you do?

Read  :)

  • What Bible verse are you clinging to right now?

Romans 8:1-2

  • If you were a superhero what would your superpower be?


  • What are the 3 top books you’ve read?

That’s REALLY tough. If I have to choose: When Crickets Cry by Charles Martin; The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis; Deep and Wide by Andy Stanley.

  • ^ … and why?

When Crickets Cry is some of the best writing I’ve ever read.  The Last Battle has been one of my favorite books since I first read it (when I was about 8 years old).  And Deep and Wide impacted me in a big way in how I see and lead the local church.

  • When was the last time you were nervous?


  • John 16:33 says, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”
    Name at least one thing you’ve overcome in your life thanks to Christ.

Being more concerned with what others think about what I do than what God thinks about what I do.  But every time I think I’ve completely overcome it, I have to fight it again, so maybe it’s “in process” (like most things in my spiritual walk!).


OK, my blogger friends – I pose the same questions to you:

  • If you could do or be a cause and money was no issue- what would it be?
  • What do you wish people would say about you after they spent any length of time with you?
  • Try to place your very first memory from childhood. What was it?
  • What are 10 questions/advice you’d write to your 16-year old self?
  • If tomorrow you woke up with no-to-do list, what would you do?
  • What Bible verse are you clinging to right now?
  • If you were a superhero what would your superpower be?
  • What are the 3 top books you’ve read?
  • ^ … and why?
  • When was the last time you were nervous?
  • John 16:33 says, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”
    Name at least one thing you’ve overcome in your life thanks to Christ.

Blog away!

The American Dream

us-flagOccasionally someone sends me an article to read that they think I’ll like or be challenged by.  My top result in the StrengthsFinder survey was INPUT, so I’m always reading and collecting.  Take a minute or two and read this post:


After going to two countries in the developing world during the last three years (Rwanda in 2011 and Colombia in 2013), I understand this better than I would have before those two trips.  I have seen poverty; I have smelled poverty (yes, it has a distinct smell).  And every time I’ve been overseas and seen it, I have been reminded in a fresh way what the above reference blog post speaks to.

Reading David Platt’s book Radical will challenge you in this.  It surely did me.

“I think with the way we have unprecedented material blessing, with the way we have a culture built on self, self-esteem, self-confidence. All of these things we begin to twist the gospel into something that it is not. We make it look like us and fit into our lifestyle instead of adjusting our lifestyle to the gospel. In the process we make following Jesus more American than it is biblical. As a result there seems to be a major disconnect between what it means to follow Christ in the first century and what it means to follow Christ in our definition in the 21st century.” –David Platt

We HAVE to get this right.  The church in America must wake up.  And the church is me.  And you (if you’re a follower of Jesus).

I’m challenged by this.  And I’m thinking more and more about what it means to wake up from the American Dream.

What do you think about this?  Can one truly follow Christ and chase the American Dream at the same time?