Have You Asked Yourself These 3 Questions?

I had only been serving at Bell Shoals for a couple of weeks when Gary Payne, our current Executive Pastor, came into my office. He checked in to see how Rachel and I were adjusting to the constant state of sweat we now found ourselves in as new Floridians. We chatted about ministry for a while. And then he shared an illustration that hasn’t left me since that day. Here’s basically what he said:

“Have you ever been to the mall? Unless you visit often, you don’t always remember exactly where every store is located. So what do you do? You find the nearest map. And that map shows you a layout of every store in the mall. You find the store you want to go to and head for it. Right? No. After finding the store, you have to find a star that says, “You are here.” Then you see how you are going to get from where you are to where you want to go. Effectively leading your ministry requires you to ask three questions: Where are you now? Where are you going? How will you get there?”

Now Gary intended this illustration to guide me in leading my ministry. And it has. It’s an excellent exercise I regularly go through. But I don’t only use it for ministry. I’ve used it in many other areas of my life. You can too. Let’s break it down a bit.

Where Are You Now? Evaluation.

Maybe you are in the ideal place right now. But for most, there is some area of our lives that we would love to do better. The difficulty is that we love to make ourselves feel good about where we are. We’re good at justifying. We don’t want to admit we may be deficient because to do so we would have to own it and take some level of responsibility. And that’s hard. That hurts. Whether or not your current circumstances are outside of your control is irrelevant. There is something you and I could do to make it better. To start we have to get real. Get honest. Stop the excuses. Stop blaming others.

We will never get to the ideal place we desire if we aren’t honest about where we currently are. Because denial is an impediment to growth. So let’s get real. And get specific. It’s what’s best.

Maybe one or more of these is you:

-I’m 30 pounds overweight.

-I’m hanging out with the wrong crowd.

-I rarely if ever exercise or strive to eat healthier.

-I’m not currently on a budget.

-I struggle with watching porn.

-I don’t give regularly to the church.

-My ministry has lost 3 volunteers and 30 members in the last 6 months.

-I can’t remember the last time I prayed, read the Bible or went to church.

-I have very little satisfaction at my job.

-I’ve only spent 3 quality days with my family in the last 3 months.

-God has gifted me to___________.

Where Are You Going? Vision.

Where would you like to see yourself in 5, 10, 15, 20 or 30 years? If you could do or be something and not fail, what would you go for? If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? What picture of the future would you like to see come to fruition in your life? What do you dream about becoming reality? These questions get at what milestones you want to accomplish. And once you have them, you have a preferred future to strive for. Here are some examples:

-I will one day be the leader of an organization.

-We will be the most accepting ministry environment anyone ever enters.

-I will run a marathon this year.

-I want to never look at porn again.

-I want to write a book.

-I will spend 1 day a week focused exclusively on my family.

-I will live by a financial budget and seek to raise my level of giving.

-I will tangibly serve others and lead my family to do so.

-I passionately love God and allow him to lead me in every area of my life.

-Our ministry will raise $100,000 to help feed impoverished children in our city.

How Will You Get There? Strategy.

Lots of people live their life without a plan. They think they will eventually end up where they need to be. Not true. People end up at less than ideal destinations every day wondering what happened. This is really the most important of the three steps. Without it you will be a miserable dreamer always wondering “why.” Develop a strategy that will take you from where you are to where you want to be. It’s going to consist of a lot of “start doings” and “stop doings.” It also requires discipline. So if you’re serious, then commit for the long-haul. It’s a journey.

-Throw away the junk food in your pantry. And go shopping for healthier options. Commit to only bringing healthy options into your home.

-Get new friends.

-Set your alarm earlier so you can exercise and spend time with God.

-Find someone who understands finances and can help you accomplish your goals. Create a budget and stick to it.

-If your current job is a bad fit, start looking for one that allows you to thrive.

-Upload software on your computer to prevent you from looking at porn.

-Go to college or pursue some other form of education.

-Regularly read and study business or ministry leaders to help you work towards your vision.

-Write out your plan, then tell someone and have them hold you accountable to it.

I may not know you or your story. But I do know that the people who made it to where they wanted to be didn’t accidentally arrive there. They evaluated where they were. Had a vision of where they wanted to go. And developed a strategy to get them there. You can too. Just remember the map at the mall.

You Don’t Know It All…And That’s Okay

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The older I get the more I realize I don’t know it all.

When I was younger, I thought I knew it all in at least a couple of topics. You did too (or do too) I’m sure. But then I went to college. And then to grad school. And then I moved from North Carolina to Florida. I met new people. I read more books. I used Google. And each day I realize more and more how little I know. But I also know more now than I’ve ever known before. How can both be true? Because the saying that your grandparents told you isn’t a lie: “The more you know the more you realize you don’t know.”

It’s a bit overwhelming, but it shouldn’t crush you or me. It should cause us to be humble in admitting we don’t know it all and hungry in pursuing what we want to know. Unfortunately the opposite often happens. We live like we know it all. We become arrogant and full of ourselves with what little bit we do know. We stop learning. We stop growing. And we start projecting an image of ourselves to others that is less than appealing.

Leaders struggle with this maybe more than anybody else. We think admitting we don’t know it all isn’t okay. We think it might show that we don’t know anything “at all.” We think it shows weakness. We think that people will trust us more when we act like we have all the answers and no questions. But in fact, the opposite is true. People follow leaders they can identify with. Those that are transparent enough to admit they don’t know it all attract followers. This doesn’t mean we as leaders can’t be confident in lots of truths. We can. And there is LOTS to be sure of. But it does mean that when we don’t know, it’s okay. And maybe we should let people know that. It humanizes us.

So how can you and I fight against thinking we know it all?

We have to be intentional about learning. And not just learning something new every once and a while. We have to commit to being life-long learners. When you learn something new, whether you realize it or not, you’re admitting you just gained something you didn’t have before. You realize that in fact you didn’t “know it all.”

Leaders cannot take people further than where they’ve been. And if you aren’t learning you aren’t going anywhere new. You’re stuck. And people don’t want to follow leaders who are standing still.

Whether you are a leader or not, you probably know you should read books if you want to learn and grow. And you should. More than that though, someone once told me that the best way to keep learning and growing is to ask a question in every situation you face: “What can I learn?” When I started doing that I began seeing things I never would have otherwise. I learned a lot and saw that I didn’t know it all.

But what if instead of asking “What can I learn?” you started asking “God, what do you want to teach me?” Do you see the flip? By asking that, you are no longer trying to teach yourself (learn) something from a situation. You’re trying, as best you can, to learn from someone who can and wants to teach you. You’re getting God’s perspective. When you start searching for what God wants to teach you, you learn and grow in ways beyond what self-reflection can accomplish. Why? Because God knows a whole lot more than you or I can figure out on our own.

You don’t know it all. And that’s more than okay.

What are your thoughts?

Pic Credit HERE

Why do the unnecessary?

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photo credit Here

A couple of months ago my awesome mother-in-law flew down to visit from North Carolina. My wife, Rachel, and I along with our new baby girl, Avonlea, got in the car to go pick her up at the airport. On the way, Rachel decided she wanted to surprise her mom by greeting her in the lobby of the terminal instead of waiting to see her in the “arrivals” car pick-up line. And not just that, she wanted to take our 3 month old baby in to the lobby as well.

Now, I could have responded with excitement and support of what Rachel wanted to do.
Unfortunately, I didn’t.

I said something like this: “I would have to drop you and Avonlea off at the arrivals area and then go park and wait. How far is the parking lot? Avonlea is sleeping. Do we really want to wake her up?
And what difference is it going to make? We are going to see her for several days. Can’t we just wait until she gets in the car? Why do you need to go to the lobby? That’s a lot on you and the baby.”

And then I said these three words

That’s not necessary.

Without missing a beat Rachel responded:
“Just because it isn’t necessary, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done.”

Boom. I had the wind knocked out of me instantly. I was convicted. I felt really stupid. I had missed it completely.

Rachel was trying to do something for her mom that was more than expected. She wanted to show her how excited she was to see her. I was thinking about the inconvenience. How it would affect me.

It wasn’t necessary. The success of my mother-in-law’s visit didn’t depend on Rachel going into the lobby.
But that didn’t mean it shouldn’t be done.

One of the greatest examples of the unnecessary is God’s instructions to Israel in the construction of the ark in Exodus 25:10-21. The Ark was to hold the 10 Commandments. Some of the instructions were to use pure gold, a certain type of wood and precise measurements.

The unnecessary gets bumped up a notch in Exodus 25:11: “Overlay it with pure gold, both inside and out, and make a gold molding around it.” Do you see that? Even the part that wouldn’t be seen, inside, underneath the cover was to be pure gold.

Isn’t that unnecessary? Couldn’t the people have just built a sturdy, wooden box to carry the 10 Commandments? And even the inside had gold? Come on. Isn’t that a bit much?

Maybe.

But what if the box that held the 10 Commandments mattered because even it represented God? What if God was just as concerned about the inside of the ark, which nobody saw, as he was about the outside that everyone saw?

The truth is, when it comes to honoring God and connecting with people there is no such category as “unnecessary.” But rather, just things that “seem” unnecessary.

Because only by doing what seems unnecessary…
the things that don’t make sense to most people,
that are different,
that seem extreme,
that focus on the details,
that examine your private and public life…
will you begin to fully honor God and connect with people.

It’s a life of excellence.

It’s what we were made for.

And it’s a life that deep down we all want to live.

How could you do something this week that seems unnecessary to most that would honor God or connect with people?