Two years ago this January, my father passed away suddenly. By suddenly, I mean too soon. It is not as if I couldn’t see it coming, I refused to see it coming. A few years earlier he had quintuple bypass surgery, and followed that up with 2-3 TIA’s (mini-strokes) a year. He was only 61 years old, so it was reasonable to think he would stick around longer.
But he did not.
The month of January 2013 is a blurry mess. It involved a weekly flight or drive from Ohio to the VA Hospital in Augusta, Georgia. Each week Dad became less and less the man I had known all of my life. I remember Dad as funny, smart, kind, and sincere. His weekly stroke was stealing his ability to communicate, and robbing all of us of the joy and love we probably took for granted.
The last week was filled with hard conversations and difficult decisions. As a family we discussed the end of Dad’s life and how we preserve his dignity and show respect. That was extremely difficult—fighting the selfish desire to hold on to him, when it is best to let him go. There were times when we discussed his funeral arrangements with him semi-conscious in the next room. That was a guilt-ridden endeavor—after all, he was not gone yet.
All too soon he was gone. Dad had written the last word, in the final sentence of his life. He set down his pen, removed his glasses, and closed the book…the book of him. Dad cannot add one more thing to a life that has already been lived and is now gone. I remember many, many conversations with him. I often wonder, “Is that really the way it was?” or “Is that really what he said?” Or, maybe that is only how I remember it. It is difficult to keep our sentimentality from revising our history—causing us to rewrite our memories into stories that are selfishly more pleasant. I want precious memories—as you do—but, I also want an accurate archive of my Dad and our relationship.
I have a precious gift from my Dad. I did not realize the significance of the gift at the time it was given, because it was typical of Dad. The gift is a voicemail he left on my phone following his visit with our family less than one month before he passed away.
(Dad's message is at the end of this article.)
This is the last recording of his voice. It is special to me because of what it says, and what it says so sincerely. “Charlie, I love you, and I appreciate you.” These are not words I had to wait my whole life to hear. These are words I heard every time we spoke. It is not the rarity of these expressed emotions that made them so special. In fact, it is the redundancy of his love and affection that makes this message so important.
This is vintage, Dad. This is Dad being the father I knew every day for almost 37 years. This was not a special recording he made to “make up” for bad parenting, being a workaholic, or for not being there. My father is a good man and he was always there—at the games, at the graduation, and best man in my wedding. This was not a mulligan on a life of relationships full of regret and unresolved problems. This was simply Dad. This was who he was. This is how he lived. This is the measure of an obscure life lived extremely well for the things that matter most.
This voice mail is special because it is a precious memory and an accurate one. I do not have to pretend or assume that my father loved and respected me. I do not have to be concerned about whether I remember him the right way or not. He left me a treasure—an enduring love and affection that has been instilled in me through the tenderness of his heart and the resolution of his character.
Dad had very few possessions. He passed away and left only a small trailer, a pick-up truck, and a few dollars. His financial footprint is nonexistent. But his spiritual and emotional imprint on those who knew him is profound, deep, and permanent.
All of this causes me to wonder—“How will I be remembered best, by those who matter most?” Will I leave my daughters a financial inheritance, but fail to leave them a legacy of love? As a pastor, will my family have to go to church to find fond memories, or will our most special moments end up being the mundane, routine, and ordinary moments we shared every single day?
I used to envy the rich kids growing up. And by rich, I mean, lower middle class. They seemed to have it all—at the time. They drove a car, but I rode a bike. They had designer labels on their clothes, but I had patches. They had the best sports equipment, but I had duct tape on my kicking shoe.
As I have grown older and become a father myself, I no longer envy the other kids and their families. Many of them have my sympathy. They had the best things money could buy—there was no doubt about it—but they did not have the treasure I took for granted…a father who loved and cared for me… a father who took the time to show it.
Dad’s legacy is what it is and it will not change. The final chapter is over and nothing can be added. I am of the opinion that nothing needs to be added—it is perfect as it is written. I also realize that my life is an active narrative. I write a few lines in it every day. I am not sure when the final chapter will come. I am not even sure how my story ends. I am certain of one thing—it will end and when it does it will be what it is and not what I or anyone else might wish it to be.
So I choose to follow the example of my father. I live each day true to my real self, faithful to my wife, fully-engaged with my family, helpful to my friends, fair and honest with strangers, and all for the glory of God. If my life ends tomorrow—it will contain many regrets—but they will be of no real consequence or significance. I have chosen to live each day the right way. Thank you, Dad!
© Charles D. T. Miller, 2014
Leadership is all about dominoes and lug nuts!
What? Seriously…dominoes and lug nuts?
In leadership—especially during a time of transition—two elements of change are very important in moving organizations forward: momentum and balance. The leader does not have the luxury of choosing one over the other. If you have great momentum, but lack balance in your approach, it becomes extremely difficult to keep everyone on the same page. If you maintain a healthy balance, but you create no momentum, you will not move forward.
The dominoes are a picture of momentum. Flick one domino, and it will topple. Flick one domino precisely placed in front of five other dominoes, and you can topple all six—with the same effort it took to turnover one. If you play your hand well, you can push one domino and create a positive chain reaction throughout your organization. This last scenario is momentum—it is what we are after. The dominoes are people—but please—do not go around flicking people! You must build trust and respect with people in your organization to have influence with them. In turn, they influence those they have relationships with, and influence begins to spread throughout your organization.
Lug nuts represent balance in leading and bringing change. Years ago, my father taught me how to change a tire. I remember him reminding me of the safety issues—having the car in “park,” engaging the emergency brake, chocking the tires, and properly jacking the frame of the car. Removing the tire was easy once you freed the lug nuts. Dad was especially concerned about how to put the tire on—specifically with how you tightened the lug nuts.
“Don’t tighten each one of them all of the way down, one at a time” he specified.
“Why not?” I asked. “It seems easier!”
He went on to explain that tightening them one at a time would cause the tire to line up unevenly with the rotor. This would result in the tire wobbling and could result in permanent damage to the car or disaster on the road.
“Use the star pattern,” he said, “like this.” He tightened the lug nut at the top until it barely touched the rim of the tire. Moving counter-clockwise and skipping a nut, he tightened another that same way. He continued in the “star pattern” mimicking how a child learns to draw a five pointed star. Then he followed the same pattern tightening each of the lug nuts finally and firmly. He took the tire off, and I practiced several times, until I did it right. That is still how I change a tire today.
How does this apply to balance in leadership? Leaders have a tendency to be strong, assertive, and determined. These are all positive attributes of leaders—something that is proper and necessary. The downside to the assertiveness can be rushing through one project or change at a time without providing necessary time and attention to other areas. Normally, a leader will be tempted to go “full steam ahead” in his area of expertise and leave other departments, programs, and people to figure things out for themselves. The leader may build a great deal of momentum and success in that particular area, but the momentum does not spread through the entire organization since he has concentrated his leadership in a single area. The goal of the leader is not simply to move one area ahead—but to help move the entire organization ahead.
In the three organizations (churches) I have been called to transition, I have found the “star pattern” as an effective approach. To apply this approach, the leader should identify the 3-5 most important areas that need time and attention. When these areas are identified, the leader puts effort into meeting with the team members in that area and makes small changes and adjustments with the team’s cooperation and participation. Then the leader moves to the next area, then the next, until all areas have been initially addressed, but not fully completed.
Then it is time to go through all of the areas again and again until goals and benchmarks are met. Each time the leader meets with the team to “tighten things up” ideas, information, and feedback from the team is exchanged. Decisions are made based on what is best for the organization at large, with the needs of that area in mind. Over time, all major concerns are addressed at an appropriate pace that is consistent with the long range success of the organization.
Some additional benefits to the multi-tasking star pattern are spreading your time, energy, and influence over a broader area of the organization. This prevents one group from being viewed as privileged, while the others feel abandoned, ignored, or unimportant. This is important for morale and employee/volunteer satisfaction. It also allows the organization to grow and move forward together. Essentially, this helps eliminate the stragglers and allows everyone to participate and celebrate in the early successes. When this happens, you will also realize an uptick in momentum!
Every leader should use the “domino effect” to build momentum and the “star pattern” to sustain the momentum and keep everyone moving forward together.
© Charles D. T. Miller, 2014
Not every church running 1,000+ is healthy.
Not every church running 1,000+ is unhealthy.
Not every church running 50 is healthy.
Not every church running 50 is unhealthy.
Not every church in the black is healthy.
Not every church in the black is unhealthy.
Not every church in the red is healthy.
Not every church in the red is unhealthy.
Are we faithful to preach the Word?
Are we faithful to pray?
Are we faithful to lead even if that leadership is contrary to some?
Are we faithful to preach the Gospel?
Are we faithful to beg God for His Vision?
Sometimes we are the right man in a "good" place.
Sometimes we are the right man in a "tough" place.
Sometimes we are the right man in an "impossible" place.
But no matter what, we must be the right kind of man.
Sometimes the church grows because of us.
Sometimes the church grows in spite of us.
Sometimes the church grows at the expense of other churches.
Sometimes the church grows because the area is growing.
Sometimes the church grows because of the music.
Sometimes the church grows because of a large donation.
Sometimes the church grows because of our marketing.
Sometimes the church grows because of the split down the road.
The truth is we can control some things.
The truth is we cannot control many things.
If we will be honest, our job is to get out of the way.
It is the Lord who gives the increase.
Do not measure your value by your attendance.
Do not measure your worth by your offerings.
Do not measure your leadership by consensus.
Do not measure your success by the lack of failures.
Calling qualifies the minister for ministry.
Caring for your home qualifies the pastor for the pastorate.
Preaching the Word builds spiritual health more than programming.
Prayer moves more mountains than marketing--though there is nothing wrong with either.
God called you.
So you go and do what God has called you to do.
God called them.
Let God be their judge.
As I have shared this week, there are real, tangible benefits for a pastor, Christian, and church leader to get out into the community and meet new people. It is a relatively inexpensive way to get the message out, and statistics for reaching the unchurched show that it is an effective strategy. Let’s wrap up this discussion with our final three benefits:
7. Pastoral Prospecting is Serving Others.
Going out and meeting people—where they live, work, and play—is inherently an act of service. You are going…you are approaching…you are assuming the risk. Why are you doing all of that? Because you know that they need Jesus Christ in their life. They may not even have come to that realization yet. You are serving by building a bridge to someone you do not even know.
8. Pastoral Prospecting Initiates and Builds Trust.
Walking up to and speaking with a total stranger will often catch people off guard, and many times they will respond by putting up their guard. This is the normal human response to something or someone new and unfamiliar. That’s okay. If you can get a conversation going, you have been given a token amount (however small) of trust. This is a starting place—the first brick in the bridge you are building. You want to come away from that first conversation with their name and a location—either their home address, work location, email, phone number, etc. You simply want to know who they are and how you can contact them in the future. If they give you that information, then you have gained their initial trust for a trial period. Each time you reconnect with them in the following weeks you have the opportunity to continue building trust and nurturing that relationship. Over time, it will grow into a ministry.
9. Pastoral Prospecting has Unlimited Growth Potential.
Advertising, social media, big events—they are all a part of getting the message out in today’s culture—even for churches. But “word of mouth” advertising has always been and still remains the most effective means of bringing people in. Pastoral prospecting is a form of this type of communication. Once you make the decision to begin prospecting, determine your strategy, and fine tune your approach—then it is simply a matter of execution.
In reality, you can prospect as much or as little as you choose. When you feel very comfortable with it and you can demonstrate that you are reaching people that way, you are ready to teach and train someone else to do the same. Eventually you are prospecting for new relationships with people you want to reach, but you are also prospecting among the people you have reached in order to train them to prospect. The more people you send out to build positive relationships, the greater the reach of the Gospel and the greater the growth of your church.
I hope and pray that you have seen the importance of the personal contact and trust-building aspects of meeting people in order to lead them to Jesus and add them to your church. The strategy you choose will be just as diverse as you are—but please choose a method that gets you out of the office during the week and puts you in a place where you are able to have meaningful conversations with people who are new to you!
© Charles D. T. Miller, 2014
Great things begin to happen in you, your church, and your people when you make a concerted effort to “get out there” with them. I am talking about “pastoral prospecting” or the art of initiating relationships with people outside of your Sunday congregation. Here are the next three benefits:
4. Pastoral Prospecting Demonstrates Proactive Leadership.
Leaders do not react—they act. Not only do they act, but they act first. What does this mean? Leaders are out front—not in the needy, attention-seeking way—but in an inspirational manner that says, “Follow me!” In their popular work, The Leadership Challenge, Kouzes and Posner put forth their number one principle of excellent leadership: “Leaders model the way.”
When a pastor, layman, or church leader takes initiative and says, “I am not going to wait on people to show up to be ministered to—I am going to find people to minister to…” he has demonstrated high-quality, positive, and proactive leadership. Additionally, he is following the example of Jesus who touched lives one person at a time, saying, “The Son of Man has come to seek and save the lost.”
5. Pastoral Prospecting Builds People and Relationship Skills.
There is nothing quite as daunting as walking up to a stranger and initiating a conversation. I am not going to pretend like it is as fun as riding a rollercoaster or as easy as watching television. It takes time and effort to learn how to initiate conversations with people that lead to relationship and ministry. The good news is that every pastor and person knows how to have a conversation. Really all that is left is to begin initiating conversations. Over time you will get better—mostly by making mistakes. As you put out the effort you will find that most people appreciate your time and concern.
6. Pastoral Prospecting Fills Your Funnel.
In a brief stint working in the financial industry, I was taught that you reach people by beginning with as many people as you can find. This was called “filling the funnel.” The concept works well anytime you are trying to reach people with a message—especially the Gospel.
For the sake of our example, let’s make some assumptions:
Now, set a goal. Say, “I want to reach one family each month—12 families per year.” If we assume the average family is 3 people, then you are personally attempting to add 36 people to your church this year.
So working backwards, in order to have 12 families join this year, I need to have 36 families visit our church. In order to have 36 families visit our church, I need to make a quality contact with 360 families this year. That works out to 1 quality contact/conversation every day.
The idea of filling your funnel is beginning with as many people as possible in order to reach as many people as possible. It understands the reality that:
This is just part of working with people. But the greatest and most encouraging reality is this:
If you put yourself out there and meet enough people you will find people who want Jesus and a church that will help them follow Him!
Many of these people you will never meet unless you put forth the effort and take the initiative to find them!
Return tomorrow for the last 3 of the 9 Benefits of Pastoral Prospecting.
© Charles D. T. Miller, 2014
Yesterday I challenged us with the concept of shepherding—and specifically shepherding outside of the constraints of your building and confines of digital media. It is physical ministry that involves spending your time interacting and engaging with people—some who are Christians and some who are not.
For the next few posts we focus and narrow further on the benefits of “pastoral prospecting,” or the intentional strategy of a pastor and/or church leaders in initiating face-to-face conversations with people outside of their church for the eventual purpose of evangelism and discipleship.
The obvious benefit is that it is a Biblical strategy—Jesus sent out his disciples in pairs to the homes of people in neighboring towns and villages. Jesus visited the homes of the lost, called disciples at the pier, and even approached Matthew while he was collecting taxes. Further, the great missionary, Paul, built and established churches all over the Roman Empire by personally engaging people in synagogues, in the market place, and even in prison. It is obviously a Biblical practice to speak face-to-face with others in an effort to build a relationship and introduce Jesus to people.
So, this list contains 9 Benefits of Pastoral Prospecting in addition to being a biblical practice!
1. Prospecting Creates Community Visibility.
Every pastor and every church should strive to be a vital and visible part of the community. Some pastors make “cold-calls,” systematically moving from one home to another in the neighborhoods in their cities. Some pastors join civic organizations and build intentional relationships there. There are a number of creative and effective ways to build personal relationships in the community—feel free to experiment and find your niche. The point is to get out (of the church) and to get in front of people—one conversation at a time.
2. Prospecting is Cost Effective.
How much you spend on Pastoral Prospecting really depends on your personal style and specific strategy. You can get by with a simple business card, a brochure or postcard about the church, and a thank you card. Online you can order 500 business cards ($10), 500 postcards brochures ($20), and 500 thank-you cards ($155) at www.vistaprint.com. This provides you with the opportunity to have 500 personal conversations, give information on your ministry to 500 people, and send 500 notes thanking them for their time. All of that will cost you $185 plus postage and your time. If you made it a point to find 5 quality prospects each week and followed up with them, these materials would last you for up to 2 years. The cost is very minimal, but the impact is tremendous.
3. Prospecting Addresses the Data on Reaching the Unchurched.
www.evangelismcoach.org provides two lists from Thom Rainer’s book Surprising Insights from the Unchurched that shows the top reasons why the churched and unchurched choose a church. According to Rainer, 90% of the unchurched joined because of the pastor, 49% joined for friendliness, and 41% joined because they were invited. When the pastor initiates a conversation with someone to care for their spiritual needs or invite them to church then he has employed 3 of the 5 top reasons the unchurched join a church.
Rainer also informs us that 53% of the churched join because of the people are caring, 52% join because of the preaching, 45% join for friendliness, and 35% because they “like” the pastor. Again, initiating face-to-face conversations with people outside of your church gives you the opportunity to engage people in a way that corresponds to how they select a place to call “home.”
Essentially, “pastoral prospecting” is a biblical, cost-effective way to introduce yourself to the community in a way the unchurched and those looking for a church understand.
Return tomorrow for the next 3 of the 9 Benefits of Pastoral Prospecting.
© Charles D. T. Miller, 2014
This is for all of the pastors, the sheep, and anyone interested in reaching the next few generations for Jesus Christ. I am beginning a series of posts designed to get pastors out of the office, out of the study, and out of the church!
God chose 2,000 years ago to refer to the preacher, the elder, the bishop, and the leader of the local church as a “pastor” or literally, “a shepherd.” What is the responsibility and calling of a shepherd?
A shepherd feeds the sheep (John 21:17)
A shepherd cares for the health of the sheep (John 10:11)
A shepherd searches for the sheep (Luke 15:1-7)
This series of posts will deal with that last concept—searching for the sheep—also known as face-to-face pastoral prospecting. This is setting aside part of your time each week where you leave your home and the church premises to go and spend time praying with and providing spiritual direction for people.
Why is this necessary or essential?
With the rise of the digital age and the innovative forces alive in the technology sector people are spending more and more time online, on their phones, and behind the curtain of social media. Any church with a desire to reach this generation knows the importance of maintaining a church website, a social media presence, and communicating in other digital formats. But there must be more...
We were created to interact with each other face-to-face, an activity for which there is no other substitute.
“Yeah, well—that is what the services are for!” would be the reply of the tech savvy, culturally relevant, and bearded seminarian.
But please understand that there is virtually no opportunity for meaningful face-to-face communication and interaction during most church services—especially if a person arrives shortly before the service and leaves shortly after.
Social media, websites, church apps, streaming sermons, and all other uses of digital communication with our sheep are viable, appropriate, and valid. They are proper in addition to, but not at the expense of, “shepherding outside the fence.”
Quickly, here are three key areas every pastor, staff pastor, leader, or teacher can immediately employ to begin “shepherding outside the fence”:
1. Spend Time in the Homes of Your People
People are more relaxed and open in their home. I have found that people share more of their thoughts and feelings when you visit with them in their home. Be sure to call first and set up an appointment if both spouses work and/or have children at home.
2. Care for the Sick and the Shut-in
When your people are in the hospital or unable to consistently attend church due to their health, make it a point to visit with them. For those sick and in the hospital, your prayer and presence can be a calming influence and a reminder for them to trust the Lord.
3. Practice Pastoral Prospecting
A generation ago the greatest evangelical churches in America were built on the premise that churches do not wait on people to come to their church. Instead, these pastors and churches took the initiative of going out and personally initiating conversations and inviting people to come. I believe “pastoral prospecting” is once again on its way to becoming one of the most effective means of sharing the Gospel and growing evangelical churches.
So, how about it pastor? Are you ready to get out of the Christian cubicle and “shepherd outside the fence?” Church leader and concerned member, do you want to help serve in this type of rewarding, people oriented ministry?
Return tomorrow as I begin to share the 9 Benefits of Pastoral Prospecting.
© Charles D. T. Miller, 2014
I was completely shocked last evening when my wife walked into the living room and said, “Robin Williams committed suicide—it is on every news channel!”
My first memory of Williams was as “Mork” on “Mork and Mindy.” I literally grew up watching the show and enjoyed his energy, wit, and precise humor. As I grew up, I watched any and everything he was in. My favorite characters were “Genie” in “Aladdin” and “Mrs. Doubtfire.”
The suicide of Robin Williams is sad—just as the suicide of anyone is profoundly agonizing. The New York Times reports that suicide rates continue to go up in our country. In 2013, more people died from suicide than in car accidents. According to the non-profit group, Suicide.org, 750,000 people attempt suicide every year in the United States.
The harsh reality is that suicide affects people that we know. Studies show that 14% of high school students have thought about suicide and 7% will attempt suicide. The elderly and terminally ill are especially at risk. There is also an increase in suicide rates for white males over 50 years of age.
We don’t know Robin Williams and we could not have helped him. But we know our family, friends, and acquaintances and we all have the ability to help them. Here are some suggestions:
1. Listen to Hurting People
The number one cause of suicide is untreated depression. At any given moment, 9% of adults are depressed and almost 4% are severely depressed. People you know are hurting and dealing with depression. Learn to be a sympathetic listener.
2. Offer Hope and Affirmation
A person dealing with depression and contemplating suicide has reached the conclusion that their life has no value or meaning. As a result, they quit trying and they quit living. Once they have reached this point they see no value in living. The pain they feel overshadows anything positive in their life.
You can help by offering them hope. Let them know that things will get better, that they are loved and needed, and offering to help them.
3. Take Them to Find Help
As a pastor and friend I have dealt with about 30 suicidal friends and church members. When I find out they have thought about suicide I personally take them to the hospital or counselor, and/or I wait with them until a family member can come get them and take them for medical and professional help.
4. See Them Through to Healing
I am a pastor, so naturally, I believe their ultimate hope and peace is found through a loving and forgiving relationship with Jesus Christ. Beyond that, there is still much healing that needs to take place in the life of your friend. Continue to listen and affirm them. Pray with them and remind them to attend their counselling appointments and to take healthy steps to cope with stress in life.
If you or a friend are struggling with depression or having thoughts concerning suicide, please reach out to a friend, teach, pastor, or call 1-800-273-8255.
Pastor, do you have an office or a study? It really is an interesting question. The contemporary pastor—whether intentional or not—wears several “hats.” He is the shepherd, the preacher, the counselor, the administrator, and—if necessary—the custodian! These come on top of the personal responsibilities of being a husband, father, grandfather, son, brother, and friend.
Being a “young” pastor, I was not even aware of how much modern culture had shaped my view of the pastorate, the responsibilities of the pastor, and how easily we are called away from our first duties for other tasks. It was while I read Eugene Peterson’s Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity that I was challenged to ask the question, “Do I have a study or an office?” Perhaps the better question is, “Which one should I have?”
According Peterson (and I agree) the pastor should have a study, rather than an office. Now this is more than an exercise in semantics. Rather, it is choosing to intentionally look at the role and responsibility of the pastor in a specific way—as a shepherd, leader, and spiritual guide. Peterson theorizes that understanding your work space as a “study” will steer the pastor back to his three primary responsibilities: prayer, reading Scripture, and giving spiritual direction.
On the contrary, seeing your work space as an “office” will point you more in the direction of a CEO, manager, and executive. While there are aspects of the CEO, manager, and executive that corresponds to the leadership role of the pastor, it is important for the pastor and his congregants to understand that the priority of the pastor is not to manage the church, but to lead and guide her.
With that in mind, here are 3 Steps for Transforming the Pastor’s Office into a Study:
1. Call It What It Is…a Study!
Put a sign on the door—“Pastor’s Study.” Do not ask people to “meet at the office.” Meet in your study. Again, it is not semantics—but rather it is a tool of instruction to retrain you and others to better understand the nature of pastoral ministry.
2. Divide and Conquer!
At a previous pastorate at a very large church the administrative aspects of leading the church were daunting. I constantly found the administrative tasks distracting me from the most important tasks of pastoral leadership. I ended up having two working areas: a study and an office. I spent a couple of hours a day in the office returning calls, meeting with staff, counseling, etc. The rest of the time I spent in the study praying, reading the Bible, and preparing sermons. If you have the space or can make the room, I encourage you to designate separate space away from the study for administrative tasks.
We all know and appreciate one simple fact about ministry: People are the ministry. In 2014 there are dozens of ways to interact with people: face-to-face contact, email, letters, phone calls, texts, social media, and the notorious church bulletin. Never has there been a greater opportunity for pastors to engage and interact with people than what we have today. At the same time, though, each of these avenues of communication also represents a potential distraction from the priorities of prayer and Bible study. Balance is the key. Do not hide in your study like a hermit, but do not neglect your time of prayer and deep study. It is that time in prayer and study that equips us and enables us to properly engage our people.
I know a lot of super talented pastors—they are good scholars, men of prayer, excellent communicators, and capable leaders. Most do very well in all aspects of pastoral ministry. To insure our effectiveness and our commitment to pastoral priorities, please have a study—not an office. Excel at the primary tasks of prayer, Bible study, and spiritual guidance.
My name is “Charlie” and I have a Compulsive Competition Disorder. But since I am confessing, my wife does too. We are both second-born children, less than average height, with an intense drive to win. It makes for interesting times. I remember beating April sixty consecutive times in checkers. I also remember the trash-talking after she finally beat me—and then continued to beat me until I refused to play again. I remember playing her one-on-one in basketball. I remember the intense debate about the ethics of blocking your wife’s shot. “Just bring your ‘A’ game—girl!” I said.
Fast forward four years. I’m playing games with my girls—who are capable toddlers by now. I can’t remember if it was checkers or basketball on the Li’l Tikes hoop—but my oldest gets mad, “‘Cause Daddy won’t lemme win!”
“Just bring your ‘A’ game—girl!”
Fast forward a little. They’re not toddlers and it’s not checkers anymore. It’s Mario Kart—and I’m feeling good. I am the generation who grew up on what has evolved into “The Gaming Industry.” I remember pinball, the arcade, Pong, Atari, Pac-Man, Nintendo, Donkey Kong, the Sega Genesis, and the Play Station. You, Mr. Wii, are merely a dumbed-down—albeit more glamorous—version of all your oft-conquered predecessors. You will be no match for the digital coordination I honed as a child of the eighties and nineties—and I still have the thumb-callouses to prove it.
Let me begin by saying Mario Kart is a lot harder than it looks, and those girls are smarter and meaner than they look. They giggle, toss their hair, and smile a lot—but underneath the perfume and ponytails lie caged animals ready to pounce on their next victim. We tried track, after track, after track. The results were always the same: Katelynn and Kirsten—first and second, and Dad—12th. Twelfth really isn’t that bad, until the sassy senoritas point out that twelfth is last and you can “finish twelfth without even holding the Wii remote.”
I’m a man—and these are girls. I won’t stand for that disrespectful and sarcastic tone. Obviously, they learned this type of trash-talking from their mother. I vowed to speak to her later—much later. It’s time to man-up. And I did what any man who just lost to the Olsen Twins would do—I went primitive and opted for raw violence. “Who wants to box on the Wii? What—no takers?” I felt rather confident that my role as the leader of this pride would go uncontested.
“I’ll box you!” The quiet, middle daughter mocked.
“Bring it!” I thundered.
“You’re goin’ down!” she returned.
“You want some of this?” I baited.
“Oh yeah—I do!” she saw and raised.
I was merciless. I beat that Wii-likeness of Kirsten with wild abandon. But she kept getting up. The first round ended with the calm assurance that the second round was ill-fated for a similar conclusion. My prediction came true—in an ironic sort of way.
I beat down an 8 year-old girl in the first round. I sent Polly Pocket to the mat twice. But when the bell for the second round started, Muhammed Ali came out of the corner. I landed two punches and took the next thirty in both eyes, on the chin, and right in the nose. I was down but not out.
“It’s time to play for real!” I warned her.
“Good!” she assured me.
After a left-right-right-left—followed by an ungodly uppercut—I was down and out. When the referee counted to ten, four girls were screaming. I was not a happy camper.
“You girls are mean—beating up on an old man like that! Do you think Jesus likes all of this violence and hatred?” I pressed and appealed to their gentler side.
“Just bring your ‘A’ game next time!” they mocked.
Touché my young padawans.
Charlie has served in numerous leadership and executive ministry roles since 1997, specializing in organizational change, visionary leadership, and strategic planning. As a senior pastor and non-profit leader he is recognized for growing churches and organizations that suffer from decline. Charlie holds numerous graduate degrees, including a Th.D. and a Ph.D. in Executive and Organizational Leadership.