The Hinge

Over the last two weeks at SoulQuest, we discovered a powerful leadership principle. In fact, it is so powerful that I believe it can either hinder growth and momentum, or can create exponential growth and momentum. It's a simple principle that most people would agree with, but a much more difficult principle to put into place and practice consistently. It applies not only in the church context, but in any organizational context where growth, momentum, and excellence are valued. It goes something like this:

Progress hinges on a commitment to excellence AND evaluation.

If your church or organization values excellence, but doesn't have a system for evaluation, your excellence won't be excellent. If your church or organization values evaluation, but doesn't strive for excellence, your evaluation will be pointless and discouraging.

Last week we had the worst Sunday since I've been at SoulQuest. Now, to put this into focus, it was a great day. We just really, really value excellence. So, when something happens that doesn't reflect that value of excellence, we evaluate why. In fact, if you're a part of SoulQuest and were at church last week you may not even know that it was a "bad" Sunday. 

This week, on the other hand, was the best Sunday since I've been at SoulQuest. It was a great day in all aspects. I believe this past Sunday was built on the back of the Sunday before.

The best days of your church or organization are built on the worst days of your church or organization.  

The difference between last week and this week was not our commitment to excellence. The difference was our commitment to evaluation. If you can't look at a bad situation and ask how can we make this better, then the next time the bad situation happens, it'll be an average, normal situation. It's simply the law of diminishing return.

If you don't evaluate your excellence, you won't know when it stops being excellent. 

You can say you're committed to excellence all day long, but until you start evaluating your excellence, it won't really be excellent. You can also say you're committed to evaluation all day long, but until you start asking the hard questions and taking the responsibility for a lack of excellence, your evaluation will be useless. 

When we begin to look at our churches and organizations with excellence AND evaluation, progress comes naturally. You can't truly have one without the other. 

Progress hinges on a commitment to excellence AND evaluation.

Summer Reading List

Here are a few of the books I know I'm going to read this summer. You can click on the names of the books to see them on Amazon. I would love to hear suggestions! Comment with any that have been helpful to you!

Leaders Eat Last- Simon Sinek

The Grace of God- Andy Stanley

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership- John Maxwell

The Reason for God- Tim Keller

Visioneering- Andy Stanley

Again, I'm looking for at least a few more to add to this list for the summer! Comment with some that have helped you!

Specific

My freshman year of college was probably my favorite. I had tons of fun. Met new people every day. And I was challenged a lot my freshman year.

I was challenged most in my prayer life.

I always felt like my prayer life was lacking. I would read about people that were used greatly by God that would wake up at 4 in the morning and pray their little hearts out. I would listen to preachers say the best time to pray is the morning. I would hear tips and tricks to pray more and longer and better prayers. I would meet people that seemed to really know God. Like they were friends with God. 

To be honest, I tried. I tried to wake up early. I tried tips and tricks and every other thing. I journaled. I prayer walked. I've done a lot of different stuff. I wanted to know God that well.

Something I've begun to realize more recently, though, has been more helpful than anything. I believe it's the key to having a healthy prayer life. I believe it's the very reason that great believers have spent hours a day in prayer. I believe it's the reason that people HAD to get up at 4 in the morning. I believe it's the heart behind most tips and tricks. I believe it's how we can get to know God as well as anyone else. 

Specificity. 

Just being specific. When you talk to your spouse, or your best friend, time flies by because you get specific about everything. When you get specific, time goes by and your relationship with that person gets deeper and stronger. 

What if that was the key to our prayer life? What if it wasn't about setting a timer to pray more? What if it wasn't a tip or trick? What if we began a conversation with our Savior, and we got specific?

Instead of telling Jesus "Thank you for this day" in your prayers, maybe try telling what about that day you are actually thankful for. Instead of asking Jesus to bless your marriage, maybe try asking him to bless a specific thing in your marriage.

If we would get more specific in our prayers, we would get more specific answers and our relationship with God would grow deeper and stronger. 

That's what I'm working on this week. 

More Complicated

 

Yesterday in my sermon I talked about being a professional googler. You know, we can Google anything, and fact check anybody. We can know anything we need to know. We can Google an answer to anything and everything.

In the age of Google, we are all self proclaimed experts. We don't know any other way of life. I can't remember a time before Google. How did people know if a restaurant was good? Or who the 17th president was? Or how to train your dog? Most things are instant. I believe this has led us to be instant in our judgments, instant in our decisions, instant in our posts, and instant in our assumptions.

Most things today may be instant, but most things today are also more complicated than we could ever imagine. 

I remember Johnnie Moore speaking to a group of student leaders at Liberty University say something very similar. He said that nearly everything in our world is much more complicated than it seems. 

In our world today, we can see something, form an opinion about it, and tell the world about our opinion IMMEDIATELY. I've done this. Many times. The more I'm involved in leadership, though, the more I see what Johnnie Moore said to be true. It frustrates me to see so many people (and to think of myself doing this in the past) jump to conclusions, throw people under the bus, "call out" other people or ministries, without even realizing how complex the situation is behind the 140 characters that they've seen about the issue. Such a long sentence.

There was once this dude named James that grew up with Jesus that said, "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry." 

Maybe an application of this would be "Everyone should be quick to read the Tweets and posts, slow to favorite, like or comment, and slow to become a Google expert and call out everyone on a public tweet or post."

What if instead of instantly calling everyone out on a social media outlet, we worried about how we were reaching out to others? What if instead of assuming that a church isn't authentic because they also happen to be hip and cool, have lights and good music, and have good coffee, we worried about our own authenticity? What if instead of using our voices on social media as a means of conflict and critique, we used our voices to share, like, favorite, retweet, and blog about who Jesus is?

Because ultimately, Jesus was the best and only true example of really being quick to listen and slow to become angry. Hanging on the cross listening to all the cries of those of us calling out to him to save us. Hanging on the cross taking on the sin of the world, without ever shaming us or condemning us. Hanging there listening to our cries, and showing us a better way, a way of true life through him, not by his anger, but by his love.

Beyond The Display

This time last year, I was preparing to walk for my college graduation. It was fantastic. I was excited. I was scared. I was anxious. I was nervous. I was happy. I was sad. I basically had the emotional make up of a 14 year old girl. No offense 14 year old girls.

Through all of these emotions, one thing sticks out to me. It's not how awesome it was to get a degree. Or how happy I was that my family was able to come watch. Or that my days as an RA were over (praise). It was my Papaw and his iPad. 

I graduated from Liberty University. It's tucked away in the middle of the Blue Ridge Mountains in central Virginia. It's beautiful. Everywhere you look there is something amazing to stand in awe of. My Papaw had never seen the Blue Ridge Mountains, so he was looking all around and taking it all in... through his iPad.

He was taking in the beautiful sights through his 5x7 inch iPad mini. 

I've seen this at middle school basketball games before, too. People watching an entire game of their child through an iPad screen in order to record their little MJ. A lot of times in life, we take things in through a lens like an iPad. 

My Papaw saw the mountains, but he only saw what his iPad mini screen would display. That parent saw their kid play basketball, but only through a 5x7 pixelated screen.

That's me. That's you. 

We see, but don't really get the whole picture. We hear, but we don't really listen. We look at our life a lot of times through a lens that is pixelated or too small. We are so focused on what is directly in front of us that we miss the bigger picture. 

There are opportunities for me every single day to show the love of Jesus to someone. But I'm too focused on my checklist, job, or iPhone screen to realize that beyond my display there is a whole world. Beyond my display there is a whole city. Beyond my display there are people desiring love. Beyond my display there are the homeless. Beyond my display there are the rich. Beyond my display there are people craving the love of Jesus. That's what's beyond my display. This week I'm working on looking beyond my display. 

What's beyond your display?