Monday, December 31, 2007


A few years ago, when it began to be clear that CTK was shaping up differently than any church I'd ever seen before, I was moaning in my office about how I didn't have mentors to show me the way. "I can't think of any other church that is behaving like we are - one church in multiple locations!" A wise staff person (can't remember who it was, actually) said, "Well, aren't we basically doing what Paul did in the New Testament?" (rim shot followed by dead silence here)

I went home that afternoon and got out my Bible and started reading Acts and the Epistles of Paul with new eyes. What if what Paul was doing back then was actually planting one church, the church of Jesus Christ, in multiple locations? Previously, I had always viewed Paul's ministry through a western-independent-church-planting lens (that Paul was planting multiple, separate churches). Now I started to see Paul's ministry through an eastern-interdependent-relationship-expansion lens (that Paul was adding nodes to a network in an ever-expanding circle of relationships), and the world looked very different to me. But the new lenses also explained a lot to me. Why was it that believers in Macedonia sent funds to believers in Jerusalem? Maybe because they were all part of the same story. Why is it that Paul is writing letters and still exerting influence in various congregations long after he's been gone? Maybe because they are all part of the same story. Why is it that a council is convening in Jerusalem and sending a theological statement to believers in Antioch? Maybe because they were all part of the same story. Why is it that the church in various cities is referenced in the singular, "church" instead of "churches"? Maybe because they are all part of the same story. Maybe there's really only one church in the first century, and it meets in various places.

I say "maybe" because we should always let our dogmatism rise and fall with the clarify found in scripture. Church organization is one of the areas where there is less clarity than we might like. The lack of clarity has given rise to many different church organization models, all of which can in some way find validation from scripture. But I have to say, as I have looked at the scriptures, the "apostolic organizational model" is better than any I've seen to describe what was actually happening in the early church. It appears to me that the early church was one church that convened cellularly and congregationally in a variety of locations. It was a network tied together by meaningful relationships and meaningful responsibilities.

The first few chapters of Acts tell us that within a few weeks well over 10,000 people had come to Christ and that more people were being added "every day." So the church in Jerusalem went from 120 to over 10,000 in one week! Three times in Acts a reference is made to the church in Jerusalem, and each time it is referred to in the singular. Acts 8:1: "There arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem." Acts 11:22: "The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch." Acts 15:4, Luke describes Paul and Barnabas' return to Jerusalem: "When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders." There is reference to multiple leaders, but not multiple congregations. So what we have in Jerusalem is one church with at least 10,000 adherents, lead by a team of apostles and elders.

Because of its size it is unlikely that the Jerusalem church gathered as one large group. There was simply no facility that could hold them. Acts 2 tells us they were meeting to hear the Apostles' teaching daily "house to house and in the temple courts." The church appears to be convening in multiple, smaller meetings, with multiple teachers. This would mean that every day some portion of the group was meeting, but not the entire group. At the same time there appears to be some system-wide solutions that were provided, for meeting the special needs of particular groups (Acts 6), and for theological direction (Acts 15). While Jerusalem was the epicenter, the rings of the church continued out as predicted from Jerusalem, to Judea, to Samaria, to the uttermost parts of the earth. The expansion was facilitated by apostolic missions, Christians transferring from one region to another (often because of persecution) and circular letters.

Compared with the western church of the past couple centuries, CTK's organization appears unconventional. But it actually resonates with the story of the first century church that we read in the bible. I guess we have somewhere to go for guidance after all!


An expectation for a staff person at CTK is "that you will be growth oriented and plan on serving twice as many people as your presently do. Organize with growth in mind. Plan for the future." This statement is included in the "General Expectations" section of our job descriptions. This expectation implies:

1. That we are pulled by vision, instead of pushed by need. We start behaving like a church of 100 when we are a church of 50, like a church of 1000 when we are 500. This proactivity positions the ministry toward the future and keeps us from accepting the status quo, or getting stuck in a rut. An exercise that every pastor should engage in regularly is to take out a piece of paper and write at the top "My ministry at double the size." Then start to bullet out what that would look like. Would it require an additional service? Additional staff? Reorganization? A different meeting place? Once you know what it would look like you have ideas about what it will take to get there from here.

2. That we plan for growth before it happens. The time to plan for the next wave of people is before they come, not after they've come. If you don't have the classes, teachers, parking or seats to double, you won't probably need to worry about it. The 80% rule has said that a room feels "full" at 80%, but my experience is that the pressure will build in the parking lot or bathrooms long before that. By thinking "double" you can get ahead of the growth curve (and the challenges that always attend growth).

3. The next horizon is always clearly before us: doubling. A key question to always be asking is “How can I serve twice as many people as I presently do in the coming year?” Start by assessing your current ministry. For instance, if you currently have responsibility for a worship center that has an attendance of 75 people, the next horizon would be 150. Would serving 150 people require a second service? Start now to plan for that second service, and take some first steps. If you serve in a clerical role and create 10 documents a week, how could you get to 20? Could you recruit a volunteer? Could you standardize some processes? What are your first steps? Identify the key areas you oversee and come up with a plan and first steps toward doubling.

The story that Jesus told of the talents implied doubling as an expectation: The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. “Master,” he said, “you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.” (Matthew 25:20) Results certainly may vary from the story. We plant and water, and God gives the increase. But in our planning and preparation, we should be getting ready for a 100% return on investment.


The General Expectations section of the job description was something that I wrote over the years to describe some of the things that I hope to see from everyone in the CTK story, regardless of job title. When expectations are "general" there is a tendency to think they are "unimportant." In actuality, I consider these to be some of the most important things we could expect from each other:

That you will maintain a growing relationship with God. 10+10. Read. Meditate. Pray. Share.

That you will be highly committed to the mission of CTK. Willing to sacrifice for it. Willing to endure hardship for the cause of Christ.

That you will develop open, honest, protective, and supportive relationships with other team members. Talk with colleagues, not about them. Clear the air. Be positive. Work through problems.

That you will be confidential about sensitive matters. Don’t share confidences. No gossip. No talking with people who are not part of the problem or the solution.

That you will take responsibility for your area of ministry. Own it. Have a vision for it. Develop it. Take initiative. Take care of it.

That you will be personally organized to keep track of important dates, phone numbers, assignments and instructions. Have a day timer. Set up a filing system.

That you will strive for excellence in everything you do. Pay attention to details. Ongoing improvement.

That you will be growth oriented and plan on serving twice as many people as your presently do. Organize with growth in mind. Plan for the future.

That you will limit your span of care to not more than five to seven people for yourself and those you supervise. Develop leaders. Redistribute the work. Keep it manageable. Break it down.

That you will promptly follow-up on contacts with 48 hours. Assignments from Sunday morning completed by Tuesday morning.

That you will develop systems that give people clear ownership of the ministry. Schedules. Job descriptions. Procedures. Phone #s. Team leaders. Team rosters. Team meetings. Organizational charts.

That you will recruit people for your area, with strong leaders and administrators being placed in strategic places. Identify, recruit, deploy, train, and support volunteers.

That you will create redundancy in your area of ministry. Supervisors, emerging leaders in place to easily substitute. At least two people who know every job and are empowered to carry it out.

That you will think ahead and anticipate concerns and areas of need before they become a crisis. Know what the problems are. Address them. Be proactive.

That you will help to create and maintain a positive working environment for the people who serve under you. High morale. Lots of encouragement. Thanks for a job well done.

That you will promote your ministry area to the rest of the church. Newsletter articles, classified ads, program announcements, word of mouth.

That you will innovate and take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves. Take us to places we’ve never been before.

That you will communicate weekly with your supervisor and report areas of concern, success, progress. Notify about absences, vacation time, etc.

Friday, December 21, 2007


After I teach I often ask if there are any questions or comments. I like the immediate feedback, and the questions steer me toward future topics. When I had a time of Q&A after a pastors meeting in India, however, I was reminded of how vital humility is, whenever we are in a position to supposedly have "the answers." At the conclusion of this pastor's conference there were questions about how to reach lost people more effectively, how to deal with false teachers - the typical sorts of things that pastors are concerned about. I answered them the best that I could. But not nearly as well as Yedidya Parker did when he got up after me (Yedidya is CTK's Lead Pastor in India). Yedidya said to the pastors "You are the pastors. You are the leaders. You need to look to God for guidance. God did not place Dave where He placed you. God did not place me where He placed you. He placed you there. You are the leader there. So you need to go to God for the answers you need. But if you get in trouble, CTK does have a call center. Write down this number. The number of the call center is Jeremiah 33:3 - 'Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.'" Then Yedidya sat down. Isn't that awesome! I love that.

I'm reminded of the words to the hymn "What a friend we have in Jesus." There's a line in that song that goes like this: "Oh the peace we often forfeit, oh the needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer." We are "blessed" to have many books written by "experts" on "how" to lead the church. It is great to have mentors and colleagues to help along the way. But don't let anyone or anthing distract you from getting on your knees, and finding the answers you need from God. Every now and then it does us good to put the books back on the shelf and get ahold of heaven. Really, some of the greatest joys I've had have been times when I have been stuck and God has wonderfully helped me. Nothing beats the joy of calling on God and having Him pick up the line and answer!

As leaders we are sometimes viewed to have "answers." But the only real answer we have is "Jesus." This is why Paul said, "I preach Christ crucified." Paul said, "I don't know about anything except Jesus." As a leader, the best answer you can give is to point others back to Christ. It actually is a relief to not have to be "the Bible answer man" and to let people find their own answers direct from The Source. Jesus, after all, is The Truth, as well as The Way and The Life.


The longest way around is often the shortest way home. Sometimes a leader needs to take a more indirect approach, particularly with delicate or emotional issues. Directness and honesty may give you a feeling of relief, but they also stir up antagonism. You have to ask yourself, "What is the point of being direct, if it has the result of causing others to become more entrenched in their own ideas?" Military leaders have long understand that a frontal attack may be the least successful of all approaches, because it causes the enemy to "dig in." Julius Ceasar even said "a new way of conquering (is) to strengthen one's position by kindness and generosity." The flank is the path to power. In church leadership, as well, almost every obstacle can be overcome if approached from the right angle and the proper disposition.

In his book Stragegy, B.H. Liddell Hart expands on the power of the indirect approach:

"When, in the course of studying a long series of military campaigns, I first came to perceive the superiority of the indirect over the direct approach, I was looking merely for light upon strategy. With deepened reflection, however, I began to realize that the indirect approach had a much wider application - that it was a law of life in all spheres: a truth of philosophy. Its fulfillment was seen to be the key to practical achievement in dealing with any problem where the human factor predominates, and a conflict of wills tends to spring from an underlying concern for all interests. In all such cases, the direct assault of new ideas provokes stubborn resistance, thus intensifying the difficulty of producing a change of outlook. Conversion is achieved more easily and rapidly by unsuspected infiltration of a different idea or by an argument that turns the flank of instinctive opposition. The indirect approach is as fundamental to the realm of politics as to the realm of sex. In commerce, the suggestion that there is a bargain to be secured is far more important than any direct appeal to buy. And in any sphere, it is proverbial that the surest way of gaining a superior's acceptance of a new idea is to weaken resistance before attempting to overcome it; and the effect is best attained by drawing the other party out of his defenses."

I wish every Christian leader would study Hart's words carefully. There is truth here that will save us all a lot of ammo in battle, and make for a much happier experience for our followers, as well as us. There is one pastor (not at CTK) that I've watched over the last few years, who I don't believe has learned this principle. He is a bulldog in his approach to most issues. He is very direct in what he says and how he says it. He is left scratching his head as people eventually pull away from him, but I believe he creates a "fight or flight" climate in his ministry. I believe his ministry would be around 200 people right now if he would use more indirection in his approach. Instead it is around 50. It is difficult for someone who is very direct to see how an indirect approach could be better. The direct approach seems on the surface to be more moral and honest. But I would suggest that the truth of indirection is best modeled in Jesus. He was full of truth. But he was also full of grace. The grace caused him to approach issues indirectly through riddle, humor, kindness and generosity. He was even downright cryptic in some of his dealings (writing on the ground, answering a question with a question, etc.). I think we have a lot to learn here.


When you are a follower of Christ, you give up your rights to embrace your responsibilities. One of the rights we give up is the "right to be right." As Christian leaders who are well-versed in the Bible, this is a particular sacrifice for some of us. Have you put your ego on the altar lately? If not, it might be particularly difficult for you to take the indirect approach, because you'll know too much, and have far too much to say.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


Throughout history, churches have added value to people by delivering a combination of three things: Information, Experiences and Relationships. The ratios of these three have varied based on a number of factors (denomination, geography, pastoral style, etc.). But with the dawn of the information age, churches across the board have been going through a time of significant change, shifting away from the primacy of Information toward Experiences and Relationships.

Prior to the invention of the printing press the church was primarily a vehicle for Information. Priests and pastors were clearly needed to read, translate and explain the scriptures to the masses. The church was the center in the community for literacy and knowledge. But times have changed. With the explosion of the information age, people no longer need to come to church to get the Information they need. Just "Google" any passage of scripture and you will be treated to a wealth of sermons and articles at your fingertips. It's not that the church no longer delivers information. It's just that this cannot be the only thing it delivers (unless, that is, you want to go the way of the mainline denominations and die a slow and painful death). This means that we have a couple ways we can go from here if we want to add value: toward Experiences or toward Relationships. Let me discuss these alternatives.

1. Toward Experiences. One way churches have continued to add value to people (post-information-age) is by shifting their focus from information to experiences. I would dare say that 95% of the growing churches in America today have gone this route. Why? Because of the influence of Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago. In the 1980s, as many denominational churches were slipping in attendance, Willow Creek burst onto the scene with a band, actors and video projection. The church service was no longer a dull, boring "information dump." It was a moving experience that you wanted to bring your friends experience.

In the past 25 years thousands of church leaders have made their pilgrimage to South Barrington and been inspired to incorporate the arts into their "experience." Many churches have experienced good results from what they've been able to glean from Willow. Some churches have even begun calling their weekend services "Weekend Experiences." This is an appropriate description considering the shift from the primacy of Information to the primacy of Experience. Not all "Experience Churches" are the same, however. As time has gone on, the Experience path has branched off in various directions:

1a. Experience our Pastor.

When the Experience is about the pastor you might hear people say, "You've got to come and hear our pastor." As an example of this kind of Experience Church I would hold up Mars Hill Church in Seattle. Mark Driscoll, the pastor, is a bright, articulate, sometimes controversial communicator. Listening to Mark preach is an experience. He says some very interesting things in a very interesting way. You may not agree with everything he stands for, but at least he stands for something. I know that some people feel that Mars Hills' growth is a result of its candle-burning vibe (a young, artsy, urban culture), but I respectfully disagree. I believe its growth is a reflection of Mark's vibe. The greatest evidence that I'm right is that Mars Hill projects Mark's teaching at all of its campuses. Yes, they have a cool band, but to a great extent, Mark is the show.

1b. Experience our Programming.

When the experience is about the programming you might hear people say, "You won't believe everything we have going on." As an example of this kind of experience church I would suggest Saddleback Church in Southern California. Rick Warren is their well known pastor, but not because is a such a compelling speaker. It is because Saddleback has put together such a compelling program. Some of their programs are so good, in fact, that they have become industries of their own (40 Days of Purpose, Celebrate Recovery, etc.). When I went on a behind the scenes tour of Saddleback a few years ago I was struck by how excited my guide was about the programs that were happening there. Rick's gifts are many, to be sure, but the one that has created the greatest waves is administration. Yes, they have great teaching and worship, but the programs are the show.

1c. Experience our Passion.

When the experience is about the passion you might hear someone say, "You need to experience our worship." As an example of this kind of experience church I would mention Hillsongs in Australia. In the case of Hillsongs, I actually don't know the pastor's name. But their worship leaders are world-renowned. Their worship experience is unbelievable. Powerful. Worth telling others about. So now leaders are making their pilgrimage to Australia in hopes of importing this passionate worship dynamic to the U.S. In one American location where this model is being replicated they have actually called the ministry "Passion." Yes, they have a dynamic teacher, but to a greater extent, the worship is the show.

1d. Experience our Production.

When the experience is about the production you might hear someone say, "You will be blown away by our service." As an example of this kind of experience church I would reference LifeChurch presents a very potent cocktail of music, video and teaching via satellite to a number of locations. LifeChurch has been recognized as the most innovative church in America (CTK made the list farther down). I have visited their campuses near Oklahoma City and become friends with some of their production team. They truly are bringing a level of creativity that is astounding. Yes, the elements are cool in and of themselves, but it's how it's all put together that is the show.

2. Toward Relationships. A second direction that churches can go is toward Relationships. I call this "the road less travelled." This is the path we are on at CTK. We deliver Relationships. We also deliver Information, and Experiences (and I think we do so pretty well), but what we're trying to get really good at is Relationships. Relationships are primary, and the carrier for Information and Experience. At CTK we have a saying that "Small groups are our plan A and we don't have a plan B." Why are we so high on Relationships? First, because Relationships are simple. You do not need a production crew, or special lighting. You do not need a budget. All you need is love. Second, because Relationships are satisfying. Something rings hollow about the Experience church after awhile. It's like eating your favorite dessert day after day. And third, because Relationships are scalable. We can go as far as relationships will take us. And we're finding that is pretty far.

I believe that the path from Information to Experiences is so well-worn that many have not even considered the existence of "another way to go." This is why CTK's story is so important for the greater church. In eight years CTK has gone from zero to tens of thousands. And here's the best part: there is no end in sight. What if other ministries followed suit?


How do I analyze Lakewood Church, the largest church in America? It is clearly an Experience church, and I would say that it is an amalgamation of the four varieties of Experience church. They have put together in one place the Pastor experience (Joel Osteen is a true celebrity), the Program experience (a huge facility that houses a multitude of ministries), the Passion experience (a worship experience that is as powerful as any), and the Production experience (Joel was actually the producer of the television program prior to becoming pastor). In my way of thinking it is the ultimate expression of this paradigm. I believe that the emergence of Lakewood is an indication that the paradigm has been "wrung out." What's next? What's left. The Relational church.


A strong synonym for leadership is influence. Another suitable substitute is catalyst. But catalytic leadership draws on different tools than the old "command and control" style exemplified by CEOs. Listen in as Ori Brafman describes the catalytic leader:

"A CEO is The Boss. He's in charge, and he occupies the top of the hierarchy. A catalyst interacts with people as a peer. He comes across as your friend. Because CEOs are at the top of the pyramid, they lead by command-and-control. Catalysts, on the other hand, depend on trust. CEOs must be rational; their job is to create shareholder value. Catalysts depend on emotional intelligence; their job is to create personal relationships. CEOs are powerful and directive; they're at the helm. Catalysts are inspirational and collaborative; they talk about ideology and urge people to work together to make the ideology a reality. Having power puts CEOs in the limelight. Catalysts avoid attention and tend to work behind the scenes. CEOs create order and structure; catalysts thrive on ambiguity and apparent chaos. A CEO's job is to maximize profit. A catalyst is usually mission-oriented."

Auren Hoffman, in speaking of catalysts, says, "It does take a certain personality, someone who likes to help people. Lots of people just know a lot of people." A catalyst, on the other hand, is "someone who every time they have a conversation with someone they are actively thinking How can I help this person? Who can I introduce this person to? I just want to help this person. I just want to make this person better. People really, really want to help other people. And that they are the most underutilized tool there is."

Do I hear an "Amen"?


In their book The Starfish and the Spider, Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom contrast the body styles of two organisms that seem to have a lot in common, but don't:

"With a spider, what you see is pretty much what you get. A body's a body, a head's a head, and a leg's a leg. But starfish are very different. the starfish doesn't have a head. Its central body isn't even in charge. In fact, the major organs are replicated throughout each and every arm. If you cut the starfish in half, you'll be in for a surprise: the animal won't die, and pretty soon you'll have two starfish to deal with.

"Starfish have an incredible quality to them: If you cut an arm off, most of these animals grow a new arm. And with some varieties, such as the Linckia, or long-armed starfish, the animal can replicate itself from just a single piece of an arm. You can cut the Linckia into a bunch of pieces, and each one will regenerate into a whole new starfish. They can achieve this magical regeneration because in reality, a starfish is a neural network - basically a network of cells. Instead of having a head, like a spider, the starfish functions as a decentralized network. Get this: for the starfish to move, one of the arms must convince the other arms that it's a good idea to do so. The arm starts moving, and then - in a process that no one fully understands - the other arms cooperate and move as well. The brain doesn't "yea" or "nay." The starfish doesn't have a brain. There is no central command. Biologists are still scratching their heads over how this creature operates, but....the starfish operates a lot like the Nant'ans. If spiders are the Aztecs of the world, starfish are surely the apaches."

As a historical illustration of starfish v. spider, Brafman and Beckman make distinctions between the centralized organization of the Spanish under Cortes, and the decentralized organization of the Apaches under Geronimo:

"A centralized organization is easy to understand. Think of any major company or governmental agency. You have a clear leader who's in charge, and there's a specific place where decisions are made (the boardroom, the corporate headquarters, city hall)....This organization type [is] coercive because the leaders call the shots: when the CEO fires you, you're out. When Cortes ordered his army to march, they marched. The Spanish, Aztecs and Incas were all centralized and coercive. Although it sounds like something out of a Russian gulag, a coercive system is not necessarily bad. Whether you're a Spanish general, an Aztec leader, or a CEO of a Fortune 500 company, you use command-and-control to keep order in your organization, to make it efficient, and to function from day to day. Rules need to be set and enforced, or the system collapses. For instance, when you get on an airplane, you had better hope it's a coercive system. You certainly don't want Johnson from seat 28J to decide that right about now is a good time to land. No, Johnson needs to sit quietly and enjoy the movie while the captain - and only the captain - has the authority to make decisions to ensure that the plane flies properly.

"Decentralized systems, on the other hand, are a little trickier to understand. In a decentralized organization, there's no clear leader, no hierarchy, and no headquarters. If and when a leader does emerge, that person has little power over others. The best that person can do to influence people is to lead by example....This [is] an open system, because everyone is entitled to make his or her own decisions. This doesn't mean that a decentralized system is the same as anarchy. There are rules and norms, but they aren't enforced by any one person. Rather, the power is distributed among all the people and across geographical regions. Basically, there's no Tenochtitlan, and no Montezuma.

"But without a Montezuma, how do you lead? Instead of a chief, the Apaches had a Nant'an - a spiritual and cultural leader. The Nant'an lead by example and held no coercive power. Tribe members followed the Nant'an because they wanted to, not because they had to. One of the most famous Nant'ans in history was Geronimo, who defended his people against the American forces for decades. Geronimo never commanded an army. Rather, he himself started fighting, and everyone around him joined in. The idea was, 'If Geronimo is taking arms, maybe it's a good idea. Geronimo has been right in the past, so it makes sense to fight alongside him.' You wanted to follow Geronimo? You followed Geronimo. You didn't want to follow him? Then you didn't. The power lay with each individual - you were free to do what you wanted. The phrase "you should" doesn't even exist in the Apache language. Coercion is a foreign concept.

"The Nant'ans were crucial to the well-being of this open system, but decentralization affects more than just leadership. Because there was no capital and no central command post, Apache decisions were made all over the place. A raid on a Spanish settlement, or example, could be conceived in one place, organized in another, and carried out in yet another. You never knew where the Apaches would be coming from. In one sense, there was no place where important decisions were made, and in another sense, decisions were made by everybody everywhere.

"On first impression, it may sound like the Apaches were loosey-goosey and disorganized. In reality, however, they were an advanced and sophisticated socieity - it's just a decentralized organization is a completely different creature....The traits of a decentralized society - flexibility, shared power, ambiguity - made the Apaches immune to attacks that would have destroyed a centralized society."

At CTK we are attempting to be more like a starfish, than a spider, and more like the Apaches than the Spanish. This requires a leadership style that is more like Geronimo than Cortes.


Organic does not mean "without structure." Organisms characteristically have a very definable skeleton - joints, branches, capillaries, and the like. The body of Christ, likewise, is well-connected and supported. When referring to Christ's body, the Apostle Paul referred to "supporting ligaments" in Ephesians 4, and "ligaments and sinews" (tendons) in Colossians 2. A ligament connects a bone to another bone; a tendon connects a muscle to a bone. I think what Paul was saying is that in the body of Christ there are people who help hold things together.

If you look around in your small group or Worship Center you will undoubtedly spot these folks. They are the ones you think of when you need something done. They are the ones others go to when they need spiritual support. If you have difficulty identifying them when they are there, you will definitely note their absence when they're gone, because things will start "falling apart." In the absence of the "ligaments" people will not seem as connected. Things will not get done.

In an organic network such as CTK we get to see ligaments function at different levels:

1. Pastors and Directors. On a local level, Pastors and Directors give support and connection to leaders. Typically we like to see Directors identified in the areas of Children's Ministries, Youth Ministries, Small Groups, Operations, and Worship.

2. Area Pastors. On a regional level, Area Pastors give support and connection to local pastors.

3. National Pastors. On a national level, a National Pastor gives support and connection to Area Pastors.

Organic does not mean "small." In nature, the big exists to supports the small (exactly opposite of most organizational models, where the small exists to support the big). Bigger bones facilitate smaller ones. Bigger muscles facilitate smaller ones. And the connections are made through the ligaments and tendons.

The previous generation referred to these people as "pillars of the church." What makes a pillar a pillar is that it is able to stand on its own, plus carry some structural weight. Some people have their hands full taking care of their own stuff. A pillar in the church has capacity to take care of others as well.

In the CTK story we have been blessed because larger, established Worship Centers (like Bellingham, Lynden, Mount Vernon, Anacortes, etc.) have "paid it forward" to assist small and medium sized Centers, not just with resources, but with prayer, relationships, people-power and coaching. It reminds me of how, in the forest, smaller flora and fauna will not survive except for the shade and protection of the larger trees. We need all sizes working in a supportive eco-system. This is why at CTK, while we always want to validate the small, we can't forget to appreciate the big, and the ligaments that hold it all together.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


I was talking with a friend who is a leader in a traditional, denominational church. He was telling me about a worship director they were about to hire. Evidently she is very gifted and qualified. A very proficient pianist. A very powerful vocalist. Sounded pretty good on the surface. Maybe too good, actually. The number of times my friend used the word "very" to describe her raised a red flag with me. I said to him, "Challenges often attend the word 'very.'" What challenges am I referring to? A few come to mind:

1. The challenge of transferability.

If you believe that church leaders are to "do the ministry" then, by all means, you want to recruit the most gifted performers you possibly can to "do" it. But if you believe, as I do, that church leaders to "see that the ministry gets done" then you are looking for someone different, a "recruitor and deployer." In an ironic twist, I have found that the more gifted a person is in doing the ministry, the more difficult to give the ministry away. Three complications get in the way of the transfer:

a. The complication of drop-off. It is always a sacrifice to give your ministry to someone else. But the sacrifice gets excrutiating when the "drop-off" seems significant. To put this crassly, if you are giving a ministry to a person who is a 7 on a scale of 10 (not bad, really), it is less painful to do so when you are an 8, instead of a 10. To go from 10 to 7 seems like a huge step "backward" (which is why you often have to wrestle responsibilities away from gifted people).

b. The complication of qualification If people use the word "very" to describe you, it is because you are eminently qualified in that respect, probably a 9 or a 10. As a rule of thumb, I say that if you can find someone who can do the ministry 80% as well as you can, you should give it to them, because the remaining 20% is not worth holding onto, particularly when placed against the upside of deploying another person in the ministry. However, using the 80% rule as a guide, the more gifted you are, the less people you can find who can rise to that 80% threshold. You almost always are looking for 7s, 8s and 9s, and there are far fewer of those than there are 5s and 6s.

c. The complication of explanation. Sometimes highly gifted individuals are so intuitive and talented that they literally cannot tell someone else how they do what they do. It just comes naturally. It's a gift. On this point the person with lesser talent who has had to "figure it out" finds it easier to teach someone else. Cynics will say, "Those who can't, teach." I modify that to say, "Those who can't quite as well, sometimes teach better."

2. The challenge of specialization.

The more a person advances in a particular field, the more they tend to specialize. For instance, my friend's very-qualified-music-ministry-candidate is classically trained. This means that she has had extraordinary exposure to a genre of music that is not in extraordinary demand. This also might mean that she will not show the same love for jazz, funk, pop, or country that a lesser-trained music-lover might demonstrate. As you climb the ladder of specialization your focus tends to narrow. At its worst, this narrowing results in a person becoming an elitist snob; at its best this narrowing leaves less appreciation for the range of possibilities. Not that we'd have to worry about narrowness in the church, right?

3. The challenge of blind spots.

The brighter the light, the more dramatic the shadows. A few years ago I hired a young lady to be a worship director, who was an extremely gifted violinist. In fact, she was so good that she in now living in Los Angeles, working with some of the biggest names in the industry. She brought tremendous value on stage, but to make her compensation make sense, I also had her doing some things for me in the office (setting up small groups, answering phones, etc). She was a way better performer than a clerk. If we could have opened up her skull we would have found that the right side of her brain (the creative side) was muscle-bound; the left side (the analytical side) was shrimpy. One day I remember someone coming into the office and asking her about what we had going for kids. I could hear her thinking out loud to herself, "Hmmm. Things for kids. Hmmm. What do we have for kids?" Eventually she popped her head through the door of my office and asked, "Dave, do we have anything going on for kids?" I replied, "Well, yes. During each of the Sunday services we have kids groups from nursery age through sixth grade." I then proceeded to list a number of other things with which our kids got involved, like summer camp, parents night out, etc. She dutifully went back and relayed the information. I smiled as she walked away, because as gifted as she was in her right brain, was a about how ungifted she was in her left. Why do I tell you this story? Not to belittle anyone, because if I could hire her again, I would. I tell you the story because it illustrates the nature of "very." She was very gifted in her ministry, but corresponding to the "overdeveloped" part, was an "underdeveloped" part. We were able to cover for that, so we had a great working relationship. But you do have to cover the blind spots, and they tend to be more dramatic the more we have to use the word "very" to describe the strength.

4. The challenge of reliance.

The more talented a person is, the more challenged that person is to work interdependently - in concert with God and others. When you struggle to "get by" no one has to convince you of how vital prayer is, or how valuable is other's input. But when you are "the best" at what you do, you can easily become deluded into a level of grandiosity that is spiritually, emotionally and relationally dangerous. There is not a direct connection between artistic talent and moral failure, but extreme talent can be an environmental factor that exaggerates character defects.


A church with which I have been consulting has been struggling in the transition from a beloved founding pastor to a successor. As is always the case, the men have different gifts and styles. But in this case, there is also the challenge of "very." As I spoke with the successor, I asked him if people use the word "very" to describe his predecessor. His eyes got big, and he said, "Well yes. People do all the describe his teaching." Knowing the predecessor myself, I already knew the answer. Indeed he is a great Bible-teacher, a 10 in that respect. I'm not sure about this, but I'm guessing the successor is a 6 or 7 in that respect. No one's at fault here, but I actually think that it is the predecessor's extreme talent that is more to "blame" than the successor's average talent. The handoff is always easier when their is parity.

I think one of the reasons we've been able to make so many successful leadership handoffs in the CTK story is that we aren't "very." As I've reflected on the word "very" I've realized that the word is rarely used to describe our leaders, including me. This is a good thing. I am an OK teacher, administrator, pastor, leader and counselor. But I'm not "off the charts" in any respect. This has allowed me to launch seven locations in seven years, and to make handoffs to leaders who were often equivalent or better than me. I'm not sure we would have had the same success if it were the other way around.

Monday, November 05, 2007


In the military, commanders are trained to look for "force multipliers" on the battlefield. Force multipliers are attendant circumstances that can give an army a 2x, 3x, or even 4x advantage. Such things as weather or morale could be force multipliers. For instance, if two armies are equivalent, but one has the wind at its back, which one has the best chance of succeeding? Or, if two armies are equivalent, but one is well rested and well fed, which one do you choose?

What are some of the "force multipliers" in ministry? There are clearly spiritual "force multipliers" like:

1. Prayer. So many times in the CTK story I have had the distinct impression that "somebody's praying." Prayer moves the hand of God, and when God is "with you" miraculous things come from ordinary inputs. This is why, when getting ready to teach, it is a good deal to exchange research time for time spent on your knees. I like to pray over the individual pages of my notes on Saturday night and Sunday morning. I sense a marked difference in messages when I have done so.

2. Christ-centeredness. Jesus himself tipped us off to a force multiplier: "If I be lifted up I will draw all men to me." Lift up Christ. Worship him. Teach him. Enjoy him. Make Christ the honored guest. When people get their eyes on Jesus, and off of other things, there's renewal and life-change. How long has it been since you've preached about Jesus? I find that a spiritual refreshing comes when you do.

There are also a few lesser force multipliers to consider, like:

1. Humor. G.K. Chesterton said, "Angels fly because they take themselves lightly." Are you taking yourself and your ministry too seriously? If so, lighten up. Smile. Relax. Enjoy. As in sports, everything seems easier when you are loose. Laughter is characteristic of healthy organizations and families. A message given with a smile or two, can be twice as impacting as one with a straight face or frown.

2. Optimism. Is the glass half full, or half empty? It is amazing what a shift in perspective will do for your ministry. Do you see the wonderful people who are in front of you, or the empty seats? Are you rejoicing over the life change that is happening, or pining for what you have yet to see? Do you see the beauty in your organization, or just the defects? Give a good report. Let people in on some good news.

3. Momentum. Success begets success. When you have something go well, and celebrate that, it tends to encourage more of the same. Why is it that some teams tend to win season after season, and others tend to lose? Practice. Once you get used to winning you start planning on it and preparing for it. The same could be said for losing.

4. Surprise. How can you break up the monotony? Is it the "same ol' - same ol'" week after week? How about reversing the order of things? Or putting candy on everyone's chair? Or going on a field trip? Or watching a movie? For the same reason that your home always looks more inviting after you've been on vacation, your ministry can be reinvigorated by introducing an off beat every now and then.

5. Synergy. The definition of synergy is The interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects. In a Worship Center I believe you get synergy when you bring simultaneous strength in three areas: a) teaching, b) worship and c) kid's ministries. This "three-legged stool" has proved to be powerful. It's a "buy three, get one free" arrangement. If you bring together strong teaching, worship and kid's ministries, you get a fourth component naturally: buzz.

Force multipliers allow you "tilt the battle field." Instead of climbing harder uphill, you start "rolling" down hill. Excellent commanders seek to bring overwhelming force. But they also know that the force doesn't always come from their army. Prior to D-day, Eisenhower spent much of his time coordinating with meteorologists to get a read on the weather. What winds are blowing in your ministry? How can you harness them for greater impact?


From the CTK mail bag; a pastor writes to me about the CTK story:

"I truly believe that every major move of God in the CTK story has been birthed out of sacrifice. If you break down the components of our gatherings individually- free coffee, small groups, catchy slogans, casual atmosphere, worship you can understand- there is nothing particularly unique to our story. What is paramount, however, is our willingness to sacrifice. We sacrifice our "reputation" as church people by hanging out with the unchurched. We sacrifice our safety and predictability by taking a chance on broken pastors. We sacrifice our resources through continually being committed to the idea of paying it forward. The sacrifices that have made our story set us on the edge of faith where we position ourselves to fully trust God- or fail. The story of CTK, is not about the noble sacrifices we have made- it is that God has never once let us down."

So true. In fact, it is SO true that I question whether anyone can be satisfied in our story unless they are willing to make sacrifices. There is not enough in this story to satisfy a consumer, only a prosumer. But it is profoundly satisfying to the person who wants to lay their life down for the mission. In short, CTK has never been a good church to go to. But it's been a great church to go from.

One of the early defining moments in the CTK story took place in Laurel, Washington (at the "original" CTK). It was a moment of sacrifice. It took place in the early 90s. At that time CTK was meeting in a small building with an unpaved parking lot. In Northwest Washington we get our share of rain. So the parking lot was full of ruts and potholes. Unless you had a four-wheel-drive vehicle, it was difficult to get in and out of the lot. The condition of the parking lot was adversely impacting the church's ability to reach out effectively to unchurched people. So the folks of CTK did something very courageous that reverberates to this day. They raised over $50,000 to pave the parking lot. People gave (and here's the key word) sacrificially. In some cases, people sold items of value and gave the proceeds to the church. In some case, people took out second mortgages on their homes. In any case, that act of faith set in motion a virtuous "pay it forward" mentality that we are still working with today.

What we are doing is pretty simple, but in no way easy. It is a relatively simple thing to say, "Let's pay it forward." It is a little more difficult to actually take a healthy percentage of our resources and utilized them to build an ever expanding network of leaders. It is easy to say "we are going to keep the main thing the main thing." It is quite difficult to say no to good ideas that come along that are not "the main thing." Sacrifice means that something is given up for the greater good.

The lens of sacrifice should color everything we do and everything we've been given with which to do it. You can't look at a building and think "How can we protect this place?" You've got to look at a building and think "How can we totally use this up for God?" You can't look at a leader and think, "Man, I'm glad I have this leader. I'll hold onto them." You have to look at a leader and think "How could I send this leader out to make an even greater impact?" When we move from a clenched fist to an open hand, God is pleased, and tends to put more in our hands than we could have ever imagined. As the old saying goes, "God will get it to us, if He can get it through us."


Some things can be sacrificed. Some things cannot. There are things that we hold loosely, and others that we hold tightly. This loose/tight balance is characteristic of great organizations according to Jim Collins in Good to Great. The aspects of our story that we hold tight are all intangible. It is our mission, vision and values. These ideas cannot be sacrificed. But the methods we employ to carry out our mission can be held loosely. For instance, I would never fight for our motto (Always a Place for You). I would however fight for our value of reaching out to lost people, however that gets expressed.


I am often blown away by the powerful imprint of Western culture. When my wife recently asked my nephew what his favorite food is, he said "McDonald's." I'm not sure he even realizes that McDonald's is not a food group. I think my wife was thinking of something like "potatoes." My nephew was thinking of french fries. Modernity delivers some ironic twists. I call the church version of this malady "pre-processed Christianity." Among other things, pre-processed Christians think that you can't have church without a peaked-roof building, a lit cross on the front wall of the auditorium, fresh flowers on the altar and name tags on the ushers. Sadly, pre-processed Christians lack understanding about what underlies these traditions, or went before them.

At a recent Lord's Supper I was confronted with my own "pre-processed-ness" (OK, now I am really making up words). First, let me set up the "problem." In Burlington, Washington, where I pastor, at the last service on Sundays (11:30 am) we take a break after the singing, before the message, to eat lunch together. We have sandwiches and soup set in the back of the auditorium for everyone. We take about a 10-minute break to enjoy food and fellowship. We've only been doing this for a few weeks, but it's proved to be a lot of fun. So this last Sunday I was faced with a dilemma. How do I integrate the Lord's Supper with our lunch? Are we going to enjoy a meal together, and then turn around and pass out a small cracker, and a thimble-sized cup of juice? Something's not right with this picture.

Then I caught myself. Just the fact that I am trying to figure out how to make a lunch go together with the Lord's Supper shows how far removed we are from the original episode. The Lord's Supper was, after all, a meal. A feast, really. The feast of Passover. Jesus is seen reclining with his disciples. It appears that it is when the meal is mostly over that Jesus takes the bread still on the table (probably a mat on the floor instead of what you've seen in pictures) and indicates special symbolism ("this is my body"). The scripture says that "after the supper" He took the cup and said, "this is the blood of the new covenant." But the Lord's Supper wasn't divorced from the supper. It was the supper.

As near as I can tell from Scripture, the early church carried on this format of a meal. When Paul corrects the Corinthian church for problems in administrating the Lord's supper, the top two issues were people forcing their way to the front of the line, and overeating, not leaving food for others (1 Corinthians 11:20,21). Kind of reminds you of your own family gatherings, doesn't it? You sometimes feel you need a fork, not for the food, but to keep your brother from eating it all.

It is only in pre-processed Christianity that we feel "stuck" trying to deliver the smallest cracker in the world, and calling it communion. I think we're maybe missing something of the original joy, the sharing, the supper. So here's how I "solved" the problem: Prior to eating lunch at the 11:30 service I told the folks about how the early Christians ate meals together. I commented on the original setting with Christ and His disciples. I spoked of Paul's rebukes in 1 Corinthians. Then I said, today we are eating this meal "in remembrance of Christ." We had larger chunks of bread and cups of juice on the table as well. Following the meal I said a prayer of thanks for the Lord's provision for all of us. It felt a little wierd, to be sure. But I told the people in attendance that our experience today was probably closer to to that of the first century church.

Oh yeah. One other part to the story. At the very end of the service, while we were singing the last song, a man came up to me and whispered in my ear, "Can you tell everyone to go back and get communion? Not everyone got juice when they went through the line." I smiled and said, "We'll let this be our mulligan." Modernity strikes again!


I'm pretty certain that the above discussion of the Lord's Supper will leave some of you disturbed and defensive. The subject, as it should be, I guess, is pretty personal and powerful. If we can step back from the topic a moment, and dial down the emotions, we will realize that well-meaning Christians can behave in different ways here, and we can all be family. At CTK, we have tried hard to "keep the main thing the main thing." As Augustine said, "In essential matters unity, in non-essential matters diversity, in all matters charity."

I recently had a man leave CTK in Burlington over the issue of our administration of the Lord's Supper. His main concerns were that we don't observe it weekly, and that we don't sufficiently warn people to not take it unless they are "worthy" of taking it. Here's some of my correspondence with him. I'm only giving you my side of the conversation, but perhaps you can glean from it. I'm not giving this to you to try to convince you to see the world the way I do, just so you know that there are truly different ways the world can be seen. Just for the record, the man left our fellowship a couple months before we did the lunch/Lord's Supper deal. I'm sure that would have really set him off!

Letter #1

Thanks for writing.

The Lord's Supper is an area where believers have differing views, so I hope that even if we don't come to the same conclusions that we can stay in fellowship. There is a lot of church history that colors the ideas folks have. I don't imagine that I have perfect clarity on these issues either, so I'm open to ideas and discussion.

Here are a few brief responses, and then we can get together if we'd like.

When Paul uses the phrase unworthily/unworthy manner it seems to me that he is referring to an actual problem described three verses earlier....

When ye come together therefore into one place, [this] is not to eat the Lord's suppers. For in eating every one taketh before [other] his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken. What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise [you] not.

Many have taken the word "unworthily" out of context and then defined it as "not being worthy of taking the supper" (either because they are not believers, or not living a godly life, etc.)

At the Lord's Supper (the passover meal) Jesus served Judas first, which was a symbol of honor and inclusion (the honored guest at the meal). It is not clear from John 13 when Judas left, but he left "after the supper," and after dark.

I do believe that people need to observe the Supper reflectively, but I'm not certain it is required that I give a "warning". I don't see Jesus doing that in the original supper even though he knew Judas was there. I am aware than many churches/pastors do this, particularly if they practice closed communion. Some churches I know don't allow folks to take communion unless they are saved, baptized, members, and "prayed up." I used to agree with this approach, but don't any more. It seems to come out of fear-based/legalistic traditions, but not from scripture. I believe that Jesus' only limitations (other than Paul's instructions about decorum) are that we do this "in remembrance of" him. So I think it is important for me/someone to explain the significance of the elements and that the taking of them be reverent and mindful of Him. But conceivably, someone could "receive" Christ for the first time in observance of the Lord's supper, though I believe the supper is more of a memorial than a transubstantiation or consubstantiation (the Catholic and Lutheran ideas).

In general, I don't believe the elements of communion are about how good we (the eaters) are, but how good Christ to us. I'm not sure I've ever taken the Lord's supper "worthily" if by that is meant I was worthy of it.

Letter #2

I agree with a lot of your thoughts here. I would say that I have a spiritual connection to Christ by faith, not because of the Lord's supper. But I believe that the Lord's supper celebrates and reinforces that connection to be sure. Both John 6 and 1 Cor 5 speak of spiritual partaking of Christ, not the Lord's Supper. If the Lord's supper is in view in John 6, then we should be serving flesh along with bread, since Jesus used the word flesh as much as bread, and his listeners understood him that way. These are metaphors that help us to understand both passover, by looking at Christ, and Christ, by looking at passover. The metaphor does not stand on all fours, nor should it.

The challenge is what did Jesus mean when he said, "This is my body." I believe the meaning was clarified by the word "remembrance" - that is, that these elements signify or symbolize his body. There is a view called the "spiritual presence" view of the Lord's supper, that God is not physically present in the bread when blessed (transubstantiation) or physically present in the bread when eaten (consubstantiation), but that he is "spiritually present" in the elements - that the elements do actually "contain" Christ, just not physically. I do not subscribe to this view. It sounds as if you might. And if so, that is ok. Again, I think that there are different conclusions that people come to, and like Augustine said, "In essential matter unity, in non-essential matters diversity, in all matters charity."

With apologies to Halley, I think it is a difficult idea to support that the supper happened after Judas left, instead of before. I think it might be better to say that either a) Judas was a believer, hence his participation, or b) that Judas never ate the bread that was given to him (and Jesus knew He wouldn't). But remember in John 13:18 Jesus set up the whole context by saying this is a fulfillment of prophecy "He who shared my bread has lifted up his heel against me." The ceremony described is a passover meal - bread dipped in juice, etc. But what Christ asked his followers to "remember" him by were just two elements of it.

Letter #3

To give you an overview of the issue, there are four views, each commonly and widely held, about the nature of the statement "this is my body."

1. Transubstantiation, (Christ's body, physicallly present in the elements after being blessed by the priest)
2. Consubstantiation, (Christ's body, physcially present in the elements, upon partaking)
3. Spiritual View, (Christ's body, spiritually present in the elements, upon partaking)
4. Memorial View, (elements are a memorial to Christ's body and sacrifice)

I happen to take view number four. I do not consider my view to be heretical, but a legitimate interpretation from scripture. By number of adherents, it is probably the most widely held view among protestants. I believe that when Jesus says, "This is my body" he explains himself further with the words "in remembrance of me." You are not required to interpret this the same way as me. I could be wrong. But I have good fellowship with a number of folks who interpret things differently, and was hoping that you would continue to be my friend, even if I took a differing view than you. But please don't imagine that I have departed from "a basic foundational issue of Christian belief." I have not. I also believe that it is incorrect to assert that only "your way" would yield a "deep and personal relationship with Christ in the spirit." I'm afraid you are confusing style with substance. The impact of the Lord's supper on a participant may be substantial regardless of style.

There are three views, commonly and widely held, about the participants (who is the you in "broken for you"?):

1. Closed communion (only church members may participate)
2. Open communion (anyone can participate)
3. Close communion (those who understand the spiritual significance can participate)

I happen to take view number three. I always explain the significance of the elements, and I always set a tone that is appropriate so that people do not participate casually. Frankly, I set a reverent tone in which people of varying views can truly worship Christ in harmony during the partaking of the elements. I know this to be the case, because at CTK there are folks from Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist and Baptist backgrounds, and I have received good feedback on our Lord Supper times. Here again, there are believers who feel we (I) should somehow police the Lord's Supper, or at least scare people away from it. I have fellowship with them, and it is always my hope that they can have fellowship with me. But again, I do not view my perspective to be a departure from faithfulness to Christ, but based on my true understanding of scripture, both what Christ did and said at the original Lord's Supper, and Paul's instructions (in context) in Corinthians.

As to frequency, there is no "one way" here, and no biblical or historical evidence that the early church celebrated the Lord's supper weekly, as you assert. But even so, Paul's instructions were "as often as you do this." He could have easily given us a schedule, but He did not. This is an area in which there is freedom. In areas of freedom there should be grace extended for leaders to set different schedules. Even within CTK there is variety. Some Worship Centers observe the Lord's supper weekly, some monthly, some every other month, some quarterly. In addition, we have small groups that observe the Lord's Supper weekly (a couple in Burlington do this). Other small groups do not observe the Lord's supper at all (only in the corporate Worship Service). This is fine. This is not, in my opinion, something to be dogmatic about. This is personal preference. It always grieves me when believers break fellowship over personal preference. But this is your choice. We live in a free country, as we celebrate today.

Finally, I've got to say that your closing statement is offensive to me. To write that "We are praying though,that you will sometime along grasp the importance of all this" is a statement that is quite demeaning and pedantic. You are assuming that if I knew as much as you do on this subject, or cared as much as you do about it, that I would come to your view. I have tried to remain egalitarian in all my correspondence with you, and I will continue to do so. If you have further conversation with me, I request that you treat me with as much respect.

As the scripture has told me to do, I have tried to gently correct you from some misunderstandings and the dogmatism with which you have taken your positions. I hope that I have treated you kindly. Personally, I am not praying that you will grasp what I grasp on this topic. You actually may be right, and I may be wrong. I am praying that you will understand that our fellowship in Christ does not require 100% agreement on all issues, just the issues that are eternal, life-changing and life-giving. I am hoping that you will not leave CTK over this, but if you choose to do so, please know that I love you and XXXX and wish you well.....

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


In an effort to add value, sometimes leaders do damage. Pastor especially need to learn to be quiet. Just because you know something doesn't mean you need to say something. Listen to the words of leadership guru Marshall Goldsmith in his book What Got You Here Won't Get You There:

The two men at dinner were clearly on the same wavelength. One of them was Jon Katzenbach, the ex-McKinsey director who now leads his own elite consulting boutique. The other fellow was Niko Canner, his brilliant protege and partner. They were plotting out a new venture. But something about their conversation was slightly off. Every time Niko floated an idea, Katzenbach interrupted him. "That's a great idea," he would say, "but it would work better if you...." and then he would trail off into a story about how it worked for him several years earlier in another context. When Jon finished, Niko would pick up where he left off only to be interrupted within seconds by Jon again. This went on back and forth like a long rally at Wimbledon.

As the third party at the table, I watched and listened. As an executive coach, I'm used to monitoring people's dialogues, listening with forensic intensity for clues to reveal why these otherwise accomplished people annoy their bosses, peers and subordinates.

Ordinarily I keep quiet in these situations. But Jon was a friend exhibiting classic destructive smart-person behavior. I said, "Jon, will you please be quiet and let Niko talk. Stop trying to add value to the discussion."

What Jon was displaying in full flower was a variation on the need to win - the need to add value. It's common among leaders used to running the show. They still retain remnants of the top-down management style where their job was to tell everyone what to do. These leaders are smart enough to realize that the world has changed, that most of the their subordinates know more in specific areas than they ever will. But old habits die hard. It is extremely difficult for successful people to listen to other people tell them something they already know without communicating somehow that a) "we already knew that" and b) "we know a better way."

That's the problem with adding too much value. Imagine you're the CEO. I come to you with an idea that you think is very good. Rather than just pat me on the back and say, "Great idea!" your inclination (because you have to add value) is to say, "Good idea, but it'd be better if you tried it this way."

The problem is, you may have improved the content of my idea by 5 percent, but you've reduced my commitment to executing it by 50 percent, because you've taken away my ownership of the idea. My idea is now your idea - and I walk out of your office less enthused about it than when I walked in. That's the fallacy of added value. Whatever we gain in the form of a better idea is lost many times over in our employees' diminished commitment to the concept.....

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that bosses have to zip their lips to keep their staff's spirits from sagging. But the higher up you go in the organization, the more you need to make other people winners and not make it about winning yourself.

For bosses this means closely monitoring how you hand out encouragement. If you find yourself saying, "Great idea," and then dropping the other shoe with a tempering "but" or "however," try cutting your response off at "idea." Even better, before you speak, take a breath and ask yourself if what you're about to say is worth it. One of my clients, who's now the CEO of a major pharmaceutical, said that once he got into the habit of taking a breath before he talked, he realized that at least half of what he was going to say wasn't worth saying. Even though he believed he could add value, he realized he had more to gain by not winning....

Asking "Is it worth it?" forces you to consider what the other person will feel after hearing your response. It forces you to play at least two moves ahead. Not many people do that. You talk. They talk. And so on - back and forth like a beginner's chess game where no one thinks beyond the move in front of them. It's the lowest form of chess, it's also the lowest grade of listening. Asking, "It is worth it?" engages you in thinking beyond the discussion to consider a) how the other person regards you, b) what that person will do afterwards, and c) how that person will behave the next time you talk.

That's a lot of consequences emanating out of "Is it worth it?".....

People's opinion of our listening ability are largely shaped by the decisions we make immediately after asking "Is it worth it?" Do we speak or shut up? Do we argue or simply say "Thank you"? Do we add our needless two cents or bite our tongue? Do we rate the comments or simply acknowledge them?....

The implications of "Is it worth it?" are profound - and go beyond listening. If effect you are taking the age-old question of self-interest, "What's in it for me?" one step further to ask, "What's in it for him?" That's a profound consequential leap of thought. Suddenly you're seeing the bigger picture.

Monday, October 08, 2007


There is no reason for people to be fearful of the D-word. Discipline just describes what we have to have if we are going to achieve our goals.

First, leaders must be self-disciplined. There is always a test going on, a test of a leader's resolve to implement the mission, vision and values. Leaders have to pass this test. Discipline has to start at the top. Leaders have to have the mental toughness to stick with the mission, vision, values through good times and bad. As Ray Davis says, "As a leader you have to be tough enough to appear unyielding and unreasonable. These are our standards. This is what we are going to do. This is what we are going to become, and heaven help anyone who tries to bring conventional wisdom in here to stop us." One of the reasons a leader has to be so unyielding is that so many people are so cynical. Unbeknownst to the leader, people in the ministry are thinking, "If we wait long enough his/her big plans will go away. I've seen this all before." Only by the leader persisting over time can this cycle be broken.

Second, discipline must be spread through the organization. It starts at the top, but it doesn't end there. Everyone in the organization needs to be discipled (a related word) into the mission, vision and values. If the leader is rowing hard the boat may make slow and steady progress, but certainly nothing like when EVERYONE has an oar in the water and is rowing hard. When discipline is handled correctly it creates a powerful, positive environment. The boat leaves a wake.

It is very virtuous to have both the leader and the organization manifest discipline. When the leader does so, and the organization does not, it leads to frustration on the part of the leader. When the organization manifests a willingness to be disciplined, and the leader does not, it leads to frustration on the part of the organization. You can tell what's going on by asking, "Who's frustrated?" If it is the leader, then the organization may need to become more disciplined. If it is the organization (or people in it) then the leader may need to become more disciplined.


In addition to being generally disciplined about the mission, vision and values, Marshall Goldsmith in his book What Got You Here Won't Get Your There says a leader must also be specifically disciplined in two areas: information and emotion.

Leaders have information, and usually a lot of it. The disciplined leader realizes that there are things "better left unsaid." They get the fact that many secrets should be kept. They know there is such a thing as "too much added value" with their staff. Journalist/novelist Tom Wolfe speaks of "information compulsion" - the desire we all have to tell another person something they don't know. This compulsion can get a leader into trouble. With information, the key question for a self-discipline leader to ask is, "Is this appropriate, and how much should I share."

The same with emotion. There are a wide range of emotions that a leader experiences. Just because a certain emotion is being experienced doesn't mean that it needs to be shared. Are you angry? Maybe. Do you need to let everyone know. Probably not. I'm not suggesting a life of posing, just appropriateness. As C.S. Lewis said, transparency is a virtue, but it is not the highest virtue. A higher virtue is responsibility. So with emotions, the key question for a self-disciplined leader is "Is this appropriate, and how much should I share."

Thursday, October 04, 2007


This particular post is personal, not policy. You may or may not see yourself in this picture. If you don't relate to this, just say a prayer for me and others like me. On the other hand, consider what I'm about to say carefully, and if the shoe fits, wear it.

A military official was recently giving an update on the number of enemy combatants killed in Iraq. When quizzed about the accuracy of the total, he commented that in Iraq, unlike in Vietnam, there is no pressure to inflate the numbers. That got me to thinking about numbers, counting, pressure and inflation. Assuming the difference is accurate; I'd rather see the CTK story be like Iraq, instead of Vietnam.

You've probably heard the adage "We count people because people count." I used to say that a lot when I was on the "bigger is better" treadmill. On the surface of it, it seems like an innocent enough comment. All I can say is that over the years that comment, and the attendant expectations, did stuff inside of me that was not good. I became enamored with numbers. Was the budget going up? At what rate? Was attendance climbing? At what rate? At what point could we anticipate hitting the next "target" in terms of budget or attendance? I was hooked on "nickels and noses." Excel spreadsheets were my drug of choice.

It took me years to do it, but I am now clean and sober. I don't do numbers any more. In fact, I don't even count (more on that later). As I look back on it, there are several challenges that come with counting:

1. Scoreboard watching. You might be a better man or woman than me, but when I was counting I found it very difficult to keep my eyes on the ball instead of the scoreboard. Even though God had called me to be a leader, and not an accountant, my fantasies quickly became about crowds instead of conversions. I would daydream about hitting impersonal numerical targets, instead of seeing God work miracles on a personal level, and massive scale.

2. Showtime mentality. When I was in search of a packed house, I was in search of methods that would lead to a packed house. Subtle shifts occurred in my presentation. I started getting "gimmicky." I was looking for the "program of the month." I started tinkering with the message; everything from watering it down, to making it "user friendly," to avoiding some topics altogether. We are here to love people, not entertain them. Entertainment is somebody else's job. Our job is to make it difficult for people to go to hell.

3. Short-sightedness. When you are watching numbers weekly, you tend to shorten your focal length to weekly. How do we get attendance to go up, instead of down, from week to week? This weekliness often gets in the way of thinking more long-term about strategies that lead to spiritual transformation on a grand scale. If we are not careful we can win the battle (short-term numerical growth), and lose the war (long- term sustainable replication).

4. Ego fluctuations. When you tie your sense of well- being to "the count" you are in for a wild ride. Weeks with a "packed house" will be inexplicably followed by weeks where you could have an usher roll a bowling ball through the place and not hit anybody. As I have gotten away from tracking the whims of attendance, I find that my self-image is not nearly as battered. I can actually enjoy the weeks where there are fewer people as much as I enjoy the weeks when there are more.

5. Holding on to people. When I was a counter I tended to be overly concerned about criticism when it arose. My modus operandi was to try to "solve" problems with people and "keep" them in the church (i.e. as part of the count). At times I bent over backwards trying to make conflicted relationships "work." What drove this? Looking back, I'd have to say my addiction to numbers. Now that I'm off the juice, I am much more inclined to look someone in the face and say, "I think you better find another church." So don't cross me. (That was a joke.)

6. Unclear definition of success. I know that this doesn't set well in the western "success obsessed" culture, but God is calling us to be faithful, not successful. Whether I wanted to admit it at the time or not, the counting was about me, not Him; it was about my kingdom, not His Kingdom.

7. Diminishing returns. As an organization grows it encounters the "law of large numbers." The law of large numbers says that as an organization grows, its rate of growth tends to diminish. This is a frustrating reality, but a reality nonetheless. I am convinced that also accounts for a certain percentage of pastoral "flame outs" (count me in at this point). When a ministry reaches a numerical saturation point, a pastor who is "using" numbers may act out by becoming frustrated and leaving, or looking for another "fix." I personally wonder how many of the high profile crash-and-burns we've witnessed in America involved a number-crunching-approval- addict.

8. Too much emphasis on people coming instead of going. If you are a "counter" you don't have too much incentive to send out teams of leaders to launch small groups and Worship Centers in adjacent communities. The minute those people go "out" your numbers are going to go "down." There have been several times in my ministry at CTK where "attendance" in the location I was pastoring went "backwards" after launching a new Center in an adjacent town. On one occasion we went from having three services to two - not exactly a stellar feeling if you're into feelings. I'm glad that I didn't let that stop us. It was short-term pain for long-term gain.

9. Unhealthy comparison. Hand in hand with counting is comparison. Paul said that it is not wise to compare ourselves with ourselves, but this is precisely what can happen when you start counting. Is my church bigger than yours? Is my church growing faster than yours? These the wrong questions of course, but like a bad episode of Jeopardy they are the ones we get when the answer is "Numbers."

10. Tendency toward exaggeration. This gets back to the statement by the military official and the pressure to exaggerate. In the church world the code words are "evangelistically speaking." One leading denomination found that nearly all of the churches that reported numbers were exaggerating. Think about that. What good is counting really doing? Reality is what it is, no matter what number you put on a piece of paper. But there's a new reality being created by the system - one of posing, impression management and dishonesty. I'm pretty certain that this is not what the Lord is reaching for.

So, all of that to say, I don't count anymore. Not that I never count, never have, or never will. Just that I don't make a habit out of it, and I can't actually remember the last time I did it. I think most of the other leaders in the CTK story can vouch for the fact that I am not a "numbers guy." At CTK we do no use attendance numbers to track progress. We don't even have attendance numbers to track progress. And from my perspective we don't need attendance numbers to track progress.

Is "not counting" a CTK policy? No, I would call this a personal preference of Dave Browning. You say potato (long a), I say potato (short a). If you can do a regular count, and circumvent 1-8 above, more power to you. In fact, I wish I were you. (Character defects always leave you with less options, instead of more. As Paul said, something may be permissible but you can't be mastered by it.) If you would like to do a weekly attendance count, you may. I'm just saying that I don't, and I'm not asking anyone else to. I know from personal experience that counting, for the wrong person, can be an addictive agent.


Let me clarify a few things about my "problem":

1. I do not have a problem with large numbers of people coming to Christ in general or coming to CTK in particular. I am absolutely not against even extremely large numbers of people entering Christ's kingdom. I am giving my life away for just such a dream.

2. I do not have a problem with mega-churches wanting to reach large numbers of people. I share this in common with the corporate mega-church. In fact my only difference with mega-churches on this point is in method. While the corporate mega-church has become good at being big and centralized, we are trying to become good at being small and decentralized. We are both trying to reach large numbers of people, just in different ways. I would actually like to see CTK reach an unlimited number of people, more that we could ever accommodate in any one place. This is actually one of the reasons I want to be a part of a movement, instead of a ministry. In a movement you don't get the privilege of counting, because too many people are coming to the Lord in too many places.

3. I do not have a problem with church growth. I am trying to see it on every hand. What I am against is my own tendency to get caught up in the numbers, instead of the people. What I am against is my own propensity to get wrapped up in building my kingdom instead of His. This is a problem with my relationship to the numbers, not the numbers per se (In the same way that you might say that the problem for an alcoholic is not the alcohol, but the alcoholics lack of sobriety in relationship to alcohol.) I had to give up counting, because it fueled a desire for numbers that, in me, was not healthy.


Ok, now for some push back, because the schizophrenic is me has some questions -

How will we know what's going on if we don't have a numerical reference point?

Very easily. We'll look and listen. We'll employ "soft" skills. We'll ask questions like "How is it going?" We'll ask the Lord that question. Numbers are "a" way to know something, but not "the" way. At the end we are going to stand before the Lord and He is going to evaluate us on our work for Him. As near as I can tell, He's not going to be holding our excel spreadsheets in His hand when He does so. The key words on that day will be "good" and "faithful."

Won't we miss out knowing there are problems brewing if we don't do a regular count?

Again, numbers are one way to knowing there are problems, but certainly not the only way. Many couples have gotten a divorce without ever having numerical justification for it. In fact, I think a lot of problems in the church have gone undiagnosed precisely because "the numbers were good." When people are coming and the budget is growing we tend to overlook the fact that the pastor is arrogant, or that people do not evidence the fruit of the spirit, or that the community around us is going to hell in a hand basket. I attended a conference a couple years ago led by a prominent evangelical leader who kept telling us about how great (numerically) his ministry was. I, and many of us who were there, had an unsettled feeling. Shortly after that, this person was on the front page of every newspaper in the country, and not for good reasons. I was sad, but I wasn't surprised. I think this was a classic case of the numbers keeping us from seeing problems, instead of revealing them.

If we don't have a numerical reference point how can we know if we are being successful?

Again, I think it's possible to "just know." The best type of "success" you can feel is when you are in harmony with God's purposes for your life and ministry. That is a standard that is met internally, not externally. I would question any definition of success that does not come from inside out.

Don't numbers prove valuable in seeing trends and patterns?

Yes, they do. The question I have had to ask myself is whether this value is greater than the risk that attends it. For myself, the answer has been no. I have probably missed out on some insights along the way by not counting, but the payoff for me spiritually and emotionally has been there, so I'm not disappointed about what I've missed.

Why do many churches take a count?

Because (and I bet you see this coming) "we've always done it that way." At CTK we have been given a clean piece of paper, so we don't have to do what others do, or have done. We are trying to stay focused on what Christ has called us to be and do, and in this story counting is not required. By the way, there is no correlation between counting, and growing. Some of the deadest churches in America take a count every week. Growth is a result of health. Health is the result of the right things being present in the environment.

How do you answer people when they ask "How many people are involved at CTK?"

I'm usually left with either saying, "I'm not sure" or giving some kind of range, or ball-park estimate. I have a general idea of what is going on, I just don't have hard numbers to back up my notions. All I have is anecdotal evidence (how many programs we print, how many chairs we put out, etc.) Do I need hard numbers? Evidently not. I can't think of any "need" right now for exact numbers, except to satisfy something dark inside of me that, frankly, needs to feel quite dissatisfied.

If we follow your logic to an extreme wouldn't we get rid of budgets and financial reports?

Yes, but I'm not asking anyone to follow my logic to an extreme. There's a balance that needs to be kept here. I'm not saying you should never count anything, anywhere, for any reason. I'm just saying that the weekly numbers race (around attendance) didn't work out well for me, and I'm glad I moved away from that.


At CTK do any numbers matter? Yes. Here is something I wrote a couple years ago, called Numbers that Matter:

There is an old saying: "We count people, because people count." This is usually applied to taking attendance at weekend worship services. But in the CTK context, there are other numbers that matter to us more:

The number of unchurched people.
The number of lost people in your service area constitutes whether or not you are "winning the war." To determine this number, contact the churches in your area and ask them what their high attendance was in the past year. Add up those figures and subtract from the area population. This is your target audience. This means that a church of 300 in a town of 1000 is making a bigger dent in the universe than a church of 1000 in a town of a million.

The number of baptisms.
Baptism is the primary biblical method for indicating conversion. Record the number of baptisms each year so that you can take your evangelistic temperature. A good goal would be to have an increasing number of baptisms each year.

The number of small groups.
The number of small groups determines capacity. To know if you have healthy group life, take the total weekend attendance and divide by 14. Why 14? First divide in half (to account for children and those who will never be involved in a group). Then divide that number by 7 (an average group size). A Worship Center of 100 people should have at least 7 small groups (100/2 =50/7=7).


An excerpt from Deliberate Simplicity that expands on point 6. above:

It is paradoxical that the high growth that all pastors want to achieve produces mass and weight, which in turn produces a growing bureaucracy and slower growth. With greater size, complexity grows, and the "lethargy of large numbers" kicks in.

High growth gets you size. And the passage of time gets you new leaders. The new leaders are almost always professional managers. These subtle shifts in size and leadership produce a new set of objectives. Presto! Planning, streamlining, and controlling the enterprise become the new order. Managing this and that become more important than making this and selling that. The highest-paid jobs become managing other managers. Meetings, reports, and bureaucracy proliferate on every front. And, slowly but surely, lost in the shuffle are the simple, entrepreneurial basics that got you going in the first place.

- Larry C. Farrell, The Entrepreneurial Age

Unfortunately, companies that become large and successful find that maintaining growth becomes progressively more difficult. Numerous studies of company growth statistics have shown that rates diminish swiftly as firms grow in size. Large companies don't experience the dizzying rush of growth that characterizes the first few years. Newer companies grow faster. Smaller companies grow faster. The larger the company, the slower it grows. What emerged from the data is that the factor determining how fast a company grows is its size and little else.

Economists subscribe to the theory that "nothing grows to the sky." In other words, no one group can satisfy all demand, because multiple groups can do so much more efficiently. It is better to have small modules of production capacity than a single, high- volume line. This is congruent with my experience in church growth. To achieve a growth rate of 25% when you are a church of eighty means that you reach out to twenty more people, and grow to a hundred. To grow at 25% when you are a church of two thousand means reaching five hundred more people. Both can be done, but the smaller scenario is often more "doable."

The Rule of 150 says that congregants of a rapidly expanding church, banking on the epidemic spread of shared ideals needs to be particularly cognizant of the perils of bigness. Crossing the 150 line is a small change that can make a big difference.

- Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point

As organizations grow there begin to be structural impediments to the ability of the group to agree and act with one voice. Synchronization of logistics and promotions becomes much more difficult. Lead times become so great that often people choose to "leave well enough alone" rather than go through a laborious process to bring about a complex change.

Friday, September 21, 2007


My world is not the same as it used to be. It's a lot bigger in some ways, and a lot smaller in other ways. Just when I was getting my head around being a multi-site church, CTK became a multi-national church, with branches developing rapidly in far off places like India and Africa. Virtually overnight the complexion of CTK has changed, from being a northwest-Washington-funky-USA-church-in-more-than-one-place-kind-of-thing, to being a world-wide-multi-ethnic-multi-racial-mini-movement-kind-of-thing. As has typically been the case, I am trying to get my thoughts to catch up to what God is doing in this story. But this time, the shifts are huge, and we all have to get our heads around them.

1. Shift in demographics. CTK began in rurban communities like Mount Vernon, Washington. By rurban I mean a blend between rural and urban. Mount Vernon is not exactly rural, but it's close. It is surrounded by fields and farms. Mount Vernon is not exactly urban, but it's close. The number one employer in the area is Boeing and many residents drive more than an hour to work in the city of Seattle. Now the CTK story is more prevalent in densely populated urban areas like Johannesberg, South Africa or Nairobi, Kenya, or Secundarabad, India. While we used to talk about small groups spreading from community to community, we now talk about small groups spreading from complex to complex.

2. Shift in funding. Over the years, the outreach of CTK has been funded in a fairly typical way. Folks who have been attending one of our Worship Centers in Washington State have given their tithes and offerings, and these funds have been used to support full-time pastors, and to "pay it forward" to support new works in neighboring communities. Now far more of our pastors are self-supported, or serve voluntarily. In more places than not, resources are scarce or non-existent. Yet the message is going out with more velocity and power than ever before. Obviously, money is not as critical to the spread of Christ's kingdom as we might have thought.

3. Shift in color. Ok, I know. White is not a color. It's the absence of color. But it has been what we've been working with. Actually, we've been looking at a very pasty shade of white, because of the consistent cloud cover over the Pacific Northwest. Now, all of sudden, there is a lot of color in the CTK story; shades of tan, brown and black. If you are white, you are now in a minority in the CTK story. I think we're all going to enjoy the palette of colors with which God is working.

4. Shift in language. Last week, the CTK mission, vision and value statements were translated for the first time into French for a new leader in Ivory Coast. This is the sort of thing we're going to be doing a lot more of. There are now CTK small groups and Worship Centers in a variety of languages, and the variety is only going to increase. English is still the business language of the world, but in some countries in which CTK is moving, there are hundreds of tribal languages being spoken. Translation is going to be a major enterprise going forward.

5. Shift in social architecture. For years, it has been my prayer that we would have more people convened in small groups in any given week than who attend one of our worship services. More "house to house" than "temple courts." Frankly, just when I had started to give up on this dream ever happening in my corner of the world, God showed up and radically altered the playing field. While in America we seem to be in a rush to "go public" in many third world countries small groups are being planted with no immediate plans to convene in a public space. They are validating what I have preached all along: the small group IS the church.

Why is God taking our story overseas? I'm not sure. But I'm fairly certain that the answer has to do more with what God is wanting to teach us, than with what God is wanting to teach them.