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 time....to 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.....