Wednesday, November 26, 2008


CTK is a populist movement. The DNA is being carried by real people in real places. This is precisely what we want to see. We want EVERYBODY to embody the values that mean so much to us. But make no mistake. The values will not be carried by EVERYBODY unless SOMEBODY carries them first. If SOMEBODY doesn't embody the values, NOBODY will. Great ministries are always a team effort. But at the point of the spear is one person, the embodiment of what that ministry is about. For instance.

Focus on the Family...James Dobson, the founder, immediately comes to mind when you think of this ministry. But not just because he's the founder. You think of him because he personally represents conservative family values. He embodies what the ministry is about.

Campus Crusade...Well, you can't think about Crusade without thinking about Bill Bright. Bill was the outgoing personality who would go anywhere to anyone to share Christ. Guess what? Crusade is still doing that.

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association...Ok. This one's too easy. But certainly, Billy Graham personally embodies evangelism.

If you show me a group with a strong culture of sacrifice and service, I'll show you someone - a leader - who represents those values, who embodies them, if you will. If you show me a team on a mission, I'll show you a captain or coach on a mission. He doesn't just talk about the mission, he exemplifies missional behavior in what he does, and who he is. We have to hemorrhage if we want our people to bleed.

In the CTK story, the pastor is charged with being the SOMEBODY who embodies the mission, so that EVERYBODY can. If he doesn't, don't expect the body to go beyond their leader. The pace of the leader is the pace of the team. Everything rises and falls with leadership.

As a leader in the CTK story, what should you embody?

1. A life of community. Small groups are the basic building block of our church. Everyone in leadership should be in one, not just so that they can say they are in one, but so that they can be fully immersed in community, just like everyone else. It does us no good to have a leader in our story talk about relationships, and then have none.

2. A life of devotion. We say that we want to have worship be our lifestyle. Are you the person who regularly calls the group to prayer, or redirects folks back to the word? Do you spend time in solitude with Jesus? If you behave like Martha, you won't inspire very many Marys, no matter how hard you preach.

3. A life of mission. Do lost people matter to you? Deeply? People can tell if you are content with "us four, no more." When was the last time you reached out personally to someone who needed Jesus? You can't spend all your time with Christians and have people believe that you are all about lost people. It just won't work.

Vision leaks. The second law of thermodynamics states that things tend to go from order to disorder. This is a tendency that can be bucked, however. It doesn't have to go this way. It just usually does. And it definitely does without the intervention of a leader who says, "No, we're not going there....we're going here." And then (and this is critical) he himself takes off in the stated direction, looks over his shoulder and says, "You guys are coming, right?"

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


How does the kingdom expand? How does a church grow? How do you conduct a staff meeting? How do you share your faith? How do you do youth ministry? The questions are straightforward. The answers not so much. As near as I can tell, the answer is: "It depends."

I was recently at a conference where I and two other pastors of "multi-site" churches told our stories. We were each chosen because we represented slightly different approaches to being one church in many locations. Backstage, prior to one of the sessions, someone commented on how cool it was that three different churches, with three different styles, could come together in one conference. I jokingly quipped, "But aren't we really here to find out which approach is right?" There was nervous laughter because we all knew that much of sordid church history has been in the quest "to find the one right way."

It's about time we realize that there is not "a right way," there are just "right ways." In order to reach people that no one is reaching you may have to do things that no one is doing. In order to do things that no one else is doing, you can’t do what everyone else is doing. God is not formulaic in his approach. One of the reasons we have so many differences in the body of Christ is that God's ways (plural, remember?) are personal and profound, mysterious and multi-faceted. Just when we think we have Him figured out, the pillar of fire and cloud moves. The sooner we get our heads around ways instead of way, the more enjoyment we will find in the way that God is at work in our ministry, and others'.

Just because God is at work in a certain way in someone's story doesn't mean He wants to work that way in yours. Both Joseph and Moses had very similar experiences, with very different conclusions. They both were raised in Egyptian royal households. Both rose to positions of prominence, and had potential for significant power. In Joseph's case, the power was part of the plan that God had for him. In Moses' case, he needed to shun that power to follow God's script. It's a good thing they followed what God had in mind for them, and didn't copy what they had read in a Christian magazine.

Friday, November 14, 2008


A lot of lines are being blurred in our culture today. During the last election cycle in the USA we saw that people were a lot less interested in voting along party lines, for instance. Convenient categories like "Democrat" and "Republican" are giving way to "Independent." When people are asked their ethnicity(Caucasian, Black, Hispanic, Asian, etc.), over 30% now check "other." Even our president is not so easily defined. This has implications for ministry.

1. Scrub your stereotypes. Depending on your upbringing, you may be bringing slight to extreme stereotypes with you into ministry. Check them at the door. If you feel that certain people groups are a certain way, you need to realize the magnificent spectrum that is presented to us in the real world. You cannot tell a book by its cover. Get to know people and their unique stories. Jesus showed us how with the Samaritan woman.

2. Make it personal. It used to be that a pastor spoke primarily to families, and then secondarily to single people. Today, relationships are much more complicated. People have blended families, multiple families, broken families, no family. And single may mean "divorced," or "cohabitating" or "gay." Consequently, effective communicators do not assume that they are talking to Ward, June and Beaver Cleaver. Narrow your focus to the individual.

3. Expand your categories. When we are speaking you need to present a broader and more inclusive list of categories. For instance, you are probably talking in front of people who are suicidal, trapped in drug abuse, white collar criminals, etc. So if you say, "You might be here and be discouraged" you lose credibility, because people are thinking "That's the least of it!" If you don't get a broader list of categories, folks will put you in one: "Out of touch with reality."

4. Diversify your team. Do you have minorities on your leadership team? On your worship team? In your ministry? If not, you won't look very inclusive, even if you are. Do your best to think outside the box, particularly if the box is "people who are a lot like me."

5. Target new audiences. Are you reaching out to the people in your community, or just one variety of people in your community? Strategize about reaching other people groups. As a result of prayer God may place a burden on your heart for people of differing geography, ethnicity or socio-economic status. If you don't know how to reach them, maybe invite them for dinner and go from there.

With spiritual eyes we see that there are not classes of people, there are only people, like you and like me. People who are in need of a savior.

Monday, November 10, 2008


We have a choice. We can either dominate the culture or infiltrate the culture. Over the centuries the church has tried both approaches, with very different results.

After periods in which the church has tried to dominate the culture, the world has experienced dark ages. After periods in which the church has tried to infiltrate the culture, the world has experienced great awakenings.

One of the reasons the church in America has struggled spiritually in the past generation is that we have been the home team, dominating the culture. We haven't transformed the spiritual landscape, we've just gotten our way. We have depended on the government to protect our ability to exist. We may have passed the legislation, or gotten the courts to rule on "our side," but we haven't changed people's hearts on the matter. We have used power to control the culture, instead of influence to create a culture. Meanwhile evil has been seething underneath the surface, and as the old saying goes, "Payback is a bummer."

In all likelihood, American culture is about to get outright hostile toward matters of faith and Christianity. This is only a problem to us if we are trying to maintain our power position. This is only disconcerting if we perceive this to be a game with a winner and a loser. If, on the other hand, our goal is to infiltrate it won't be bad for us to be "underground." Not bad at all.

In the darkest of night even the smallest of lights shines bright. Many modern-day movements of God are taking place in hostile environments. The church in China, for instance, now numbers hundreds of millions. Could it be that the church thrives under persecution precisely because the hostility makes only infiltration possible?

So....we can dominate or infiltrate. I wonder which Jesus wants us to do?

Thursday, November 06, 2008


A friend of mine asked me if I had noticed the difference between the television ads for Macintosh and Microsoft. I told him I hadn't really paid attention, except that I'm a Mac fan and have found their "I'm a Mac....I'm a PC" ads pretty clever. He agreed with me that the Mac ads are killing the PC ads in popularity, and then he asked me a pretty good question. "Which ad is substance, and which ad is style?" I had to admit that the Mac ad is really all about style. A cool looking and acting actor (Mac guy) is pitted against a backward looking and acting actor (PC guy). The Mac guy seems totally relaxed and helpful. The PC guy is never quite at ease, seems scattered, self-absorbed and stupid. But there really isn't much in these ads about the actual difference between using a Macintosh computer or a PC. From watching these Mac ads you just come away with a feeling (not really much in the way of facts) that points you to the Mac as the "better" choice. What does this say about the culture we're in?

Prior to the presidential election a high school teacher I know gave his class a paper with the political positions of the two candidates presented side by side. At the top of the page was simply "Candidate A" and "Candidate B." Based on the positions the men took, the class favored Candidate A. The teacher then asked whether the class was voting for Senator Obama or McCain. This particular group of High Schoolers was overwhelmingly for Obama. Why? They said he was "young" and "has fresh ideas" and they "liked him better." They were shocked to find out that he was Candidate B. They were "for" him, not based on substance, but style.

Also, be aware that if you present a substantive idea, and expect people to get it "based on the merits," you'll be seriously disappointed. As a Christian leader, don't assume the people you're leading are thinking deeply about what really matters. They probably aren't. So for the time being, unless you are politically savvy enough to run a good campaign, you can expect defeat. Most pastors I know have ideas that are good to great. Many times those great ideas are dead on arrival because the pastor has assumed that people will think as deeply about the issue as s/he has, and they have not learned the importance of building a coalition, selling the sizzle, and answering the question that people keep asking (even if we wish they weren't): "What's in it for me?" This is not a Jesus question, of course, and never will be. But who's job is it to get people asking better, more noble, questions? Yup.

There is no question that people today lack critical thinking skills. This can either be extremely discouraging to you (it often is for me), or it can challenge you "get after it" and to teach people to think. Not what to think. How to think.

Friday, October 31, 2008


I'm not sure that bigger is better. But I'm not convinced it's all bad, either. As I've thought about size, particularly the size of congregations, my thoughts have evolved in the following progression.

1. Big is wrong. This was what I thought when I was a kid growing up in a (small) fundamentalist church. I was pretty certain that if it was big it must not be gospel-preaching. They must be watering it down. Because if they were preaching the fire and brimstone we were they would be small like us.

2. Big is amazing. This was what I though as a teenager when I encountered the Anchorage Baptist Temple. My first exposure to the mega church left me with my jaw dropped. This was a church that didn't have hundreds of people attending each week, but thousands. They had the biggest choir I had ever seen. They brought people in on buses from around the city. Something seemed wrong about it, but I couldn't figure out what it was. They were preaching the gospel, even throwing in some occasional fire and brimstone, but they were drawing a crowd.

3. Big is the goal. As I made my way through seminary I decided that there was really no point in pastoring unless I was going to do it in a big way, with a big church. As a youth pastor in a dying denominational church, I chafed under the short-sitedness of the leadership. As a young (too young really) senior pastor I got my hands on every book I could find about church growth. I attended every seminar I could find. I made my pilgrimage to Willow Creek. I enrolled in a Doctoral Program at Overlake Christian Church, the largest church in the Northwest at the time. I started to work the angles to "grow my church." My church did indeed grew, but I didn't, and I left that church, and the ministry for that matter, fairly disillusioned. The church had never been bigger. I had never been smaller. My pursuit of big was about me, not Him.

4. Big is easier. When I returned to church (as a wounded soul on the back row of Christ the King Church in Laurel, Washington), CTK was clustering in two campuses and five services. The vibe was cool and chaotic, but meeting in two different places was obviously hard on the staff. Shortly after I joined the staff we consolidated everything and everybody into a larger building. This wasn't my idea necessarily, but I was a team player. The consolidation made things easier, but not necessarily better. We lost something in the transition that we could never get back. Our sense of community and widespread personal involvement gave way to professionalism and crowd management. This seemed like a bad trade to me.

5. Big is bad. When I launched out on my own, and started CTK in Mount Vernon, I spoke highly of meeting in smaller congregations. I told the story of CTK meeting in multiple locations and services. I said, "We're not going to ask everyone to come to us, we are going to ask us to go to them." I had come to the conclusion that more was better than bigger. In an effort to make my case, I probably overstated the badness of bigness, probably because I was questioning bigness as the accepted measure of success. I started asking questions like "Isn't the goal to reach a community, instead of build a church? At times when it seemed like no one was listening, I turned up the volume, and then backed that up with some action. As CTK in Mount Vernon grew we "spun off" groups of people in six neighboring towns. But at the same time, Mount Vernon continued to grow bigger as well, and to this day is our biggest Worship Center.

6. Big is big...and that can be both good and bad. Lately, I've come to a more tempered view of bigness. I don't think bigness is as great as people have made it out to be, but I think there are worse things happening in the world, as well. I've been thinking that the relative merits of bigness depend on the answer to some questions:

Are people being treated personally, or like cattle? Call me old-fashioned, but is it possible for a person to actually meet the pastor? I've encountered staff members of large churches who have never met the pastor there. Modernity has given us these constructs and called it good. It seems to me that the church of Jesus Christ should be a little more personal than that.

Are people becoming passive? Crowds tend toward people sitting around, listening, taking notes and going home. We don't want this, and we don't get as much of it in smaller congregations. But it is possible for a larger congregation to have high participation in small groups and mitigate this tendency. The key word is "possible" since most mega churches don't quite get there - it's just too hard to get people from sitting on their hands.

Are we staying or going? Are the arrows pointing in or out? Jesus' instructions were clear: Go. There is a tendency, as groups become more established, to just start another staff-driven program and try to get more people to come to us. This is not a good development, for the community or us. Bigness tends to squash or slow the entrepreneurial spirit. Smallness keeps you nimble. On the other hand, the resources that you need to launch often come out of bigness. Maybe there's a sweet spot here, where we can be big enough to spawn, but small enough to do it quickly.

How do small and big relate to each other? Is small in service to the big, or is big in service to the small? This may end up being the most fundamental philosophical question to discern whether bigness is virtuous or not. What we have tended to see in evangelicalism is the small in service to the big. What is more virtuous is for the big to be in service to the small. In an organic system you will see bigness. For instance, in a forest you might find some extremely large trees. And there are some smaller flora and fauna that can only survive in the shade of that tree. So maybe its not whether it's big or small, but what is ultimately valued and protected.

God bless you,

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


You can do a lot worse than follow Jesus. This applies not just to our beliefs but our practices. Like, how do you startup a new ministry? How about the answer, "Like Jesus told us to!" Here's Mark 6:7-10: Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits. These were his instructions: "Take nothing for the journey except a staff-no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra tunic. Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them." Embedded in His instructions are some key ideas about starting a new ministry: 1. Build a Team. Notice that Jesus never asked anyone to "go it alone." If He had, there could have been 12 ministries, instead of 6. But Jesus knew that it would be better to have 6 strong and steady ministries, than 12 anemic discouraged ones. 2. Go with Empty Hands. While Jesus encouraged us to take people with us, he discouraged (demanded, really) that we not take stuff, not even essentials like food or a change of clothes. Why? He wants us to be in a position of vulnerability with people, not strength, where we need them as much or more than they need us. This is contrary to many church planters who want to be "fully prepared" before deploying. 3. Establish a Base of Operations. Jesus said, once you find a place of operational support, stop there, and instead of you continuing on, let that be a place from which the mission can be propagated. 4. Move out from there. How long do you stay at the base? Jesus said, "Until you leave that town." It's not if you'll leave, but when. The commission is not to stay, but to go. Jesus made the sequence clear: Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, the ends of the earth. Going means leaving behind a place of comfort for a place of challenge. But leaving behind a legacy as well - the presence of Christ, and fewer evil spirits.


Happy is found somewhere between not enough and too much. There's a sweet spot in life - a place where you find flow in your life and ministry. It's not a place of extreme. It's a place of balance. It's a place of health and proportion. It's "the comfort zone" between too cold and too hot.

This principle might apply to:

Your communication. The ideal message has enough content to satisfy, but not so much as to leave the listener feeling stuffed. Are your memos too long? Are your messages portion-controlled? Less is sometimes more when it comes to getting a message across, but you need enough illustration to make the message clear.

Your creativity. Are you feeling harried? Are you on the go constantly? You can only borrow from tomorrow's energy for awhile before you have to pay it back. The sabbath rhythm of six parts work, one part rest should be followed religiously. There's a balance there. Too little time away can leave you feeling worn out, negatively impacting creativity. Too much time away can leave you feeling lethargic instead of relaxed, negatively impacting creativity. What is the balance that leaves you happy?

Your work. Are your colleagues getting enough time with you? Too much? There's a balance here. Too many meetings and the work suffers from a lack of time to do it. Too few meetings and the work suffers from a lack of answers to the questions that predictably arise. Groups that are happy have the right balance between time together and time apart.

One way to find out whether you are in a "happy place" is to ask. People around you (like your spouse) will probably be able to see your lack of balance before you do.


Goals are a tricky thing. It is easy to succumb to extremes, and in either direction. You can become goal-driven, or goal- deprived. Neither is ideal or healthy.

I spent the first third of my life being goal-driven. This was reinforced for me in a private school system where every day I began by filling out my "goal chart." A goal chart is not a bad thing, in and of itself. But the way my brokenness "used" the chart (I know this is the language of addiction) was I became very driven to achieve and accomplish. Indeed, by setting and reaching goals I graduated from high school a year early, and from college at the top of my class. The driveness didn't cease until the wheels fell off my life in my early 30s. My excessive goal orientation was an accomplice in my demise.

On the other extreme, the extreme lack of goals is not particularly virtuous either. God has created us with capacity to look into the future, set goals for ourselves, and organize our lives in such a way to achieve them. The Apostle Paul was "pressing toward the mark." To never put this capacity in motion is just as problematic as the overuse of this capacity.

Goals are necessary, but should be balanced with a clear reliance upon God. Jesus prayed, "Not my will, but yours be done." Solomon wrote, "In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps." There is a balance here. We plan, but we also submit. We plan, but we also bend the knee.

How can you make goals a healthy part of your life? First, I would say, "Have some." If you don't have any goals for yourself, or your ministry, I would take out a piece of paper and write "Goals for myself and my ministry." Then I would get away with God and ask him to help you write some goals.

Second, I would take the list and put it in a place where you'll see it. Maybe place the list on your computer desktop, or on the wall near your desk.

Third, I would break your goals down into actionable steps, and put the steps on your to-do list. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Even a very large goal can be accomplished if you break it down sufficiently.

Fourth, I would transfer the steps from your to-do list to your calendar. Start putting actionable items in your schedule that get you taking steps your toward your goals.

Fifth, review your progress regularly. Put on your calendar times of self-review, where you can take readings on where you are at, and where you need to go.


How is the church supposed to behave? Different people may answer that in different ways, but I like to take my cues from what I read about the church in Acts 2....

Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

While this passage is more descriptive than proscriptive, there are nevertheless some takeaways for us. Looking back to the first century, you see how the early church behaved:

1. Daily. The early church was a not a weekend or Sunday event, but an every day adventure. The gatherings were "every day" and the outreach was "daily."

2. Relationally. The church was growing rapidly and people were getting their needs met. How? Was the church developing a program or a department to meet the needs? No, believers simply noticed that their brother had a need and responded to it. Organically. Relationally.

3. Informally. The church did not meet in church buildings or auditoriums, but in living rooms, dining rooms and outdoor public spaces. One of the key things you see them doing is eating together. Meals are a great vehicle for fellowship and community.

4. Cellularly. The first century church met in different places, at different times. There is actually not a clear indication that everyone ever gathered in the same place at the same time. In all likelihood, the Jerusalem church grew to over 10,000 people in the first week, and we know that the temple courts could not accommodate that big of a crowd. So the early church was one church meeting in multiple locations, with multiple teachers (apostles, plural).

5. Joyfully. The first church was a happy experience. Words like glad, sincere, praying, enjoying speak to the fact that they were a happy group.

So, just to review. How does the church behave? Daily, Relationally, Informally, Cellularly, Joyfully. Who doesn't want to be a part of something like that?


If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.

Have you seen some things being done badly in your ministry lately? If so, it might be a good sign! Not everyone would agree with me, of course. And that's not something you hear in seminary every day, for sure! But listen to G.K. Chesterton's explanation: "It is a good sign in a nation when things are done badly. It shows that all the people are doing them. And it is bad sign in a nation when such things are done very well, for it shows that only a few experts and eccentrics are doing them, and that the nation is merely looking on." Now read that quote again and substitute the word "church" for "nation":

"It is a good sign in a church when things are done badly. It shows that all the people are doing them. And it is a bad sign in a church when such things are done very well, for it shows that only a few experts and eccentrics are doing them, and that the church is merely looking on."

In most growing and going churches things are not done badly, that's for sure. The emphasis of the attractional church model has been on professional excellence. There is a hired staff doing the ministry, ensuring that it is done right (by "experts and eccentrics"). Professionalism has left the church "merely looking on," instead of as engaged participants. The church growth maxim that quality is the means to quality has ruled out the contributions of millions of believers (that is, except their contribution of money to support the professionals).

I believe that the church is on the front edge of a second reformation. The first reformation placed the word of God into the hands of the people; the second reformation is placing the ministry into the hands of the people. This shift parallels shifts in the culture, where quality is being exchanged for broader participation and diversity.

A good example of this is YouTube. YouTube is not professionally produced television. It is of the people, by the people, for the people. There are hundreds of thousands of contributions coming from average people. Is the quality at the level of Steven Spielberg? Not exactly. YouTube videos are in "the steep part of the curve" in terms of cost and time. But don't underestimate how revolutionary this shift to the amateur is. Ten years ago only professionals could produce a video that could distributed worldwide. Now anyone can do it. Because anyone can do it, anyone does, which leads to exponential growth. When you think about it, everything in our world that is growing exponentially (YouTube, Facebook, Google, etc.) is based on the architecture of participation, not professionalism.

There's a new day coming, where things worth doing are going to be done badly. The first reformation followed the invention of the printing press. The second reformation will follow the invention of the internet.


Is your ministry domesticated? Is it docile, easy to control, and unlikely to cause trouble? Passive, quiet, unassuming, compliant? Have you tamed it?

I hope not.

G.K. Chesterton in his book Orthodoxy, saw Christianity as the wild kingdom: "The more I considered Christianity, the more I found that while it had established a rule and order, the chief aim of that order was to give room for good things to run wild."

Can we have "good things run wild" in the CTK story?

I hope so.

But it won't happen unless, as Chesterton notes, we "give room." Things don't run wild without room. If we cage people, we can't expect them to run. If we control everything, we don't get wildness, we get compliance.

A church, it seems to me, should provide generous fairways on which people can play the game. I have used the phrase "freedom with handrails" to describe the organizational philosophy of CTK. The handrails are our beliefs (doctrinal statement) and our brand (mission, vision, values). As Chesterton noted, there has to be "rule and order." But the chief aim of boundaries is "to give room for good things to run wild."

How do we as leaders give room for good things to run wild? One of the key ways is to repeat four words: "Yes, Sure, You Bet" to people and their "wild" ideas. Caution is acceptable, but you can't lead with it. Caution needs to come later, in the shaping of things. In a wild kingdom our predisposition needs to be "Yes." Then, we come alongside to train and support.

A second key is to highlight ministries that have been started "in the wild." If you constantly promote the "church sponsored" ministries, you send a signal about what you value. If you constantly promote the idea that everyone is a minister and there are a myriad of ways to reach out, you will be amazed at how creative people can be.

A third thing that I think is key is to validate the craziness that ensues when people go wild doing good. Not everyone is going to know what everyone is doing. There may be small groups forming that you don't even know about! Is this good, or bad? It's good! Stand up and say, "The most awesome thing happened this week! Somebody started a ministry without permission! Yahoo!"

If people can't use the word "wild" to describe your ministry, you might need to change that. At the Burlington Worship Center I sensed a little too much domestication setting in, so in a few weeks we are canceling our Sunday morning services and renting the local roller rink for "Roller Church." I think it will send a clear message that we are not here to "do church." We are here to see that good things run wild.


Good leaders pick their battles. In this respect, the founding fathers of America can teach us important lessons.

During their presidencies, both George Washington and John Adams took a path of neutrality in the conflicts between France and England. In fact, the foundation of Washington's foreign policy was the Proclamation of Neutrality (1793) which said that America was going to stay out of the ongoing, hundred year conflict in Europe. Washington declared, "Every true friend to this Country must see and feel that the policy of it is not to embroil ourselves with any nation whatsoever; but to avoid their disputes and politics; and if they will harass one another, to avail ourselves of the neutral conduct we have adopted. Twenty years peace with such an increase in population and resources as we have a right to expect; added to our remote situation from the jarring powers, will in all probability enable us in a just cause to bid defiance to any nation on earth." Clearly, Washington's approach was calculated to allow our fledgling country to become better established, and to keep from squandering precious resources of time and money overseas.

Some have referred to Washington's approach as "the strategy of enlightened procrastination." Sometimes, by not doing anything, you are doing the best thing you can do as a leader.

It is not by accident that CTK is a non-denominational, generic, vanilla evangelical church. It is not by accident that we do not "take a position" on many secondary issues. We have deliberately not entered into many theological skirmishes and debates. We have kept the main thing the main thing. Our only allegiance is to Christ. Our focus is on loving God and people. Neutrality has freed up our time to pursue worship, small groups and outreach as priorities.

There is always a battle of words being fought somewhere in the church world. Be careful to not get sucked in, unless we are talking about an essential doctrine. The energy and time that it will take to engage in a war of words does not give you a return on investment. Remember Augustine's council: "In essential matters unity, in non- essential matters diversity, in all matters charity."

You will occasionally be invited to "join the fray." You will receive letters from organizations that are picking fights with various parts of the body. You will get some emails that tempt you to engage. Remain clear about the ultimate mission. Don't be distracted by lesser concerns.


I was talking with a potential young pastor recently, and the subject turned to teaching. He asked me if I would mind sharing with him how I put a message together. He approached his request very cautiously, almost as if it were a trade secret. Of course I told him about the process I go through each week (which, by the way, I explain in detail in a course through CTK called Connecting the Dots). But one of his key follow-up questions was how I was able to recall various analogies, quotes or illustrations I might use in a message, what I call (TPOV - teachable points of view). I told him, "I don't. " It's all in a file somewhere," and I encouraged him strongly to begin his own filing system.

We are all exposed to plenty of TPOV on a daily basis. They key is capturing this material and filing it in a way that you can access it when you need it. You hear a funny remark on the radio and you think, "I'll have to try to remember that." You hear someone share something from their life and you think "I should probably right that down." You read something in a magazine and you think "Wow, that would work well in a message some day." But unless you write it down and file it, all of these great TPOVs are lost. If, however, you become disciplined about writing and filing these TPOV, you will be richly endowed with plenty of colorful material when you need it.

I have an alphabetical file system by topic. If I read an article about raising difficult kids, I might file that under "Children" or "Parents." I simply write the topic in the margin and pull the page (if a magazine) or photocopy it (if a book). If I don't already have a file by that name, I create one. If I want to cross reference a file, I simple put a 3x5 card in the other file (for example, if I filed the article under Children, I might put a 3x5 card that says "Children" in the Parenting file). Pretty simple really. Over the years, I have built this system to where I know have 16 full file drawer cabinets, A-Z. You can do the same thing. Start now.

Everyone knows Alan Lakein's classic mantra, "Handle each piece of paper only once." Good advice, although if you were to see my desk right now you'd be asking me to practice what I preach. Instead of letting things pile up there are four things that you can do with a piece of paper, that spell FART (this should be memorable):

File it

Act on it

Refer it (give it to someone else)

Toss it

Once you begin to FART you will feel so much better. (If you've read this far and think this is funny, please reply. This will be a good test to see how many people are actually reading this stuff.)

Filing well can give you a big advantage over those who don't. After all, success is not usually found in doing something that no one else can do. It is usually found in doing something anyone can do, but doesn't.


One of the words that I hate to hear in reference to CTK is "church." I wish they wouldn't call us that! I don't want to be a church. I don't want act like a church. And, mostly, I don't want to be associated with what most people think when they hear the word. Church is a bad to many other people in America. The less we act like a church, the better. The less people think of us as a church, the better.

Now, I know that is all pretty weird considering that we are, in fact, a church. And I guess I need to clarify. I'm certainly not afraid of the word as it has been defined by Scripture. But I am down on it as it has been defined by culture. And guess what? The cultural definition is the de facto definition we're working with, or against.

What do people think when they hear church? Here's a few words that come to mind: hypocritical, judgmental, money- oriented, boring - precisely what we are trying hard not to be! Which is why it is music to my ears whenever someone contrasts CTK with a church, and it scares me whenever anyone compares CTK to a church.

Do we have to be called a church to be the church? I don't think so. The early believers were known as "the way" or "the people of the way." The greek ecclesia (translated church) literally means "the called out ones." In Antioch they began to be called "Christians" or "Christ-ones." It wouldn't hurt my feelings if people referred to CTK as "called out ones" or "Christ ones." Just don't call us a church.

If you are a church leader in the CTK story please be on guard for "church creep." Church creep is when we slowly but surely start to behave like any church would. We start using words that churches use. We start developing programs that churches have. We start "acting" like churches act. Remember, if it walks like a dog, talks like a dog, looks like a dog, it's a dog. So to keep from being a church, don't act like one, don't talk like one, and don't look like one.


I love the NCAA basketball tournament. To me, it is the best sporting event in the world. There are typically "Cinderella stories" and unexpected upsets. But if the tournament teaches us anything it is that you must master the basics before you step out and do the unusual. This is a great lesson for us in the church as well.

We often have dreams of "the big moment" where revival breaks out and dozens, if not hundreds, of people accept Christ and are swept into the kingdom. These visions are akin to the kid in the driveway shooting baskets, imagining that he's hitting the game-winning shot with time running out. But one thing is certain: that kid will never get to take that shot unless he masters the fundamentals of dribbling, passing and rebounding. You must master the basics before you step out and do the unusual.

We'd probably all love to have ten new families visiting our Worship Center every week. How are we doing now at following up on the one family that God occasionally sends our way? There's no sense in dreaming of ten until we follow up effectively on one. You must master the basics before you step out and do the unusual.

How well are you handling the basics? Jesus said that we'll get increasing responsibilities when we handle our current responsibilities well. "To him who is faithful in little things, I will give bigger things." Is it possible that God is not giving you a bigger increase in your ministry until you steward better what you've already have been given? You must master the basics before you step out and do the unusual.

In football, championship teams focus on "blocking and tackling." That is, they know they must take care of the fundamental aspects of the game before they get the right to make the big play. There's no sense really in drawing up the big play unless you can be relatively assured that your quarterback will have enough time to make a pass. Likewise, you can come up with the best sermon in the world, but if you don't have some of the basics handled, it won't matter. You must master the basics before you step out and do the unusual.

On the other hand, the team that consistently blocks well now has a foundation on which they can build. When the core is solid, you can take risks. If you do throw a long pass that's incomplete, it's not the end of the world. You can regroup and try again, because you've got a solid foundation. You must master the basics before you step out and do the unusual.


A common concern for church leaders is staff. Just think of how much could get done if we had the staff to do it! There is no question that staffing is important. Everything rises and falls with leadership. As you are building your ministry up, you want to keep expanding the base of leadership that supports it.

Before you begin your quest to build your staff, get clear about the role that staff will play in your ministry. A staff will join you not to do the ministry but to see that the ministry gets done. You want to develop leaders who will develop leaders, not followers. The role of staff in the CTK story is to create and sustain an environment where people can carry out their ministries with minimal obstacles and maximum fulfillment.

Now is the time to start building your staff, before the people arrive who will be served by that staff person. It is common in church circles to think that you need a full-time-equivalent staff person for every 100-150 people. I don't look at it that way. I look at it through the lens of group life. I believe you want a staff person who is going to help develop the next 10 to 15 small groups. That is, they will be working directly with 10 to 15 leaders.

The best place to start in developing a staff is on your knees. This was Jesus' encouragement when he looked out at the ripe harvest, "Pray." What I have found, when I have prayed for staff, is that God has not always brought me the person I thought I needed, but He has always brought me the person I needed.

Pray, then start to identify volunteer directors of small groups, worship, operations, children, youth. I consider these to be "bread and butter" areas that deserve dedicated leadership. (Other directors might include: men, women, recovery, singles, discipleship, etc.). When the time is right for paid staff you will often find candidates from this pool of directors. As the ministry grows, you can graduate volunteers to stipend support (maybe $50-200 per month), then part- time status, and full-time status.

As a rule of thumb, at least 50% of income should go to personnel. Studies have shown that ministries in decline often spend 40-50% on staff, whereas growing ministries spend 50-60%. As a local ministry approaches $100,000 per year income there should be 1-2 stipend staff added to the team. By $150,000 there should be at least one part-time staff person and a couple stipend staff, and by $200,000 a Worship Center should be ready for a second full-time staff person.

There are various ways to support paid staff. Budget growth is the most stable way, but you can also build your staff through special offerings, personal fundraising and bi-vocational ministry. Don't be afraid to sit down with someone that God seems to have given the gifts and graces for ministry and ask, "Is there some way I can get you on my staff?" Where there's a will, there is often a way. leadership and development.

Always be on the lookout for ministry talent. I keep a "little black book" of people that I consider to have promise. I maintain a "wish list" of leadership roles that I would fill if I could. The size of the dream determines the size of the team.


I prefer relevance. I certainly prefer it over irrelevance. Relevance is important. But as important as relevance may be, it is not supremely important. Some churches act like it is the only thing that matters.

A friend of mine who is a pastor was telling me about a new "fast- growing" church that, to some degree, is organized around alcohol. The pastor often wears a shirt advertising an alcohol purveyor. Groups are organized around drinking (some of their groups are called "Beer, food and God" groups). The church offers (and sells out) tours of area breweries and wineries. My friend has a close friend on the staff of the "drinking church" who told him, "I am so excited to be a part of a church that finally gets it!" He's not excited about alcohol, per se, but the fact that the church is so free and relevant.

Having grown up in a very legalistic environment, I can understand longings for freedom and relevance. But freedom for what? Relevant in what ways? To me, the "drinking church" (or cussing church, smoking church, porn church or other attempts at relevance) is a bad idea for several reasons.

1. It is either extremely naive or arrogant to not be in touch with the pain being caused by alcohol in today's society. There are millions of people in America who are waging a life and death struggle with alcohol addiction. They are at risk of losing everything to this disease. In my way of thinking these are precisely the people that Christ would want us to reach. The "drinking church" is unfortunately hostile to them and their recovery. True, folks with drinking issues could go somewhere else, but that leads me to objection number 2.

2. If you make alcohol a litmus test for your ministry you are not going to be "open" for more people, but "closed." You are holding up a "Not Welcome" sign to anyone who is an alcoholic, the child of an alcoholic, the spouse of an alcoholic, or those who love them. That is a fair number of people. Ironic, huh? In an attempt to be friendly you push folks away. If alcohol is lifted up it will draw some men to it, it will push others away. I want the cross only to be an offense...which leads me to objection number 3.

3. Christ has called us to be "other-worldly." We are to be in the world, but not of the world. I am not here to promote the artificial joys of this world. They get enough promotion. I am here to hold up eternal joys. My job is to let people know that there is a transcendent life. When people find the living water, they never thirst again.

4. If you are truly grace-based, you don't need to wear it on your sleeve because it will become obvious in the course of your dealings. In a grace-based environment, lifestyle issues should not get in the way of folks coming to Christ, for sure. But we don't need to be promotional on those issues, either. It is sufficient to say, "Only Christ matters." An analogy I might draw is the sequence of competence :

Unconsciously incompetent
Consciously incompetent
Consciously competent
Unconsciously competent

According to this sequence, you start out being unaware of your incompetence, and you end up being unaware of your competence. When you are in transition from incompetence to competence, you are "consciously" in transition. Here's how this applies: substitute the word relevant for competent. To be consciously relevant is not the highest form of relevance. The highest form is unconscious. When you are working too hard at being relevant, you are working too hard at being relevant.

For centuries the church has struggled with relevance. Now that there is willingness and opportunity to be relevant, let's not swing to the other extreme, and become irrelevant, by having relevance become our message.


Christian leaders fail at an alarming rate. Some studies suggest that 50-63% of all Christian leaders will fall off the rails, and not reach the destination for which they set out. Extensive studies have been done on why this is true. The number one reason: Isolation. Many leaders end up on an island by themselves.

How do we end up so isolated? We get to a point where no one is speaking into our lives - where our relationships are not reciprocal. I read some research on fame that suggested that fame is really just "a disproportionality of outbound to inbound messages." That is, people who are famous send out signals, but don't get pings coming back in their direction. Many, many people know them, but they don't not know very many people. Oprah, for instance, is famous. She is sending out messages to us, but she is not getting many messages back. You've heard from her, but she hasn't heard from you.

Pastors experience this isolating dynamic regularly, even if on a smaller scale. It truly can be lonely at the top. Pastors are known by many people, but often on a surface level. Many times they lack people in their lives with whom they can share on a deeper level, who will respond with grace to what they come to know. Yet people who are not affirmed do not know who they are. Or maybe better, they have a false idea about who they are. In the absence of other's feedback they are left with their own opinion, which is usually, "I'm a jerk."

Now for a story that explains an underlying dynamic that exacerbates the loneliness of leadership. Bill Thrall (author of The Ascent of a Leader) tells a story from the early years of his marriage.

Bill came home one day and could tell from her body language that his wife was not in a good space. She said, "We need to go for a drive, because we need to talk." Bill, who had some active secret-life issues immediately, began to fear that she had somehow found out the truth about him. He quickly began to think through possible alibis and excuses so that he could protect his secret life.

Bill and his wife got in the car and drove quietly to a remote place. When the car was turned off, his wife turned to him and said, "Bill, you need to know that I am not happy. I haven't been happy for awhile. Do you want to know why I'm not happy?" Bill swallowed hard and slowly nodded "Yes." She continued, "Bill, I'm not happy because in this marriage you get to love me, but I don't get to love you. I want to love you but you won't let me. Why won't you let me love you?" Bill reflected on her question, initially relieved that she had not brought to light into specific character defects, until he realized that she had actually pointed out a much deeper issue. Why wasn't he allowing her to love him?

What followed in the conversation was Bill's first foray into honesty and vulnerability. He told her about his extreme need to be liked. He shared his insecurities about his job (he was trained as a CPA but did not feel that he was good with numbers). He disclosed his longstanding addiction to pornography. He took off the mask.

What Bill's story points out so vividly is how basic trust is to love. We cannot experience being loved unless we entrust ourselves to another person. The degree to which we trust another person is the degree to which they can love you.

Here's the challenge for many pastors: we are better at loving than being loved. We want to be the one who loves. It is harder for us to be the one who receives love. But love is not something we do. It's something we experience. Together. This is where we miss something. We need somebody to love AND we need to be loved by somebody.

Strictly speaking, God did not call us to love. He called us to love one another. That's different. The love that God calls us to involves give and take, not just give. It involves entrusting ourselves to EACH OTHER. In order to love well you have to receive love as well as share it.

1 Thessalonians 4:9
"Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other."

1 John 3:11
"This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another."

1 John 4:7
"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Love is the direct response of God's grace in us."

John 13:35
"By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

So to summarize the sequence: Christian leaders fall because of isolation; isolation comes because no one is speaking into the leader's life; no one is speaking into the leader's life because the leader is not trusting anyone with who they are.

The next time you are thinking, "No one loves me," answer this question, "Who are you letting love you?" Have you entrusted yourself (been vulnerable with) God and others?

Oh, and here's the rest of the story for Bill Thrall. He expected, after he shared his dark side with his wife, that she would get out of the car and leave him there. But she didn't. She actually moved toward him. When we are humble it tends to have that effect. God certainly has said that he gives grace to the humble. His invite is, "Draw near to me and I will draw near to you." Vulnerability draws God closer to us, and it tends to have that effect on people too.


Core and Chore. Anyone who works anywhere will experience both.

Core is the stuff that gets you excited about the work. It is the part of the job that resonates deeply with whom you are and how God has wired you (Psalm 139, Ephesians 2). Core is the reason you are doing this! Core is the reason you are alive! It is your calling, your passion, your gifting, and your aptitude.

Chore, on the other hand, is the stuff that needs to get done but doesn't necessarily excite you. It is the part of the job that "needs to get done." Chore is the price you pay for Core. Chore is the paperwork that needs to be filled out, or the mess that needs to be cleaned, or the fundraising that needs to be done (assuming you are not gifted as an administrator, or a servant, or an exhorter, respectively).

One man's Chore is another man's Core. Administration may be a Chore to you if you are not an administrator; but to an administrator administration is Core. This is why we emphasize spiritual gifting and team-building. By surrounding yourself with people who are strong where you are weak, you can focus on your Core, the stuff that gives you energy instead of taking it.

In your work you want to spend more of your time on Core than on Chore. A 60/40 split is a reasonable goal. Sometimes Chore will demand more - something "just needs to get done." But part of self-management is to not allow these times to persist too long.

Everyone needs to get an A on their Core. If you do not spend time developing and working on your core you will soon find any job to be unsavory. With Chore you need to get at least a C. If you do not get a passing grade on Chore, you will end up losing credibility on Core.

In planning your week it is sometimes helpful to "knock the chores out." The strong desire to get to your Core as quickly as possible can be a good motivator to deal efficiently with your Chore. However, if you pursue Core first, it is sometimes hard to enjoy your Core, knowing that Chore awaits you.

It is unrealistic to think that there is a job out there that is all Core and no Chore. Sadly, since the Fall of Man, we have to pull the weeds, not just smell the roses.


The Bible is full of stories of redemption, but there is probably no bigger turnaround in scripture than the one that happened in Saul's life: He went from being the leading antagonist to God and His work to being the leading advocate for God and His work. He went from being the hunter to being the hunted. How did he get there? One step at a time.

Paul's life was turned around in dramatic fashion, but also in steps. The Christian life is a journey, not a single event. Paul's turnaround went through various phases. Acts 9 is a time-elapsed picture of the spiritual journey.

Alienation Stage: Paul starts out going down the road, going about his business, but he doesn't know that God is there, and that God is going to ambush him.

Attention Stage: Something happens that gets Paul's attention. A light flashes around him. He sees what he has never seen before.

Listening Stage: God starts to speak to him (the others with him don't hear it, but Saul does). The message is personal, from God to Him. He hears what he has never heard before.

Searching Stage: Paul realizes he's blind. He is led by the hand for several days, and God reveals more of His plan.

Acceptance Stage: By God's grace and through the ministry of others God touches Saul, fills his heart with His spirit, and transforms him. The scales fall off his eyes. He's radically saved.

For Paul, a turnaround that at first glance appears instantaneous, involved days of searching, and months of discovery. It takes time to come to the end of an old belief system, and embraced a new one. In their book, "What's gone wrong with the harvest?" James Engel and William Norton developed a scale that charts a person's progress through the decision making process to faith in Christ.

10. Awareness of the supernatural
9. No effective knowledge of Christianity
8. Initial awareness of Christianity
7. Interest in Christianity
6. Awareness of basic facts of the Gospel
5. Grasp of implications of the Gospel
4. Positive attitude to the Gospel
3. Awareness of personal need
2. Challenge and decision to act
1. Repentance and faith

We all start at the same place. We might have an awareness that God is there, but we do not know Him personally. We all go through the same stages to get to faith in Christ. There's a temptation to think that with salvation you flip the switch and the lights come on. Many times it is more like the old vapor lights used in gymnasiums.

Christian growth is simply taking the next step, which makes ministry helping people take the next step. Ministry is "meeting people where they are with what they need to get them where they need to go." We have to take people where they are. We don't get to have them where we want them to be. We give them what they need, and that is love, acceptance and forgiveness. We take them where they need to go, toward Jesus.

Oh, and one more thing. We need to pray people through each step. Every step toward God is a minor miracle.


Labels are a shortcut. Instead of saying, "Those smaller, practical Japanese cars that aren't particularly stylish, but run pretty well and get pretty decent gas mileage" we just say "Honda." Because people like to be efficient with their time, they will tend to take these shortcuts if they are provided, or else make them up on their own. Have you noticed that Federal Express just has "FedEx" on their trucks? This is because people were using "FedEx" as shorthand, and the company decided it was better to just "go with it" than fight it. We see this same thing happening with "CTK" instead of the longer "Christ the King Community Church."

Labels can be an efficient time-saver, but not necessarily an effective way of relating to people and organizations. Sometimes labels foster laziness. Instead of taking the time to get to know someone, you just stereotype them as a "conservative" or a "fundamentalist" or a "charismatic." There. Now that we have a label on them, we know everything we need to know about them, right? Wrong.

In some ways Christ the King has benefitted by being like the can on the shelf that doesn't have a label on it. You have to open it up to see what's inside. Steve Mason, the pastor of the first Christ the King Church once wrote, "I am frequently asked, 'What kind~ of church is this?' Sometimes visiting people are unsure how to categorize us. Are we Pentecostals? No. Are we Charismatics? Not exactly. Are we Evangelicals? In doctrine, yes, but we are open to the ministries associated with the gifts of the Spirit, though not in the emotionally based manner usually associated with Pentecostalism."

If all this sounds confusing, it's because the label game breaks down after awhile. There is no one label that accurately describes what is going on in the CTK story. We are "theological mutts."

When it comes to the authority of the Bible, we are Baptists. When it comes to the methodology of small groups, we are Methodists. When it comes to plurality of leadership, we are Presbyterians. When it comes to reliance on the Holy Spirit, we are Charismatics. When it comes to salvation by grace, we are Lutherans. When it comes to passionate corporate worship, we are Vineyard. When it comes to authenticity in relationships, we are Calvary Chapel.

Who are we? Check two boxes. "All of the above" and "None of the above." Labels just don't work that well for us. Sorry. I guess you'll just have to get to know us.


An analogy that comes to mind is the piece of luggage that has been stamped from all over the world. If you were to ask the question, "Where has that luggage been?" there is no one answer to that question. There are many answers to the question. It's not that there are many pieces of luggage. There is only one piece of luggage. But many labels have been applied.


At CTK we are trying to become an organic, relational movement, instead an institutional, attractional ministry. Functioning organically means taking a different approach on various issues, but none more noticeable than how you approach variation. Organizations eliminate variation. Organisms embrace it.

By variation, I mean differences. Differences in look and feel. Differences in style and shape. In an organization, everything needs to look the same. An organization punches out widgets on an assembly line, and variations are tossed aside. But in organic life, variation is characteristic, expected and welcomed.

From generation to generation in organic life there is both repetition and revelation. In some ways things will look the same. In other respects there will be differences. Take, for instance, your children. In some ways they "look like you." There are certain characteristics that are passed down from generation to generation. In other ways, they will "look different than you." As a parent you sometimes even wonder, "Where did that come from?"

At CTK we should not expect every small group or Worship Center to look exactly the same. There will be similarity in mission, vision and values, but differences in style and personality. This is normal and natural. "There are no two snowflakes alike." It behooves us to appreciate the remarkable variety that can be found in offspring.

I have often said, "If you've seen one CTK Worship Center, you've seen one CTK Worship Center." As I have visited CTK Centers around the world, I always come away with two feelings: 1. This is CTK. 2. I've never seen anything quite like this before. But I think the same thing about each of my children, too. Each of them has two arms, two legs and one nose. It is even clear that they share the same parents. But that is where the similarities end and differences begin. Each of them is very individual, a real revelation.

At CTK we are not attempting cloning. We are trying to build an ever-expanding family of relationships. We want to be more like a family than a factory, more like a forest than a tree farm. In a tree farm, trees are planted in rows, and groomed so they look self- similar. In a forest, a remarkable variety exists, of big, small, straight and crooked. When you get back from a forest you see a pattern. But upon closer inspection you observe immense variation.

In the CTK story our mission, vision, values (our core DNA) gets worked out with varied emphasis. I saw this clearly when I took recent trips to Africa and India. Both are third world countries, and CTK has expanded rapidly in both of these places, with hundreds of new leaders. Both movements manifest CTK's commitment to the priorities of worship, small groups, and outreach. But they do so in varying ratios.

In Africa, the dominant trait is small groups. We have always contended that small groups are the primary convention for the people of CTK, but in Africa they have taken this ideal to another level. As best as we can tell, there are 862 house fellowships throughout the continent. In some communities there are 5-10 small groups meeting, and they have yet to have a public (temple courts) meeting, because they are so intensely focused on the value of community, and small groups as the basic building block.

In India, the dominant trait is outreach. We have always contended that we need to keep the arrows pointed out - that it is not our goal to get everyone to come to us, but to get us to go to them. In India CTK evangelists have visited over 1000 villages, many where the gospel of Christ has never been preached before. Circuit riding is common. From district to district, they are establishing Worship Centers. They are taking "arrows out" to a new level.

A great mistake, in my opinion, would be to try to get the African groups to behave more like the Indian groups, or vice versa. That would be a typical, top-down, organizational response. By being a part of organizations, we have been trained to look for differences and eliminate them. But in the CTK story we have to think family, instead of factory. I wouldn't advise you as a parent to remove all variation you see in your kids. And the same advise applies to spiritual parents, with spiritual offspring.


Good leaders pick their battles. In this respect, the founding fathers of America can teach us important lessons.

During their presidencies, both George Washington and John Adams took a path of neutrality in the conflicts between France and England. In fact, the foundation of Washington's foreign policy was the Proclamation of Neutrality (1793) which said that America was going to stay out of the ongoing, hundred year conflict in Europe. Washington declared, "Every true friend to this Country must see and feel that the policy of it is not to embroil ourselves with any nation whatsoever; but to avoid their disputes and politics; and if they will harass one another, to avail ourselves of the neutral conduct we have adopted. Twenty years peace with such an increase in population and resources as we have a right to expect; added to our remote situation from the jarring powers, will in all probability enable us in a just cause to bid defiance to any nation on earth." Clearly, Washington's approach was calculated to allow our fledgling country to become better established, and to keep from squandering precious resources of time and money overseas.

Some have referred to Washington's approach as "the strategy of enlightened procrastination." Sometimes, by not doing anything, you are doing the best thing you can do as a leader.

It is not by accident that CTK is a non-denominational, generic, vanilla evangelical church. It is not by accident that we do not "take a position" on many secondary issues. We have deliberately not entered into many theological skirmishes and debates. We have kept the main thing the main thing. Our only allegiance is to Christ. Our focus is on loving God and people. Neutrality has freed up our time to pursue worship, small groups and outreach as priorities.

There is always a battle of words being fought somewhere in the church world. Be careful to not get sucked in, unless we are talking about an essential doctrine. The energy and time that it will take to engage in a war of words does not give you a return on investment. Remember Augustine's council: "In essential matters unity, in non- essential matters diversity, in all matters charity."

You will occasionally be invited to "join the fray." You will receive letters from organizations that are picking fights with various parts of the body. You will get some emails that tempt you to engage. Remain clear about the ultimate mission. Don't be distracted by lesser concerns.