Giving up on God 3 seconds too soon

>>one of the illustrations that I use as a coach/consultant with leadership teams is called “The Tunnel of Chaos”. It is represented as a spiral. We start on the outside limit, with our work together curving inward toward clear vision. When we’re traveling along the outward boundary slowly curving inward, there is a lot of distance covered, a lot of activity, and a LOT of hard work. Even though we expend all this energy to move forward, we don’t feel like we’re getting much closer to the center. Our desire is to travel a straight line right toward a clear answer.

tunnel of chaosThis is a critical time, when we are most tempted to doubt our investment and abandon our journey toward a clear picture of God’s unique vision for us. The farther we go though, the tighter the spiral becomes, and the more rapidly we move toward that center-point of confident clarity.

When I am in the middle of the Tunnel of Chaos, just like when I sat watching this video clip, I find myself judging the artist’s activity in ways that arrogantly assume that I know more than He does. When I doubt His activity and what He’s revealing, what I’m really doing is presuming that my perspective is the most important one – that I know more than God.

>>in the words of the judge “We sat here giving you such a hard time saying, “This is rubbish!”; “What’s it gonna be?”; “He’s never going to do it in time.” Wow! How many times have similar thoughts run through my heart? How many times have I heard leaders express those thoughts about God’s activity (but in our falsely humble, Sunday School words).

When the team invites God to take center-stage in our Vision Pathway process and we feel like things are moving forward because we are committed and doing the hard work, sometimes the picture that begins to emerge seems to be less clear than ever! We see the result of our collaborative God-ward activity, but it appears like random strokes of the brush. We see God moving things forward and uncovering truth, but somehow it just doesn’t connect as a larger picture.

>>my secret heart begins to whisper, just connect the dots yourself. You’re smart enough to find the meaning in this, and God’s not saying anything else. Rely on your own ingenuity. What comes out will be good enough. It seems that right before God turns our perspective upside down is when so many of us give up on God’s leading. We take over and make our meaning in what has been revealed. We are expecting God to add more to the picture until it becomes clear and when He doesn’t we feel compelled to take over. Instead, He’s waiting to shift us so that our perspective snaps into sync with the artist and we see what He sees. All along, it wasn’t a problem with the picture, it was a problem with my perspective.

>>in my secret life when I’m pursuing God, I can get doubtful that what I’m seeing is from Him, and not just my random brain-noise mixed with my desire to find meaning and direction, and like Anderson, “I gotta say, I thought it was like a weird potato.”

We all travel along the Tunnel of Chaos. Somewhere in our daily search for clarity God is actively revealing something – and what God used this 3 minute video to remind me of is vital. Don’t give up on God too quickly. 3 seconds can make all the difference. One thing that I know with confidence: the picture that He’s painting is clear – it’s my vision that needs adjustment.

>>what do you need God to make clear to you right now?

How to escape the tyranny of being Everything to Everyone!

Recently I had the privilege of having Dr. David Fletcher, founder of talk with us on a NavXP webinar, “How to grow ministry with less money”. He shared his wisdom, struggles, and stories of how vision clarity has been the guiding light for navigating seasons of shrinking resources.

This is an amazing perspective from a man with a rich history of Executive Pastoral ministry, as well as providing resources and learning to the XP community. David talks about a time of having to reduce the church’s budget by $700,000+ during the recession. He makes an incredibly powerful statement:

Vision is what releases you to focus. If you don’t have a vision on where you want to go, every road seems perfectly acceptable. You pursue a hundred different rabbit trails and none of them are very effective.

David talks about vision leading the way to creativity and focus that narrows the field of ministry for greater impact. One of the principles that Auxano Navigators lead with is that “focus expands”. It seems counter-intuitive that narrowing our focus gives us the opportunity to increase our impact, but time and again I hear stories that illustrate this principle. A quote from Peter Drucker continues to bounce around in my head, “without a concentration of resources, there are no results“. It excites me to help churches uncover that God-given strength – we call it a church’s Kingdom Concept.

As David talked with us about vision and focus, another insightful encouragement that rang particularly true for XP’s was:

“It’s never about money – it’s about vision. When your people are mobilized, there’s going to be enough money to do the right kind of ministry… Most people are trying to do too much. Skinny it down. Do a few things exceedingly well. Most churches think they can do everything well. Focus on the things you can do best, and let go of the other things. Do the things that God has blessed you and given you the resources to do.”

I love David’s commitment to focus and vision. His track record as an XP, and his generous support of the church community illustrate how effective a vision-based leader can be. Vision clarity and focus unlocks the church’s ability to do so much more with less. We can only have that kind of far-reaching impact when we stop trying to be everything to everyone and focus on what God is calling us to do above everything else.

To read more about David’s experiences in how a church’s vision impact resources, check out his articles on

Check out the NavXP video with Dr. Josh Whitehead: Is a Shrinking Budget You Best Blessing?

Is a shrinking budget your best blessing?

In the recent NavXP webinar, Dr Josh Whitehead shared how he has learned to grow ministry with less money. Through the course of our conversation, something amazing occurred to me – his perspective seemed to indicate that every time they faced financial struggles, it was a blessing that expanded the scope of the ministry at Faith Promise.

As Josh spoke about times of shrinking budget and financial downturn he said things like:
“When your resources get limited, you are forced to determine what really matters.”

“If we can’t do anything else, these are the things we are going to do!”

“We don’t really evaluate ministries and determine whether they are really accomplishing what we need them to.”

These are powerful statements about how God used financial struggles to refine the clarity and focus of vision at Faith Promise. And the result is growth and expanded ministry impact!

We can learn a lot from Josh. Typically, we see financial hardship in such a negative light. Josh’s story really turns that on its head. Could God be trying to bless our ministry by restricting our resources? With the right process, reducing available resources could be the catalyst to a healthier, more missionally focused church.

And we all know – we rarely change until the pain is so great we can’t stand to remain where we are.

The role of an XP like Josh can really impact God’s church in amazing ways as he turned a shrinking budget into one of their best blessings.

I am thankful for Josh sharing his wisdom and showing us how God is using the unique role and gifts of XP’s to make church work.

>>see Dr. David Fletcher’s webinar How to escape the tyranny of being everything to everyone.

You can watch the other NavXP webinars here.


Do we embarrass God?

>>do I embarrass God sometimes? A few days ago I read a post from Mashable about a pastor who left a note for a waitress that read, “I give God 10% why do you get 18?” I got miffed at the anecdote knowing from my days of waiting tables that “church people” have a reputation as low tippers. I didn’t think much about it until the teller at the bank this morning referenced the article, and then I heard a table at lunch talking about it. Clearly, the social media community finds something to chew on with this story.


>>strictly speaking, as a self-reflective question, I think it’s a great thing to ask. Why would I give someone who serves me in a luxury activity a higher percentage of the transaction than I would give to the one who provides everything to me? If I consider that God sovereignly provides all that I have, is the first 10% really so much to ask? Ideologically, I don’t think so, but it’s been a while since that percentage was consistently higher.

>>the problem here is that it wasn’t a self-challenging reflection between this pastor and God, it was a snarky quip to the server. Even that makes me cringe a little. Again, not because the food service industry doesn’t need some refinements, but because it brings God into the consideration – and not exactly in a positive light. This pastor went so far as to scratch out the tip and write in $0. Now, the reality for the server is that they got “stiffed” (that’s what we called it when I was a server) and somehow it’s God’s fault. What really burns me is that it paints the picture of those who spend their lives serving God and sharing the most valuable gift in the universe are cheap-ass jerks. The fact that the server posted this in the Atheism section on Reddit gives an indication of how this pastor’s actions are perceived to represent God.

>>adding injury to insult, when the pastor heard about this, she contacted the restaurant and allegedly demanded that the whole wait staff be fired. The following day, the server who posted the image of the receipt was fired. The store manager Dan Smith was reported to say that the picture violated the privacy rights of the pastor. While I agree that I wouldn’t want my signature posted on the web for everyone to see, I find it tough to agree with Dan’s decision.

>>having been a server in my younger days, I have always been an over-tipper unless service is absolutely horrible – and even then I’ve never tipped less than 10%. But now every time I sit down at a restaurant, because I always ask the server if there’s anything I can pray for when I pray for my meal, I’m almost embarrassed that I have just self-identified as a Christian, and I feel like I have to leave even more gratuity to tip the balance (pun intended) of how we represent the generosity of our father.

Most people waiting tables are in a transitional period of life facing tough issues. That’s one of the reasons that illegal drug use is well above the national average in the food service industry. I would like to suggest that it wouldn’t hurt if we decided as pastors to be aware of that and treat them like we know them and love them. If we do that, perhaps instead of leaving work farther from God than when she came in, the kingdom of God might advance and someone might find the love and support that draws them closer to a loving God who suffered for their redemption! …and we wouldn’t have another pastor losing credibility and having to apologize.

>>it seems sacrilegious to say that we might embarrass God, but I know that as a father, if one of my children had done this, despite my love for them, I would be embarrassed. As pastors, (particularly XP’s) we have to be frugal, and keep an eye on the money. We have a stronger concept than most, of how ministry and finance interact. So what do are your thoughts, do you disagree?

>>1. should the server have been fired?
>>2. what would you do if one of your staff had done this?