If You Build It They Will (Not) Come

I am not sure this version of this quote would have worked for Kevin Costner and the movie Field of Dreams, but it would certainly have saved countless churches and organizations from disappointment and defeat. Why? The idea that you if you build it they (the lost) will come actually means this: make the institution as attractive as possible. 

Visit such a church that and you will quickly pick up on the proprietary pride felt by its members, “our church has…”, “our church is…”, and so on. Such statements tend to be more about the institution rather than the work and person of Christ. So what is it that Jesus was concerned with building while here on earth?

Matthew 6:33: "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." Here is what organizations build when the focus is on Kingdom Growth, and is what we have been and will be working on building at Randall Church.

1. Building up the CHURCH - Whatever God is going to do in the world, He is going to do through all of Christ’s people.
- We are devoting a great deal of time and effort to ensure our people find their place Upward, Inward, and Outward. That they would discover faith, nurture hope, and awaken love for every man, woman and child.
- We are committed to interactive worship gatherings that introduce people to God as well as one another, where they can engage in relational discipleship communities that in turn are motivated to serve their neighbors. 
- We are pursuing adjustments in our church database management systems to leverage technology in our organization to keep us connected to each other, and remain relevant in a digital age. 

2. Building up LEADERS - Whatever God is going to do in the world through Christ’s people, He is going to do through selfless leaders who empower His people as their first priority and more important than their own giftedness.
- We are working tirelessly to create opportunities for young leadership to be developed, and senior leadership to be recognized for their faithful service.
- We are making adjustments in our practices, and even our bi-laws to create a direct path for Godly men young and old towards eldership in a timely manner.
- We are intentionally using the preaching schedule as a developmental tool for gifted communicators to gain experience towards being a primary teaching pastor.

3. Building a STRATEGY - Whatever God is going to do in the world through all of Christ's people, He is going to do primarily through a decentralized structure.
- We are focused in planting, revitalizing, and replanting churches that also have a heart for reaching those far from God in their own neighborhoods.
- We are in it for the long haul, and realize that it will take at least 1000 days to accomplish these objectives in each area, but result is a sustained local congregation rather than a flash-in-the-pan spike in attendance.
- We are searching for telescoping opportunities where we look at the world apart from any church's local circle of accountability for where God is already working in a similar fashion and where we can resource indigenous resources.

If you build they will (not) come. But if you build it, we will GO!

Pastor Milo

Book Review: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

I love a good story. I love hearing a good story from a family member as they recreate one of their favorite memories for the next generation of kids listening at their feet. I love to see a good story played out in film, where the characters don’t have to turn and look at the audience behind the camera and tell them what is of value to them, but demonstrate what that looks like by showing us snapshots from the story of their lives, whether real or imagined. Finally, I love to read a good story. A page turner. The kind you are willing to miss a few unimportant moments for, because it has drawn you in and held your attention. This is the very essence of what Patrick Lencioni tried to capture when he wrote The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, which he calls himself a “leadership fable.”
The writing style is effective. Lencioni builds the story around a new CEO, Kathryn, who  is placed in charge of an extremely dysfunctional silicon valley startup company.  Interestingly, as I began working my way through this read, I was also starting a new job working for an organization that was nearly 200 years old, a church, but one who had just come through an extremely dysfunctional season of its own. Perhaps this book would have some insights that I could make a connection with? Similar to how I began my tenure, the new CEO, Kathryn spent her first few weeks quietly observing rather than doing anything controversial or misplaced. The only real action she takes is to schedule the executive team to take a series of two-day leadership retreats where she will teach them about teamwork and the five major dysfunctions of a team. This is where I began to take notice, because I was neither ready to schedule a retreat, nor define who would be part of the leadership team I would invite to any type of retreat. I had much to learn.
“If we don’t trust one another, the we aren’t going to engage in open, constructive, ideological conflict. And, we’ll just continue to preserve a sense of artificial harmony.” This is a statement made by the main character Kathryn to the team on the leadership retreat after dealing with a few passive aggressive email interactions and general although seemingly innocuous disregard for her leadership. For me the book, the pyramid displaying the 5 dysfunctions, and the storyline could have ended there. For it seems to me that these really are the two dysfunctions that keep a team from being successful. Lack of trust, and fear of conflict. Lencioni reinforces this by making the climax of the novel when Kathryn has to fire a key member of the leadership team: “Your attitude is certainly not the only issue, but it’s a very real issue. You don’t participate in areas outside your department. You don’t accept criticism from your peers, and you don’t apologize when you are out of line.”
The author builds a case for 5 Dysfunctions including: Absence of Trust, Fear of Conflict, Lack of Commitment, Avoidance of Accountability, and Inattention to Results but when push comes to shove for the main character issues regarding simply the first two: Absence of Trust, and Fear of Conflict are really what motivate the changes necessary to rescue the team. In this fictional story, team rebuilding also results in losing a leadership team member that realistically isn’t a person contributing anyway. Therefore, my reduction of the main points to only two sees healthy conflict resulting in trust building from the rest of the main players, and the team re-development ensues.

Really, this book started out as a pretty good story, but finishes with all the cheeze of a TBS made for TV movie. All situations don’t turn out peachy keen, and all problems can’t be pinned on one person’s shoulders. That said however, much of the strength of this work is in pinpointing and naming many of the behaviors we see in dysfunctional organizations. Practically speaking, this book has helped me to take a good look at what I have to work within my new position, and set some targets for my own role as the leader. Much of my time has been devoted to leaning in on healthy conflict when it is necessary, and doing all I can to build trust through setting clear and concise expectations, following through on discipline issues, as well as providing opportunities for myself to exercise some vulnerability.  Time will tell if a healthy team forms. I believe we are on the right track.

Book Review: Lord Change My Attitude Before It's Too Late

I was a stubborn child. I'm certain of it now, because I'm raising one of my own. I remember struggling with my parents, forcing them to deal with me even when they would rather leave the issue alone simply for the sake of exhaustion, whatever the issue of the day might be. I was the oldest, so often my struggles had to do with my younger siblings. I loved to terrorize them. I loved the squalling sound a younger sister makes when you pinch the back of her tricep. I love the deep thud that snow makes when you bump an unsuspecting person off the sidewalk and into the deep snow. But every so often I would directly ignore my parent’s instructions. I would behave in a belligerent way for seemingly no reason. In retrospect, as far as my own family was concerned, I am certain I was a miserable person to be around.
James Macdonald wrote Lord, Change My Attitude Before It’s Too Late using the Israelites in the wilderness as the focal content by which to base the book. In the early pages MacDonald says: “If you want to know exactly why God killed off a whole generation of His children, you don't have to search very far; just open the Bible and check out Numbers 13-14.” Wow, is that necessary? Is attitude really that important? Was my behavior really something that God would be willing to knock off an entire generation for? It was these type of questions that were in the back of my mind, as the author really drew me into the necessity of me digging deeper and going along for the journey.
McDonald points out that our attitudes are patterns of thinking formed over a long period of time. For instance, he points back to the days of Egypt. This is where the Hebrew slaves were constantly whining and sniveling about everything. “Patterns of thinking are so deeply ingrained in our hearts that we hardly even notice them. We get so used to reacting in a certain way that our choices become automatic, and in time we cease to see them as actual choices.” I find this quote to ring loud and clear, not only in my own life, but also in the lives of people I have the opportunity to counsel and interact with on a regular basis. If a spirit of bitterness builds and forms within a person’s heart, I have found that it is an uphill battle to say the least in fighting back against that pattern of behavior.
Fortunately, James MacDonald doesn’t just leave the reader in a helpless state if they have already started to build a negative pattern of thinking. For example, he encouraged us to replace a complaining attitude with a thankful attitude. Using examples from the Gospels, where we see Jesus interacting with damaged and broken people with all the wrong patterns of thinking, MacDonald highlights the story of Christ meeting with only one leper after healing ten. “Christ himself was aware and disturbed by such a flagrant instance of ungratefulness. ‘Were there not ten cleansed?’ Then Jesus turned to the single thankful man saying, ‘Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.’ You have been made well in a way much deeper than those who refused to be thankful.” The author does a fantastic job of pointing us to see what Jesus is after, and what Jesus chooses to highlight: an attitude that is glorifying to Him!
With much of the same type of logical back and forth, MacDonald demonstrates how the Israelites chose each of the 5 attitude issues (complaining, covetousness, criticism, doubt, and rebellion) and how making attitude adjustments (thankfulness, contentment, love, faith, and submission) changed their outcome. However, it is in the epilogue where MacDonald really drives the point home. He takes us back to the Israelites once again, who have fallen back into their murmuring patterns of thinking. “The people spoke against God and Moses. ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?’” What a miserable group of people! God sends fiery serpents to attack the bunch of them.
You see, if my own attitude from my childhood hadn’t changed, or if my own attitude in the present returns to the way it wants to take me at times, I would be just as likely to be on the receiving end of the wrath of a holy and just God minus the grace of our Savior Jesus Christ. MacDonald implores: “Just like the Israelites did with the bronze serpent on the pole, if we look to Christ, we can be healed of our sin problem and know that our sins have been forgiven. There is an urgency to this message. I hope you will never think that this book is about trying harder to have a good attitude. Christ is the answer!”  
Christ has been the answer in my life as well! The only reason I have a restored relationship with family and friends that I damaged badly years ago, is because of Jesus did on the cross. Thankfully, he is still at work in me molding my heart to look more like his each and every day. Still, I need to be reminded regularly: “Lord, change my attitude as well!” Before it is too late, and the pattern repeats itself.