Enough: Discovering Joy Through Simplicity and Generosity

I am currently leading a Bible study based on a book by Adam Hamilton called Enough: Discovering Joy Through Simplicity and Generosity.

With the book, Hamilton includes a prayer for contentment on a plastic key tag that can easily be kept in places as a visual reminder of what we are studying, learning, and applying to our lives. The prayer reads:

Lord, help me to be grateful for what I have, to remember that I don’t need most of what I want, and that joy is found in simplicity and generosity.

In chapter one, Hamilton observes that the American Dream has become the American Nightmare, as Americans strive to accumulate material things and do so by going deeper and deeper in debt. Jesus was tempted in this manner in Matthew 4.8-10 when Satan tempted him with the pursuit of wealth and power rather than the way of sacrificial love.

Satan is described as a thief who “comes to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10.10).

Hamilton writes:

If he can get you in debt, he can make you a slave. If he can convince you to spend all you have, you’ll never offer your tithes to God, never help the poor as you could have, and never use what you do have to accomplish God’s purposes. If he can tempt you to become a slave to creditors, you will not know simplicity, generosity, or joy. He will have neutralized your effectiveness for the Kingdom and choked the gospel out of your life (22).

In the second part of John 10.10, Jesus says, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” Too often we equate the abundance of wealth and possessions as abundant life and a sign of God’s blessing.

Adam Hamilton challenges us to discover true abundant life and joy through simplicity and generosity. Hamilton’s balanced approach does not suggest that we never buy things for ourselves, but promises to grow our understanding of Christian stewardship and God’s will for our lives and living.

The Role of Leadership

My two biggest passions in ministry are preaching and leadership. I recently blogged the role of preaching where I reflected on my journey as a preacher. My leadership journey, like my preaching journey, also began early on in my spiritual journey.

The standard question is whether leaders are born or made (i.e., nature vs. nurture). I personally think leaders are made, that is, developed over the course of a lifetime (that’s the idea behind my post, It Takes 20 Years to Make a Sermon).

That’s certainly been my experience anyway. I don’t think I was born with any particular leadership gifts and neither did I have many strong leadership models to learn from while I was growing up. My leadership knowledge/skills/gifts have mostly developed in the last half of my life. Most of my focus on personal growth in the last two decades (reading, seminars, etc.) has been on leadership.

My leadership journey began while I was wrapping up my senior year in college in a Bachelor’s in Ministry degree program. At the time, John Maxwell, who was getting started as a national speaker/expert on leadership, did a seminar for leaders in my denomination. I got a copy of the videotape and watched over and over.

I began reading books on leadership. I subscribed to the “Injoy Life Club,” a monthly audio recording John Maxwell used to do. I attended leadership seminars and eventually concentrated on leadership in my doctor of ministry program at Asbury Theological Seminary.

Now, while I believe leaders are made (not self-made, however), I also believe there is a spiritual gift of leadership that God’s Spirit gives to some people when they become Christ-followers. Paul includes leadership in one of his lists of spiritual gifts (Romans 12.8) …

If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously.

God gives some people gifts for leadership in the body of Christ. Leadership is a gift, a calling, that I take very seriously (it’s also a major focus of this blog).

Part of my responsibility as a leader is to constantly seek to grow my leadership gifts. I love what Rick Warren writes …

All leaders are learners. The moment you stop learning, you stop leading.

Proverbs 19.27, which is good for everyone, is good for leaders, too, says …

If you stop learning, you will forget what you already know.

Finally, here are some great statements on leadership that I’ve read in various places in recent years …

Leading people is difficult. (Andy Stanley)

Leadership is always in high demand. (Reggie McNeal)

In times of crisis, we need leaders. (Mike Breen and Walt Kallestad)

Everything rises and falls on leadership. (John Maxwell)

Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality. (Warren Bennis)

Leaders take us places we’ve never been before. (James Kouzes and Barry Posner)

Leadership experiences are, indeed, voyages of discovery and adventures of a lifetime. They’re challenging explorations under rigorous conditions, and they require pioneering spirits. (James Kouzes and Barry Posner)

The local church is the hope of the world and its future rests primarily in the hands of its leaders. (Bill Hybels)

HealthMiles Level 3

I have now reached Level 3 (of 5) in the HealthMiles incentives program, less than 2.5 months after activating the GoZone pedometer that came with the program, offered through our conference’s health insurance plan (see my first post, Racking Up HealthMiles).

When I reached Level 2, I estimated that it might take about 60 days to reach Level 3; it took 50. But it will take longer to reach Levels 4 and 5 because each requires 12,000 HealthMiles instead of 6,000 (each) for Levels 1 and 2. And while I racked up 12,000 HealthMiles in less than 3 months, some of those early HealthMiles were given simply for signing up, activating the pedometer, etc. I think it’ll take around 4 months for each of the next two levels, at my current pace.

My number of steps/day has been increasing. Overall, I’m averaging 15,719 steps/day, but I’m averaging 17,460 steps/day in April, including seven days with at least 20,000 (a mark I only hit four times in the month and a half before April).

I am still waiting for a Mac version of the software used to upload steps from our pedometers. In the meantime, we are using a PC that we have access to. A beta version of the Mac software is being developed, but it isn’t working for me yet. I have provided feedback on my experience with it (as requested) and am waiting for the next version (while I would gladly do the testing for free, I will receive 250 HealthMiles for testing it).

Reaching Level 3 adds another $75 to the $25 earned for reaching Level 2 (Levels 4 and 5 provide $100 each for a total of $300). By the way, the program is now available to individuals.

Even outside of the HealthMiles program, though, I think simply wearing a pedometer is a good way to track your steps and your level of activity.

Next stop, Level 4. One step at a time.

Easter People

I realize that the Easter holiday was two weeks ago, but if we’re not careful, Easter (like Christmas) can become just another holiday that we celebrate simply because it’s on the calendar.

That seems to be the case for people who attend worship gatherings mainly at Christmas and Easter. But even those of us who worship God year-round can still fall into the trap of thinking of Easter as a once-a-year routine.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ has implications for our lives all year long. Because we’re defined by the resurrection of Christ, we are Easter people!

Being Easter people means knowing that Christ died for us, that Jesus is our Lord as well as our Savior. Recognizing that Jesus Christ is Lord means living under his lordship every day. It’s a life of surrender to God.

I love what Paul writes in Galatians 2.20 …

My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

We have life through Jesus Christ. What a gift! But with the gift comes the responsibility to live lives worthy of God’s gift. Living lives that honor God is not a duty we begrudgingly give to God but an act of worship in response to God’s gift to us.

For Christ-followers, Easter isn’t just an annual holiday, only to move on afterward, unchanged. Easter is an everyday reality that continues to shape us as we surrender ourselves to God!

The Role of Preaching

I grew up in a tradition where preaching was highly valued, so much so that a call to ministry was commonly described as a “call to preach.” As I began processing God’s call on my own life, I naturally focused on preaching above everything else.

Interestingly, two years into my ministry journey, during my senior year of college (in a B.A. in Ministry program), I discovered John Maxwell, who at the time, was just beginning to gain notoriety as an expert on leadership. For the next 15+ years of my life, my primary focus was on growing as a Christ-following leader (I’ll write more about my leadership journey in a follow-up post).

In the process of focusing on leadership (partly because I tend to have a one-track mind), preaching took a back seat to leadership. While preaching was something I would do every weekend as a pastor, it became secondary to being a leader. In a sense, I saw leadership and preaching as competing responsibilities.

Interestingly, during my doctor of ministry program at Asbury Theological Seminary (where my concentration was Christian Leadership), my passion for preaching was reawakened (thanks, in large part to discovering one-point preaching). In fact, my dissertation project sought to unite these two passions/giftings into a single focus (I used the term “leader-communicator” in the title of my dissertation to refer to my desire to unite these passions).

Preaching is important for a number of reasons. It is particularly important from a leadership perspective. Recently, while praying, I described it this way …

“Preaching is important because it shapes the environment in which I lead!”

Preaching shapes the environment, the culture of the church. The stronger (i.e., more biblical, more missional, etc.) the organization, the more effective and fruitful it will be. If preaching isn’t creating an environment where God can work, where the mission can move forward, leadership becomes so much more challenging.

Preaching — casting God’s vision for life and mission — shapes the environment in which I lead, and therefore, is vitally important to Christ-following leader-communicators!

Radical Hospitality 2.0

Last month, the Centre Grove Church Council discussed Radical Hospitality, which included a thorough walk-through of the church facilities (trying to view them through the eyes of a newcomer). This month, as part of our ongoing discussion of Bishop Schnase’s Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations, we focused on two important areas related to our hospitality.

Ushers & Greeters.
Centre Grove has ushers and greeters but they’ve not been specifically trained to practice radical hospitality. Right now, greeters primarily greet people at the entrances and hand out worship bulletins and ushers receive the offering during the worship service.

We plan to train a team of ushers and greeters (possibly giving them a more creative name, perhaps something like, “First Impressions Team”) to practice radical hospitality. The greeters will play a role at the entrances and ushers will be active inside the worship space. Besides giving warm, friendly welcomes, we want them to focus on visitors, making them feel at home, handing them visitor’s cards/info packets, and being of assistance to them.

Visitor Follow-up.
Collecting visitor info is important, but just as important is having a system for following up on the info. At this point, we simply plan to follow-up by sending a note of thanks, acknowledging their visit. We may get more creative as we develop this outreach.

New Church Sign
Interestingly, another development has taken place alongside of our discussion on radical hospitality — the purchase of a new church sign. As I understand it, a new sign has been on the agenda for a while, but has only recently been acted on. We have ordered the new sign and it is expected to arrive in about a week.

The new sign will greatly increase and improve our visible presence in the community, which is part of our hospitality. We believe the new sign will help us be more welcoming and invitational.

After the new sign has replaced the old one, I will post some photos of the sign as well as some very nice internal signs that have recently been placed throughout the building in a post called “Radical Hospitality 3.0.”

From a leadership perspective, this has been a very easy process so far. Centre Grove’s church council members already have a clear sense of mission and are ready to move forward with the five practices. If that were not the case, I’d be spending a lot more time casting vision and getting buy-in from them. But as it is, this group is ready to move forward!

As we continue to put some systems in place and turn our hospitality into radical hospitality, we’re moving on to another of the five practices, “intentional faith development,” which we’ll begin discussing in May.

Day at the Circus

We took Ethan to the Jaffa Shrine Circus in Altoona Friday and enjoyed our day off together. Ethan enjoyed the day and the animals. It was a pretty professional circus. Ethan didn’t seem to like the trapeze artist. Ethan said, “Down!” 🙂

Here are a few photos from the day, including a visit at the local Tuckahoe Park afterward where we ate a late lunch …

Limitations

Everyone has limitations, which means that no one can do everything. But while everyone has limitations, not everyone knows their limitations.

When you don’t know your limitations, you’re likely to spend too much time doing things you’re not gifted to do (of course, we all have to do things we’re not gifted to do occasionally, but the key is to spend most of our time in our areas of giftedness, the things we were wired to do).

When you don’t know your limitations, you also tend to try to do more than you should. You do things that you have no business doing (things you’re not good at, things that prevent you from working in the areas of your giftedness).

I think Christ-followers have trouble with knowing their limitations. One reason may be verses of Scripture like …

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

It’s a great statement, of course, but I don’t think Paul meant that we can do everything well or even that we should try to do everything. That’s not realistic. But when we partner with God, in doing the things he calls us to do, that’s when God empowers us to complete the task at hand. God will help us do everything that he wired us to do. That’s what honors God!

I am a visionary leader. In a class at Asbury on “Visionary Leadership,” I remember defining visionary leadership as …

  1. Getting the vision
  2. Casting the vision
  3. Navigating the vision

As I reflected on those elements, I realized that I’m comfortable with the first two parts, but not so much in the last one. I think this is common for visionary leaders. The first two areas more “big picture” oriented and the last part deals with the day-to-day details of following through with the vision. Visionary leaders (who always need to keep an eye on the big picture) can get lost or bogged down in the details.

Do you know what you’re not good at? And just as importantly, do you know those things that you should either not be doing or should be doing less? In other words, do you know what’s on your To-Not-Do list as well as your To-Do list?

Easter 2009

This was our second Easter with Ethan. Last year, he had been with us a little over a month. As you can tell from the photos below (taken this weekend), Ethan has grown a lot in the past year!

As you might imagine, Easter is a particularly busy time for a clergy family with two pastors. In addition to our regular weekend schedule (Sunday school and worship), we also attended/participated in two separate Holy Thursday services, a community Good Friday service including a walk around downtown Clearfield in the rain (stopping at 14 different stations of the cross), and two separate Easter sunrise services.

It was a good weekend. And with the extra load, it was a good weekend for Grammy and Pappy to be here. Thanks to them, Ethan didn’t have to get up earlier than normal on Sunday!

Easter Fun

Ethan is enjoying the Easter activities this year. Last weekend we were at the Flaugh Family Easter dinner. Ethan didn’t have any trouble deciphering what to do at the Easter Egg Hunt. He didn’t have any competition, though. He’s the youngest and he’s the only grandson within the age of being interested in an Easter Egg Hunt. So he got to gather a dozen plastic eggs decorated as footballs, baseballs, and soccer balls (while the girls got the “Princess” eggs).

Last weekend was West Side UMC’s children’s Easter party. The Easter Bunny made an appearance, and Ethan was quite enamored by this life-sized huggable critter, as you can see in the pics. He kept returning to look, to wave, and to offer his hugs to this furry visitor. We were glad he liked the Easter Bunny, since even after seeing Santa at least three times at Christmastime, Ethan still didn’t want to have anything to do with him!

Wishing you all Easter blessings as we approach Easter Sunday and celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior and the new life he offers to all!