Monthly Archives: September 2014

Reinventing innovation

Brick By BrickBook Review: Brick by Brick: How LEGO Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Global Toy Industry, by David C. Robertson with Bill Breen

“The most difficult challenge in business is not to invent an innovative product: it’s to build an organization that can continually create innovative products.” That was the challenge facing LEGO in 2003, as David Robertson and Bill Breen explain in their book, Brick by Brick: How LEGO Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Global Toy Industry.

In 2000, LEGO was hailed as one of the best toys on the planet. By 2003, the company was on the verge of bankruptcy. The company had lost control and was hurtling towards a crash. As the authors explain, the transformative effort was played out in five stages over eight years.

LEGO 1.0 – The first stage was a fight for survival. (1) The company had to strip the complexity out of the business through cost reducing steps. (2) They had to restore competitiveness by making retail customers (rather than kids) their primary concern. (3) They need to raise cash by selling off assets such as LEGOLAND theme parks.

LEGO 2.0 – In the second stage, they sought clear direction by taking LEGO “back to the brick,” focusing on core assets, core customers, and core products.

LEGO 3.0 – In the third stage, they defined the different degrees of innovation they would pursue with each product line.

LEGO 4.0 – In this phase, they pivoted from innovations that restored a profitable core business platform to innovations that aimed to fuel organic growth. They took on riskier challenges while at the same time reimagined classic product lines.

LEGO 5.0 – Since 2011, LEGO balanced focusing on classic product lines with innovating from the fringe, conceiving and launching new ideas quickly, systematically, and sometimes idiosyncratically.

Throughout the book, the authors discuss how LEGO mastered the seven truths of innovation in order to transform the culture of LEGO—building an innovation culture; becoming customer driven; exploring the full spectrum of innovation; fostering open innovation; attempting a disruptive innovation; sailing for blue ocean; and leveraging diverse and creative people.

Having grown up with LEGOs and seeing my son enjoy them, I was interested to read about the company and learn how they practiced innovation. I’m always on the lookout for new ideas on creativity and leadership. While the book was interesting and informative, I’m not sure I walked away with principles I can put into practice in my situation.

I received this book for free from The Blogging for Books program for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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Posted by on September 30, 2014 in Books


Staffing a church to grow

Effective staffing for vital churchesOur elders have recently been discussing a proposal for staffing our church. As I considered how best to move the discussion forward, I was intrigued to read Effective Staffing for Vital Churches: The essential guide to finding & keeping the right people, by Bill Easum and Bill Tenny-Brittian.

The title is a bit of a misnomer as the emphasis of the book is more on defining a church’s purpose. Staffing comes into play once you identify the purpose and then staff accordingly to accomplish the goal. Since the authors’ focus is on growth, they place a heavy emphasis on outreach. In light of many churches plateauing and/or shrinking, I think the emphasis is needed.

Below are several principles and quotes I found thought-provoking and helpful.

Refocusing a church requires a paradigm shift in the mindset of the leaders.

In order to make disciples, most church leaders have to make a radical paradigm shift, essentially from believing their primary job is to provide in-house programs or ministries to understanding that their primary job is to apprentice and equip leaders to live out the Christian life among their everyday neighbors and networks.

I have long maintained that as a pastor, I have three primary responsibilities—preach and teach, cast vision, and train and equip. There are many other duties and responsibilities, but I must keep these three priorities at the top. Each time I teach our membership class, I explain that the church did not hire me to do all the work. My task is to equip and train them to do the work (Ephesians 4:11-16). We want to be a church where “the members are the ministers, and the pastors/elders are the equippers.”

Another required paradigm shift is to go from being inward focused to outward focused.

Fact: most churches fail to break the two hundred barrier because they cannot embrace the reality that the church doesn’t exist for their sake, but for the sake of those who are not there yet. Until the pastor, the church leaders, and the congregation as a whole refocus their attention from themselves to those beyond their walls, they will not be able to see significant and sustainable growth.

Rather than waiting until we can afford to add staff, a church needs to add staff to prepare for future growth.

One of the axioms to growing a church is that creating space for growth always precedes significant growth. In other words, you have to be ready for growth before it will happen. … You’ll need to invest in your first hire before you can comfortably afford it.

In one sense, the order of staffing is a bit counter-intuitive. We think we should staff to take care of those who are already present. Parents tell us the church should add a youth pastor first. The authors argue that a church should start with a worship leader and then a children’s director/pastor (in that order).

The fact is, parents bring youth to church, not the other way around. So if you want to grow your church, the first hire you must make is one that will both attract and retain your mission target (your “audience”). We always recommend that a church’s first hire be a worship pastor/leader.

There are only two ministries that virtually guarantee church growth for the smaller church: indigenously targeted, quality worship that reaches younger adults and excellent children’s ministry. The axiom “Momma decides where the family will go to church and the kids decide if they go back” is as true today as it was in the 50’s when the phrase was coined. Get the family in with great worship. Keep them coming back with great children’s programming.

The authors explain that effective staffing requires a shift in mindset from taking care of people to equipping them for service, from inward focused to outward focused.

Two huge paradigms separate effective staff from ineffective staff. The actions of ineffective staff are determined by a paradigm that tells them, “Our role is to take care of people and to do ministry.” The actions of effective staff are determined by a paradigm that tells them, “Our role is to transform people.” The staff’s effectiveness depends on which paradigm fills their hearts.

The paradox of these two paradigms is that you can take care of people without transforming them—but you can’t transform people without first caring for them.

While I did not agree with everything the authors said, I found myself challenged and thinking how to implement the ideas in my situation. I found it especially thought-provoking since our elders have recently been talking about the issue of staffing.

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Posted by on September 29, 2014 in Books, Church, Quotes


Don’t Take the Bait

A man lying on the grass noticed a little plant of sundew when suddenly a tiny fly alighted upon its leaves and tasted one of the tempting glands which grow there.

All at once three crimson-tipped, fingerlike hairs bent over and touched the fly’s wings, holding it fast in a sticky grasp. The fly struggled in vain to get free, but the more it struggled the more hopelessly it became besmeared. It still, however protruded its tongue, feasting as it was being more and more firmly held by additional tentacles. When the captive was entirely at the mercy of the plant, the edges of the leaf folded inwards and formed a closed fist. Two hours later the fly was an empty sucked skin, and the leaf was opening for another unwary visitor.

Goldfish looking to the fishhookHow can we avoid being caught in the trap of temptation? How can we resist the beauty of the lure and the deadly sweetness of sin? How can we gain victory?

Following the pattern of Jesus Christ (Mark 1:12-13 & Matthew 4:1-11), we can gain victory by resisting the devil by the power of the Spirit through the guidance of the Word to accomplish the will of God.

Immediately following his baptism, Jesus is led or driven by the Spirit into the wilderness. The Holy Spirit sent him to the starting line of his earthly ministry. God was initiating the conflict with the adversary.

I find it interesting that “temptation” and “test” are the same word. The meaning is determined by the motives of the one giving the assignment. Satan wants to tempt us and cause us to fail. Like an engineer building a bridge or an aircraft manufacturer using a wind tunnel, God tests us in order to prove how strong we are.

temptationThe first temptation came after Jesus fasted for 40 days. Satan suggested Jesus turn the wilderness stones into a tasty snowflake roll. The devil was saying that bodily appetites have a right to be satisfied. Jesus responded by quoting the Old Testament; doing God’s will is more fulfilling than any piece of bread ever will be.

The second temptation was designed to use power to achieve popularity. Satan suggested Jesus jump off the highest peak of the temple and float down on the arms of angels. While Satan quoted Scripture, he left out a significant portion. Jesus responded by telling him not to test God.

The third temptation was to take a shortcut to achieve God’s plan. Satan offered to give Jesus all the kingdoms of the earth without going to the cross. Jesus could experience Philippians 2:9-11 without dealing with verse 8. There is a time to resist the devil and a time to tell him to take a hike. After resisting him the first two times, Jesus told Satan to leave after the third.

I take away several helpful principles for how to deal with temptation in my life.

God uses tests to prove our character. Temptation in itself is not sin. It all depends on how I respond. If I can stand firm and resist, I will become that much stronger.

Temptation often comes immediately after a victory. Jesus was tempted immediately after his baptism.

Satan will often tempt us on the last thing God taught us. At his baptism, God the Father said, “This is my son.” During his first temptation, Satan began, “If you are the son …”

Satan’s strategy has not changed since the Garden of Eden.

Temptation Genesis 3 Matthew 4 1 John 2:16
Appeal to personal appetite You may eat of any tree (1) You may eat by changing stones to bread (3) The Lust of the Flesh
Appeal to personal gain You will not die (4) You can do a miracle to gain attention (6) The Lust of the Eyes
Appeal to power or glory You will be like God (5) You can have the world’s kingdoms without suffering (8-9) The Pride of Life

Victory comes as we depend on God’s Word. If Jesus gained victory by quoting Scripture, we should seek to memorize and repeat it as well.

Victory comes as we depend on God’s power. If the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness and angels ministered to him after his temptation, what makes me think I can face the enemy by myself?

We are to resist the devil in the power of the Spirit through the guidance of the Word to accomplish the will of God.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on September 28, 2014. It is part of a series in the Gospel of Mark. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.


Penetrating questions for pastors

Slide 1

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Posted by on September 27, 2014 in Ministry, Quotes, Scripture


Competing values

Competition can bring out the best in a team. Competing against another teammate can push an individual to greater endurance, strength, and accomplishments.

Competition can also bring out the worst in a team. Individuals can hoard resources to prevent a teammate from moving ahead. People can focus more on winning and losing.

In an organization like a church, competing values can hinder a church from accomplishing its goals. It can lead to disunity if it remains unchecked. But it can also cause the leaders to reevaluate what they want to accomplish.

Should a church allow individuals to bring coffee into the worship center? Do the leaders value hospitality over maintaining a sense of reverence? Do they want people to feel at home or do they want to protect a sacred space?

Should a church change their name to remove a label like Baptist or Evangelical Free? Do they want to remove an unnecessary barrier that keeps the unchurched from attending or do they want to maintain a traditional identity? Do they want to attract the unchurched or those who identify with their beliefs?

Should a church hire well-educated, experienced staff members or raise up their own staff? Do they prefer to hire a finished product or invest in those who show potential?

Should a church embrace change or maintain tradition? Are they willing to step out in faith and try new things or do they focus on the comfortable and familiar?

Should a church enforce a dress code in the worship service or for those on the platform? Do they focus on the outward appearance or emphasize the heart attitude?

Hospitality versus reverence. Outreach versus familiar. Trained versus training. Faith versus comfort. Heart versus appearance. Which values should win out?

In my previous church, one woman left over the issue of coffee. She focused on reverence and was offended that people brought their coffee into the worship service. I wanted people to feel at home and was glad they were in church. Our values were in conflict and she left over the issue.

While I believe we need to think through our practices, I am even more convinced we need to examine why we do what we do. We need to wrestle with our values and what we are communicating. After we identify the values we hold dear, we need to be intentional about ensuring that we are living them out.

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Posted by on September 26, 2014 in Church, Passion, Personal growth


God give me souls or I die

What might happen if we adopted this approach to praying for our church’s ministry?

One of the most challenging intercessors is the missionary John Hyde. John served in India. Difficulties with hearing hindered learning the language, and his early work was not noteworthy. His deficiencies drove him to desperate, tear-stained prayer. Soon he was spending whole nights in prayer. The nationals called him “the man who never sleeps” because of his long seasons of prayer and gave him the nickname of “Praying Hyde.”

One year John dared to pray what was at that time considered an impossible request. He asked that during the coming year in India one soul would be saved every day. Impossible, yet not to the man who sows in tears. That year John prayed more than 400 people into God’s kingdom. The next year he boldly doubled his goal to two souls a day. Eight hundred conversions were recorded that year. John’s ferocious intercessions eventually opened the door for a great evangelistic revival to sweep down through the entire territory.

One of his biographers spoke of the holy power generated in Hyde’s prayer closet. He said that to be near Hyde when he prayed was “to hear the sighing and the groaning, and to see tears coursing down his dear face, to see his frame weakened by foodless days and sleepless nights, shaken by sobs as he pleads, “O God give me souls or I die.”

Cited in “Ministry is Praying for Those you Serve” in Ministry Is …: How to Serve Jesus with Passion and Confidence, by Dave Earley and Ben Gutierrez

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Posted by on September 25, 2014 in Books, Ministry, Prayer, Quotes


Redeem the time

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Posted by on September 25, 2014 in Quotes, Time


Blessed to be a blessing

At First Central Baptist Church, we look for opportunities to be a blessing in our community. Whether it be as a polling place for elections, hosting Trunk ‘R Treat as a safe Halloween alternative, or doing service projects, our we want to be a good neighbor and make a contribution to our part of the city. Like Abraham of old (Genesis 12:1-3), we believe we have been blessed in order to be a blessing. We believe that good works can be a dynamic witness (Matthew 5:13-16), and that by serving others, we are serving Christ (Matthew 25:31-46).

On Saturday, several of our congregation met at River Mills Center, the soon-to-open new Senior Center in Chicopee, MA. We helped spruce up the grounds by pulling weeds in all the planters around the center.



I have proof it’s not my fault

I agree with Charlie Brown

Peanuts - no blame

There are days when I could use a document like this.

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Posted by on September 22, 2014 in Fun


The Beginning of the Gospel

Having grown up in church and spent my adult life in ministry, I have seen my share of unique baptisms. On one occasion, the baptistery was so hot we were dumping in pitchers of ice in between the worship services in an attempt to cool it down. On another occasion, the heater was turned off too early and the water cooled down to the point where it took your breath away when you stepped into the water. On still another occasion, I baptized three gentlemen in Lake Sammamish on a rather brisk Sunday afternoon in November. I told them, “I only have to go in up to my waist. You have to go in all the way.”

But in all my experience, I have never seen a baptism quite like the one described in the opening verses of Mark’s gospel. When Jesus was baptized by his cousin John, the heavens were torn open, the Holy Spirit descended, and God voiced his approval.

Mark opens his book by declaring that Jesus is the Son of God (1:1). This fact is attested by Scripture (2-3), proclaimed by John the Baptizer (4-8), and confirmed by God the Father (9-11). So begins the “good news,” the “gospel,” the truth that Jesus came to earth to die for our sins.

The gospel begins with a forerunner (2-8). Neither Jesus nor John appeared out of the blue. They didn’t step out of the pages of history and make a cameo appearance in the drama of redemption. John quotes the prophets Isaiah and Micah to demonstrate that they came according to God’s plan (2-3).

John understood his role to be one of a road grader. He was to smooth out the path for the coming of the Messiah (4-8). He gave a very simple, but straightforward message: “Separate yourself from a sinful culture, repent, and live a life focused on God.” John knew that he was the warm-up act, not the main event. In his humility, he stated that he wasn’t even worthy to lace the sandals of the coming Messiah.

John painted a contrast between the baptism he practiced and the one that the Messiah would usher in. John focused on seekers while Jesus would target believers. John baptized with water, but Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit. John’s baptism was an outward sign while Jesus’ revealed an inward reality. John’s baptism was ceremonial and temporary while Jesus’ would be supernatural and permanent. John’s baptism prepared people to receive the Messiah while the baptism of the Holy Spirit resulted in power for living.

Not only does the gospel begin with a forerunner (2-8), it also begins with a baptism (9-11). The question naturally arises, if Jesus didn’t sin, why was he baptized? His baptism was an act of obedience, showing he was in agreement with God’s plan. It was an act of identification, revealing solidarity with the nation of Israel. It was an act of dedication, showing commitment to his messianic task.

Three things made Jesus’ baptism unique from all other baptisms. The heavens were opened. Literally, it says the heavens were torn apart. It demonstrated that God was breaking into human existence. The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus in the form of a dove. God voiced his approval of Jesus. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were visibly and audibly present at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.

If these events mark the beginning of the gospel, how should we practice them today? We can start by applying John’s message by separating from sin, repenting, and living a life focused on God. We should practice believer’s baptism by obeying God’s command, identifying with Christ and his people, and dedicating ourselves to serving Jesus. We can follow John’s example by smoothing out the path for others to come to Christ. We should hear the gospel, live the gospel, and share the gospel.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on September 21, 2014. It is part of an ongoing series in The Gospel of Mark. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.