Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Book Review- Derailed, by Dr. Tim Irwin

This book is about train wrecks. Trains are conceptually simple- big loads on a defined path between an origin and a destination, pulled by a powerful engine, driven by someone with skill and knowledge. But, sometimes, the thing goes off the rails with a lot of noise and destruction.

Irwin argues that some train wrecks in human endeavor happen because of a fundamental failure of the leader- the skillful, knowledgeable train driver. He argues that this failure is usually not one of intelligence or ability, but of character.

When we hear of a character fault, we often think of dishonesty. After all, we have the recent examples of Enron, Tyco and others. Think again. Irwin illustrates his point using six high profile corporate leaders whose failures were not of honesty or integrity. Rather, their problems leading to derailment were such things as arrogance; failure to recognize and compensate for their weaknesses; failure to seek or heed advice; insensitivity to others, including both subordinates and fellow leaders; lack of trust; lack of courage.

I was once told that you are getting into serious trouble when you start believing your own press releases. I was constantly reminded of that as I read the six stories of leadership failures. All of these people are bright and accomplished, with a history of success. But they all jumped the tracks and many people, employees, vendors, customers and shareholders alike, were caught up in the tangled steel.

I liked the metaphor of derailment and enjoyed the actual case studies, but the pacing in the beginning seemed slow. Irwin spent a couple chapters telling me what he was going to be telling me, instead of just telling the stories. Good ideas and good writing stand on their own and do not need to be sold or explained to me. I am glad I continued to read past the awkward beginning, but I was certainly tempted to put the book aside.

There is one sad thing about this book – the people who should be reading and heeding it are just the ones least likely to.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Book Review- The Power of Respect by Deborah Norville

Respect is something we all want for ourselves and all too often fail to give to others. A regard or esteem for others, respect is the opposite of selfishness, greed, or indifference.

Deborah Norville, a journalist, broadcaster and author, makes a strong argument that respect ought to be the common thread in all human interaction, and that the lack of it is the foundation of many of our dysfunctions, both as a society and as individuals. She argues that families will be stronger, schools more successful, businesses more productive, profitable, and less likely to be sued, and people happier and more content if we all practiced mutual respect.

Based on more than just the author’s opinion, the book constantly references research by sociologists, psychologists and educators that supports her premise.

I found the book an easy read, with numerous stories of people who have learned this lesson and have made their lives better by applying it. I also found it bogs down a bit with the repetition of the same points in the stories of different people. I found myself having to work at finishing the last third, and I am not sure there was anything said there that had not already been said. However, that may have been my own impatience.

I think this is a book that ought to be read, and its lessons heeded, by most of the people I meet in stores, businesses and gathering places. I would encourage it most of all for young people, who seem most to be missing this important character trait.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Book Review- Fearless by Max Lucado

One of the most difficult things we have to overcome is fear, and its cousins doubt, anxiety, and worry. Max Lucado, a pastor and prolific writer, explores how fear affects us, how it limits us, and how it can ultimately be overcome.

We fear so many things- failure, challenges, money (or the lack of it), violence both human and natural, the unknown, death. We fear what we cannot control, and we are anxious about the things we do control. Almost every aspect of our lives offers something to fear or something to worry about. It poisons our joy,
Christ's most common command in the New Testament is not to love God, to love our neighbor, or to do good; it is “don't be afraid.” If Christ, who knows us as only the Creator can know His creation, spends so much time talking about our fears, it is a clue to us that dealing with our fears should be a priority. But how? By refocusing away from our fear and onto the person of Jesus, who tells us "Take courage. I am here!" (Matthew 14:27 NLT).

Lucado is an engaging writer. He uses simple language, extensive Scripture, and even humor to express a profound faith, and invites us to share that faith. I greatly enjoyed this book, and would recommend it to anyone, but in particular to those who find fear and anxiety their companions.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Book Review- The Principle of the Path by Andy Stanley

Andy Stanley is a prolific writer and great communicator. His gift is to present simple principles using simple words that communicate profound truth.

In this book, Andy talks about something that seems trivial, and he admits it; the destination where we arrive depends on the road we travel to get there. Get on a road going north from Atlanta, and you are not going to arrive in Florida. It doesn’t matter how much you wish for it and how hard you pray for it- the road you have selected just won't get you there. The powerful message of the book is that this principle applies not just to our travel, but also to every aspect of our lives.

Life is full of desired destinations - a career, a home, financial, relational and spiritual peace- and every one of those destinations comes at the end of a journey along a path. Choose the wrong path and despite our desire or intention, we will not arrive where we wanted to be when we started out.

The power of this book is that beyond pointing out this principle, Andy uses Scripture to encourage the reader toward choosing the right paths in the first place. I found this book entertaining and encouraging, and hope all my friends read it; especially the younger ones- they still have time to avoid some of the nastier journeys and destinations.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Healing Place...Part 2

When a person is losing blood, it is pretty obvious- it is messy, and to the untrained eye, horrifying and distracting. Even obviously contrived Hollywood blood is distressing. In many injuries the thing that kills is not the injury itself but the resulting blood loss. One of the first things done in the ER is to start to restore blood volume with saline, plasma or even whole blood.

What are we losing in emotional trauma? Joy, contentment, self-confidence, sleep,concentration, and more. How do we restore these things? Check out Galatians 5:22-23. These "fruits of the spirit" are just exactly what are needed.

When in pain we are internally focused. Our healing goal is to redirect focus from "me" and "my pain" to "Him" and "His presence in my life." Of course, as naturally selfish and self-centered, our tendency is inward and not outward- but outward and toward Christ is the only place we will ever find true joy and true contentment. After all, the pain and loss we are dealing with is usually caused by the loss or betrayal of something human or worldly.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Couldn't Have Said It Better Myself...

In fact, I doubt I could have said it nearly as well.

Sometimes, people are surprised to learn that The Church at Argyle is a member of the Southern Baptist Convention. In many ways, we don't seem to fit the mold of what people think a SBC church should look like. We have often been asked why we don't decide to become non-denominational.

Ed Stetzer is a lot of things- a former pastor, church planter, author, speaker, thinker, and researcher. Among other current hats, he is President of Lifeway Research, a part of Lifeway, the agency of the SBC concerned with curriculum, publishing, etc. Ed writes for Between the Times, the faculty blog of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. In a recent post there, he discussed Why I Am A Southern Baptist..

Pastor Ken and I agree- good reading and excellent reasoning.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Healing Place...

Even though it's not in my primary job description, I have found myself doing a lot of counseling lately. People might be amazed at the depths in which some people find themselves. Sometimes the situation is the consequence of their own poor choices; sometimes they are the result of someone else's poor choices; regardless, they are desperately hurting.

I started thinking about what we sometimes do in our church office to what goes on in an emergency room. Let's think about it. The patient has been stabbed — deeply. The knife is there, buried in the wound. He is in terrible pain, blood is everywhere, and a life is in danger. Sometimes he is screaming and writhing in agony; sometimes he is motionless, paralyzed with the injury. What do you do?

I am going to spend a few posts exploring this metaphor a little and comparing how much alike a knife into the body and a blow into the soul are alike.

In traumatic injury, the very first thing to do is to control the bleeding and shock. There will be a lot of things that have to be done in the future, but the absolute first thing is to stop the loss of blood, restore blood volume, and deal with shock.

What is the analog of physical blood loss and shock is the emotional trauma? Stay tuned — you didn't think I was going to waste a multi-entry idea on a single post, did you?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Early Morning Adrenaline Rush

Way early Betty woke me- "I need you!!! There's a snake in the den!!! The kitties were trying to play with it!!!!" She had a cat in each arm and really wide eyes. Cats were pretty wide-eyed, too.

I went to look at it and thought, "Yikes, that's a coral snake!" About 4-5 inches long and skinny, really pretty. I put on garden gloves, got cooking tongs and an empty pill bottle and stuffed him in.

Then, just to be sure, I went to the handy-dandy online Florida snake identification guide. Turns out our visitor was not a very poisonous coral snake, but a friendly little scarlet kingsnake.

Everyone calmed down, got heart rates under control, let the cats out of the closed bedroom, and put the visitor back outside where he belonged. Of course, too wired to go back to bed. Cats are still looking and sniffing around the den, looking for their playmate. Of course, I suspect the snake is just as glad he got away.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Required Reading...

One of my favorite bloggers is Perry Noble. This little speculation of his ought to be required reading in every church, parachurch, denominational office and seminary in the whole of Christiandom.

What if?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Social Media...

What many (usually older) people who don't understand is that young people are no more aware of social media and ubiquitous communication than a fish is aware of water- it is simply a part of their environment. Neither is a young person aware of their language- they simply acquire it and use it naturally. But learning a new language in adulthood is difficult, and it's likely we will never become really fluent in the new language. And adjusting to social media can be just as difficult.

Social media are really more about means and opportunity than about content. Since the Garden, people have used whatever means are at hand to communicate. It started with the spoken word, and stayed there for a long time. With the spoken word, stories were heard only within the immediate circle, and were preserved and transmitted within a very noisy channel.

The first huge technological leap was writing itself. Suddenly (historically speaking) stories were preserved and spread faster and farther than could be imagined before. And periodically since, there have been these quantum spurts of technologically-driven increases in the speed and reach of information- think Gutenberg, Morse, Bell.

Did our grandparents many times removed scratch their heads and wonder if parchment and reed pens would really catch on?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

It's a different world today...

Often, when we go on vacation, we visit old cemeteries. They offer a real glimpse into a past most of us today find hard to understand; a glimpse into the way our concept of death has changed in the age of scientific health care and antibiotics.

These pictures are from a old graveyard in Cade's Cove, in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. Many old graveyards are full of the kind of thing you see here- childrens' gravestones a year or two old a year or two apart. When you think about it, it's heartbreaking.

We know of one place in central Georgia- a succession of small headstones, in a long row in a family plot, a year or two apart- nine in all.

We really live in a different day than our grandparents and great-grandparents. Infant death is so foreign to us as to be almost unheard of- and thank God for that. Among so many other things- thank God for that.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Off again...

In a couple days I will be leaving for Anderson, South Carolina for another session of Tony Morgan's Coaching Network. I really look forward to these gatherings, because I get to exchange ideas with some of the brightest and most dedicated people I have ever had the privilege to meet.

But the Anderson gathering is only the start of a longer adventure. I will leave Anderson on Friday afternoon and make the run to the Atlanta airport and pick up Betty, then continue on to her sister Connie's home in Franklin, NC. She has a ton of time to take off this year or lose it, so we are taking our first mid-summer vacation ever.

As much as there is to do in the office, and as much as I enjoy my job, the days away come at a good time. Maybe I will even find some time to think and blog... or not. We'll see.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Behind a mask...

Was reading an interesting blog today- "I am what I tweet?" Basically, the blogger is talking about how people project an image of themselves through their Twitter postings, and how we form opinions of them based on their postings.

Duh! The technology is evolving, and our ability to reach across the globe as easily as we reach across the room is growing, but there is nothing new here. People have always formed their opinions about us based on how we present ourselves, in public and in private. If I am a grouch it will come across whether I tweet or talk. If I am upbeat and inspiring, I will be that way pretty much across the board, on Blogspot or the sidewalk.

God, please give me the grace to be a refection of You in my life. My life without You is pretty sorry (Jeremiah 17:9). Please let people see through me to Jesus.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Writer's Block...

Before I started blogging, I had a million things to say. But, since I started, the flood of thoughts and ideas has turned into a trickle.

It gives me new respect for guys who make a living writing- how difficult it must be to wake up each day and face that blank page, knowing it isn't going to fill itself up.

I actually beleive that I respond better than initiate. I have commented on several other blogs since I wrote on mine. I guess that points toward my problem being a lack of good ideas of my own. What an awful thought!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Tony Morgan and Leadership

Just back from Tony Morgan's coaching network session. I'm not sure why I am there, but the rest of the people involved are bright, intense, committed ministry leaders from all over who come to meet with Tony once a month for six months to develop ministry leadership skills.

We spoke about several things, but one that really struck a chord with me was spiritual stagnation.

The basic goal of most churches is to move people from being non-believers to being fully committed and mature Christ-followers. For this purpose, we create processes that use the power of the Holy Spirit working through people to facilitate this movement.

Many churches are doing a decent job of initially engaging people, but then they get stuck somewhere along the line that leads to spiritual maturity. It's not because the Holy Spirit lacks the power to create the change- it's because God chooses to use the church (that's us, folks) to effect this process, and the church (that's us, folks) has dropped the ball.

Argyle is typical of this. We do a great job of Sunday morning- I doubt there is a church in America any better (bigger is not better- just bigger) at making Sunday morning a terrific experience. Our problem is that we have trouble moving people from the Worship Center on Sunday morning to the point of mature Christ followers.

I will be writing about details over the next couple weeks. Comment with you thoughts.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

This is a great read...

and you should spend a few minutes to enjoy it- a short interview with Robert Schuller.

Robert Schuller and The Crystal Cathedral have been around so long they have become cliche. Many of us (me included) never realized the impact he and his ministry have had on the direction of the church in America today.

I would love to hear some feedback and opinions.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


Two weeks in a place so remote that there is no cell phone service, and with a dead laptop to boot- talk about going into withdrawal.

Several years ago we decided to see as many of the National Parks as we could. This year, we were in Yosemite, King's Canyon, Sequoia, and Channel Islands National Parks. Yes, we saw both bears and whales.

I am always struck by the great beauty of our country's wild places. As a Florida boy, it is hard to awe me with the wide expanse of the ocean shore, but mountains and canyons really amaze me. Everyone should plan to visit these places at least once in their lives. Pictures are great, but nothing can prepare you for the live experience of being in some of these places and seeing the work of the mighty hand of our Creator.

Check back for pictures- the laptop died on me and until it's fixed the pictures are stuck on the cameras.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A downright scary thought...

just occurred to me. Jesus said He would build His church and that it would be successful and effective (Matthew 16:18). That means if an organization is calling itself a church and is not successful and effective, it must not be a church- it must be something other than a church.

People hearing the Gospel, being transformed by it, and their lives being changed are a church. People excited by what God is doing in them and through them is a church. People telling their friends about the transforming power of the Gospel is a church. People seeing the power of the Holy Spirit in action is a church.

Anything else is... well, it's not a church.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Just wondering...

I am privileged to be part of a group of men from churches all over America who are in a coaching network with Tony Morgan. It's a great group, with only one small caveat; to paraphrase the famous philosopher Groucho Marx, "Any club that would have me as a member is suspect."

The main thing I observe about the guys in this group is that they are very, very bright and very, very dedicated. There are a wide range of roles represented, and a wide range of church types, sizes and denominations. The common factor is that we are all evangelicals and all passionately want our churches to bring the Gospel to people who are perishing without it, and deny hell a larger market share.

Pray for me as I participate, and pray for these other men.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

An interview with Ed Stetzer...

Ed Stetzer is President of Lifeway Research and a well-respected author and observer of the church scene in North America. This is an interview with him reviewing some of his research findings in a new book, Lost and Found: The Younger Unchurched and the Churches That Reach Them.

This research supports something we see intuitively at The Church at Argyle about 20-somethings
  • They are turned off by people or things things that are not genuine
  • They highly value close personal ties
  • They are spiritually open but skeptical
  • They seek cross-generational relationships but resist being dominated or talked down to
  • They seek truth but won't take things for granted- they want to explore their beliefs in depth
What does this mean? It means that we can't assume that the disconnection from the church of large numbers of our young people is a "phase" they will grow out of in their 30's and 40's. It means that we need to spend time and energy nurturing relationships with them, to model Christ for them, to earn their attention to the message of the Gospel. It means seeing them as equals, if not as peers, in our lives and communities.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Sometimes the truth hurts...

Listening to a podcast involving Dr. Ed Stetzer about 20-somethings in today's church, I heard something that is both true and disturbing. (Very close paraphrase- may not be an exact quote)
"Most churches, given the choice, will choose their traditions over their children."
I am so glad that my church isn't doing that- or at least not in an overt way. God help us to continue to make decisions based on reaching as many people as possible, most particularly our children, with the Gospel of Jesus. Please God, don't ever let us choose our tradition or our comfort zone over loving the people you put in our sphere of influence.

Friday, April 17, 2009

New beginning...

If you arrived here looking for The Church at Argyle Staff Blog- it has moved. Click here to go to the new location, and be sure to change your bookmark.

But always remember to come back here- this is now my personal site for random thoughts and observations. Some good, some not so good and some stinking on ice.