Not One Word Will Fail!

Joshua 21:45 “Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.”

Everyone of us knows the feeling of wanting to give up on a delayed word God has spoken over our lives and into our hearts. We don’t see the reality of it in our expected time line and we conclude its not going to come to pass. Israel must have felt like this for hundreds of years. Centuries before Israel’s conquest of the Promised Land, God spoke to Abraham about the land of Canaan being given as a possession to the nation that God would raise up from Abraham’s seed. Several generations had passed since that word, including 400 years of slavery in Egypt, and yet towards the end of the book of Joshua we read of God’s faithfulness to his promises to Israel. Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to Israel failed. They all came to pass. God is true to his word. Heaven and earth may pass away but his word remains forever. Whatever promise God has given to you and however long ago you received it, it will not fall to the ground empty but will accomplish what God has sent it to you to perform. Stand your ground, hold onto God’s promise and trust in God’s faithfulness. Every word will come to pass. Explosive Insights!

Focus on the Process, not the Outcome!

new-lifeI planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. (1 Cor 3:6)

God hasn’t made you responsible for the outcome. That’s his responsibility. But He has made you responsible for the process. Often we work harder at trying to control the outcome rather than just putting the right ingredients into the process. Paul was the initiator of the process by planting and Apollos continued the process by watering what God had initiated through Paul. Planting and watering in all it’s forms made up the process but God was the agent who gave the growth. When you stop trying to control the outcome, you are freed up to give your best to the process and maintain peace along the way. Having to control the outcome is stressful and not in our job description. God says, “Trust me with the outcome by not leaning on your own understanding and focus on the process of what I’ve asked you to do and watch what I do with the outcome.”

Culture Trumps Vision

In 2008 I wrote a book on Vision. I defined vision to be a clear and compelling God-given picture of the future. The book had minor success and from all reports, readers found it very helpful for their own lives and ministries. I have a vision and I have casted vision to people around me. I believe vision is critical to the success of any venture…

HOWEVER… Since I wrote the first edition of ‘Vision’, I’ve come to discover that it doesn’t matter how clear or compelling your vision is, if your culture is unhealthy (or shall we say stuffed), then nothing is moving anywhere.

Culture is the air a church breathes. The X Factor that brings definition to a group of people and distinguishes it from other groups of people. Culture is the social fabric that binds a group together and defines what’s most important in that group. Culture can attract or repel. Culture is the lens through which we look at the world around us. Culture hinges upon the dynamic intersection of core values outworked in the relationships we have with people in our particular group. Culture cannot always be easily defined but is smelt, felt and caught by osmosis.

The most influential people at the top of the tree define culture more than anyone else. Just as the inner workings of a city influences the culture of the suburbs and surrounding regions, so too does the inner workings of a core leadership team impact everyone else around them. That’s why Jim Collins research principle ‘First who, then what’ is so profound. It’s who you have around you that often determines the quality of the culture you are attempting to build. Before you work out what you want to do, get the who right. The right people in the right seats on the right bus will have the biggest impact on your culture than your vision will.

The sort of people you are looking for are self-motivated and self-disciplined mixed with a paradoxical blend of humility and ferocious resolve to obtain the desired outcome. These people bring music to the ears of the leader and can help build the sort of culture that is not only sustainable but free of micro-management. Constantly attending to motivating people is one of the leading causes of burnout of leaders in every field. I’ve given it up and chose rather to just recruit gun people to play key roles. Can you nurture these qualities in people? To a point but I’ve observed people either have the basic wiring for it or they don’t. I know this is challenging for those of you who believe you can disciple people to life change. I believe and practice discipleship and mentoring but the whole process is predicated on the willingness and positioning of the individual themselves. I can’t change people, but God can and sometimes does.

If your culture has the necessary ingredients, vision momentum will accumulate to the point of breakthrough. If the culture is unhealthy, you will feel like you are in a dense fog and you are groping around for answers that aren’t forthcoming. I know what’s it like to be apart of an unhealthy culture and thankfully the opposite as well.

Leader, get your vision from God. Clarify it, process it with the key people on your team and cast it in as many creative ways as possible but for goodness sake, pay attention to the culture because if the horse is stuffed the cart isn’t going anywhere. I’ve come to learn that culture pulls the vision, not the other way around.

Grace!

Vision Requires Capacity

Ecclesiastes 5:3 ‘A dream comes with much business.’

If there is anything I’ve become acutely aware of, as a senior pastor, is that vision requires great personal capacity. Leaders don’t just need clarity of vision or good communication skills, they need great capacity.

I haven’t met one great leader who didn’t have a deep well of capacity inside of them. It is one of the marks of a great leader. The point leader doesn’t need to know everything and doesn’t even need to be the most talented but needs to have great capacity.

God hands out dreams and visions to leaders for the benefit of Gods purpose for his people. A leader is gifted with influence to steward Gods vision and lead Gods people from where they are to where God wants them to be.

I believe that capacity is a grace God gives to leaders for their calling but it can be developed as well. I believe that increasing capacity requires an intersection of 5 key things:

1. A lifestyle of training

When I was an athlete in high school I would train every morning for 2-3hrs before school. This training gave me the capacity to perform well in competition. For the spiritual leader a lifestyle of training would include daily spiritual disciplines such as prayer, study, worship, solitude, fasting. I devote the first 3hrs of my day to training spiritually for my calling.

2. Incremental increase in responsibility

When I was a personal trainer, I would teach clients seeking to get fitter, that they must increase the resistance of the weight they were lifting or the amount of reps they were completing in order to grow stronger. If you don’t allow for incremental increases in stress in life, you won’t grow. We grow with resistance and increased responsibility stretches our capacity to lead.

3. Prioritize the main thing

My observation is that a great leader is only great at 1-2 things. Rather than being average in 5-6 things, you should devote your energy to building your capacity in 1-2 areas and become a master in it. Divide your week into 4 categories – Rest / Results / Response / Refocus. Devote chunks of time to each.

4 Find your daily rhythm

Every one of us has a natural rhythm that we need to connect to. Peak performance comes from connecting to your natural rhythm and getting into the zone each day in your work-life. Where are your energy peaks and lows each day? Do your results activities in your energy highs and your response activities in your energy lows.

5. Increase your energy

Your physical energy will have an impact on your emotional energy and mental energy. Exercise regularly and eat healthy to not just look after your body but increase your energy for life.

Grace!

Connect your Vision to your Diary!

I define vision to be a clear and compelling God-given picture of the future (as per my Vision book 2006). I think it’s also more than that but we have to define it in some way.

I was speaking to Steve Addison last week and he feels that the word ‘vision’ has been over-used and that it doesn’t mean a whole lot  anymore. He prefers to use the word ‘Need’ and suggests that when God gets a hold of a leader, he re-defines their character with his character and opens their eyes to a particular need and gives that leader energy and ideas to resolve the need. Not bad at all, I like!

Whether you call it a need, or a big cause or the big idea, I don’t care. What I care about is that you connect your big vision to your daily schedule = Diary! If you don’t, you’ll be like me sometimes and get totally frustrated with feelings of not accomplishing what God put me here on the planet to do. Can you identify with this?

When I have felt frustrated for longer than a few days, I ask myself, why? Invariably, it generally comes down to a disconnection between the great cause God’s put in my heart and my own daily schedule. It’s really simple, if you want to see your vision come to pass and avoid feeling like you are wasting your time, then you need to know what jump starts your heart and you need to actively schedule the right activities in your diary around the big idea.

One of the best bits of advice from all the books on time management I’ve read is simply this, “Organize and Execute around your priorities”.

When I feel frustrated with vision output vs time spent I return to the prayer closet and ask God to speak to me about what he has called me to do and what his vision for my life’s work is. When I do this, he always, always, always says the same things but the whole process distills life into its rawest and simplest form. I’ve found that after 2-4 weeks of living post this encounter, life gets complicated in the minutia and demands and expectations of others. I have a real problem with people approval and I have OCD expectations of myself. This makes for an intense feeling of drivenness that I like when sanctified but I hate when not. We are to love people but worship God, not people. We are to love results but worship God, not results.

Your diary should reflect the vision you are seeking to fulfill. If it doesn’t, your kidding yourself. The big rock activities of your week should be spent on the big rocks of your vision. My vision for Activate Church is:

  • Disciple thousands of people
  • Transform the community we are apart of
  • Plant churches across the globe
  • Produce resources to help people grow in their ministry

While there are things I do that don’t fit into anyone of these big rock categories, If I don’t get intentional about aligning my diary with these goals, I get frustrated and my family feels like they’re living with a bear who has a sore head. You get the idea? Make it work.

Grace!

Casting a Compelling Vision!

One of the key roles and responsibilities of pastors and leaders is vision casting. The senior leader is the chief advocate and example of the vision to the congregation or organization. Since planting Activate I’ve learnt many things about vision while sitting in the hot seat and learning what works and what doesn’t work. I’m so passionate about the topic that I have written a book on Vision (2nd edition being released in 2013) and while writing the book, discovered that there are literally a plethora of ideas about vision and some of them helpful.

At the risk of being just another voice crying in the wilderness, here are some of my tips to casting a compelling vision:

Know what vision is: Many of the terms we use to talk about vision are confusing – mission, purpose, goals, dreams, vision, the list goes on. Really simply I define vision as a clear and compelling God-given picture of the future.

The Ripple Effect: Too many of us leaders are so enthusiastic about our vision that we fail to do the work to get our closest team members seeing and owning what is beating in our hearts. Begin gathering the people closest to you around the vision and then move outwards in concentric circles to the wider fringes of the congregation or group of people. Generally the wider the audience, the more public the vision casting.

If it’s fuzzy in the pulpit, it will be confusing in the congregation: If you aren’t clear, don’t expect anyone else to be. Clarity is one of the key functions of leadership. Fuzzy vision generally results in hostile takeovers and directionless anarchy.

Use media well: We are living in a visual generation and thus you must be able to tell the story of your vision through pictures.

Tell the story: We all love stories. Tell the story of where you came from, the journey along the way and where you are heading. Don’t just be clinical about it but take people with you. I remember a disaster vision session whereby I enthusiastically casted my vision for global domination, only to leave everyone in the dust of my grandiose plans. There were pockets of excitement but overall, it left a bad taste in people’s mouths because I hadn’t given context and taken people on the journey.

Toxic culture will stop a great vision: No matter how great your vision is, if your culture is not healthy, your vision won’t get off the runway. Create a healthy culture in partnership with a clear and dynamic vision and you will get lift-off.

Grace.

Vision!

Henry Taylor once said, “We are what and where we are, because we have first imagined it. Imagination lit every lamp, built every church, made every discovery, performed every act of progress and created better things for people. Imagination is the priceless ingredient for a better day.”

Everyone of us ends up somewhere but few of us end up somewhere on purpose.Unfortunately, too many of us aim far too low, end up hitting the target and wonder why life feels empty. Living life and conducting ministry with Godly vision is critical to our survival (Prov 29:18) and without vision for our future, we will keep repeating our past.

There were 4 characters in the bible (Abraham Gen 11; Joseph Gen 37; Moses Exodus 3; Peter Acts 10) who received Godly vision for their lives. What I’ve learnt about vision from their stories is:

  1. Godly vision flows out of a God-encounter – It’s not a childhood dream or fantasy…
  2. Godly vision establishes a new reality in our future – Vision acted upon will change your life…
  3. Godly vision is a revelation of what God wants to do on the earth – Keep God’s big picture in mind, not just you…
Vision is a clear and compelling God-given picture of the future. In Jesus life and ministry, vision played an important role. Vision gave Jesus focus when distractions hounded him to surrender his calling. Vision helped Jesus endure the shame of the cross. Vision inflamed Jesus heart with passion and gave us a picture of what is important in God’s house.
God’s got a unique journey for you and a unique vision for your journey. Maybe it’s time you got an upgrade on your vision and you need to seek God and ask him to download a fresh supply of vision into your heart and mind.
Insight!