Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Making Connections

The "Holidays" are a time when many folks endeavor to make connections.  Either with old friends, family or just the "hometown" crowd that they only see once a year when everyone is back in town.  It is fun to make connections, to hear about what folks are doing and even maybe meet some new people they brought along.  The key though, it seems, is some sort of shared experience that brings us together in the first place and breaks the ice.

Last night I had a fun opportunity to get together with a group of guys who played football at Harvard and now live in the DFW area.  I was invited by a guy who was a couple years younger than me and is a lawyer in Dallas.  So I made the trek over to Dallas (a long way for us living here in Fort Worth) to see who might be there and who I might meet.  It was a big group, probably about 25 guys, and I quickly realized I knew none of them except my teammate who had invited me.

Luckily, I quickly found my connection and sat down and met many of the guys around us and wound up having a fun evening making new connections.  As I left, I had 2 major thoughts...

1) I don't hang around with just guys that much these days, it was a fascinating thing to be in a room with 25 other guys, most of whom are tremendously successful in their business lives.  There is just a different energy in a room when you get that many alpha males together around good food and drink.  

2) These guys know how to talk to people, make a connection and find a shared experience.  Although I had never met most of them, we had the one point of contact in that we played football, most of us for the same coach and at the same school.  But we didn't just stay there, from that point of contact new contacts and experiences were shared and by the end of the evening, you would have thought this was a group of old friends.

In his book "The Tipping Point", Malcolm Gladwell talks about three types of people who are essential for any epidemic/movement to gain traction and grow.  You need Connectors (people who link the world), Mavens (the information folks, early adapters) and Salesman (the persuaders who get others on board).

Of these the connectors (my belief) may be of the greatest value.  These are the folks that live in multiple worlds, who have tentacles (for lack of a good term) in a lot of different places and can reach into those places for experiences and contacts who might be able to help each other succeed and grow.

I think one of the great challenges for pastoral leadership is that it is so easy to get stuck into only one box and forget to make those connections.  We may be a Maven, with lots of information and knowledge and ability to solve problems creatively.  Or we might be a Salesman (in the church we might call them evangelists) who can bring a person in, sit them down, make the case of our product and why it is important in their life and "close the deal" as it were.

But if we don't have connectors, how are the Mavens and Salesmen ever going to reach anyone?  That is one of my biggest concerns in our church today, especially as so many of my pastoral brothers and sisters continue to draw more and more lines of who is in and who is out.   Who are encouraging their communities to become wholly self-involved entities, with little cooperation with other communities.  They do this under the guise of faithfulness to the Scriptures and our statements of faith, but so often I think it is more about holding fast to traditions and cultural ways of thinking and fear of engagement with the world.

Will our congregations, with the hope of keeping "pure" doctrine and teaching break down connections with other congregations, traditions, institutions, resources in our communities?  Some traditions (like the Amish) have chosen to do this, to keep separate from the world for the sake of purity, only engaging very loosely with the world.  It works for them, but rarely do I think it leads to growing, thriving and relevant communities, especially if you choose to be a community living not as an enclave but fully in the world.

This is risky business, we need connections but those connections will change us.  Yet we proclaim a God who made a connection with us in Emmanuel:God with Us.  It was risky for God to connect with us, to get down into the mud and grime or our lives, and it required God to be willing to sacrifice God's own self on the cross.  Yet this willingness was and is essential for our salvation.

Are we as a church willing to do the same?  Will we be connectors?  Or will we simply retreat into our "Holy" enclaves?  I for one resolve that my congregation will not.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

vocation and joy

I watched a member of my congregation tonight fully living into his vocation.  This is a business he inherited from his father, has nurtured and grown, and now his son, daughter-in-law, wife, friends and employees were out working with him as he brought joy to hundreds, some of whom are children who may not see another Christmas.

What a joy to watch someone live into their vocational calling.  To see what gifts they can give, to experience great joy in those gifts and bring others along with him.  It was a privilege from nika and I to be there and experience it.  And a reminder to me to make sure that in my vocational calling I truly take joy in the opportunities I have to serve, live and love.

RT, I am grateful to know you.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The good, bad and yet excellent?

Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien. 
(The better(perfect) is the enemy of the good.)-Voltaire

This quote popped up again and again in my mind today.  In political debates about tax cuts and unemployment benefits (and I am making no political statement here, just observing), in dealing with my little girl who doesn’t want to eat her peas, discussing the challenges of keeping the fellowship hall floor clean; again and again, the debate of the perfect versus the good.

How do we decide when it is worth it to compromise and accept good, knowing the perfect is out there but at this point unattainable?  When political debate and election results have shown that you just can’t do what you thought you might.  While following the training program for the marathon exactly as the cyber coach tells you is ideal, sometimes life gets in the way and you are sore and tired and frankly your body says no.  While it would be good to completely scrub the floor everyday that job takes too much time and a good old fashion sweep and mopping is ok and we will scrub once a month.  While you wish your daughter would, after a 5 minute time out involving screaming and gnashing of teeth, come back to the table and eat the meal you prepared, perhaps her eating plain noodles and drinking her milk and not crying, is victory.  The list goes on and on.

Voltaire was on to something here.  Perhaps he foresaw the devastation of the French Revolution (even though it was inspired by much of his writing).  He could imagine the destruction caused by those who clung so hard to their hopes and dreams of the “perfect” society that they wound up eliminating everyone around them who thought differently.  He could see a downside to democracy in which entrenched positions prevented compromise and created the possible tyranny of a majority that ruled, seeking its own perfection, with no consideration for the opinions and beliefs of others.  Or of small groups who, because they refused to acknowledge the needs of others, chose to disengage and seek perfection apart from the other.

As a disciple of Jesus and one who confesses that humanity is truly captive (or in bondage) to sin, I see real promise in this line of thinking.  The perfect is unachievable this side of the resurrection.  Yet we seek it so desperately to achieve it.  We grasp so desperately for the perfect solution to our problems.  We strive to have perfect jobs, families, and even hope to achieve a perfect “true Lutheran” church.  We go forward in this, as if any of those were possible.  Forgetting that the while we can hope for the perfect, the good is pretty worthwhile as well.

So does this mean anything goes?  To quote a well known author, I say “By no means.”  Saying the perfect shouldn’t eliminate the good, doesn’t mean that anything goes or that anything is good or even excellent.  Yet excellence doesn’t mean perfection.  Can we allow ourselves to not be paralyzed by the fact that we haven’t or can’t achieve the perfect?  Can we create ways of discerning that focus on achieving what is helpful, useful, brings hope, serves those in need, gets us started on achieving a mission, keeps the facility running another day and be satisfied?  It may not be the perfect master plan, but it certainly is better than nothing, right? 

Well, certainly some do not think so.  But in my experience in leadership, those who strive constantly for the perfect plan, the exact right answers to every solution, aren’t dealing with actual people and actual communities and they rarely get anything done. 

We aren’t going to achieve the perfect, but is there value and excellence the good?  Can we be excellent and not perfect?  Certainly I am not the only one to have wondered this.  For that same author I quoted before (not Voltaire) also wrote…

“Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Indeed, lets think on those things.  A blessed Advent to you all.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Gleek Leadership

I finally got around to catching up on the latest Glee episode last night. If you aren't a Gleek, check out the the wiki article on it.  Basically, it is about extraordinarily talented high school youth trying to do something a bit out of the box (be in Show Choir) while still navigating the difficult world of fitting in to with the drama of high school.

Of all the characters on the show, I am intrigued by Finn.  Some (my wife) say that is because he is the most like me, but I think it is that Finn has been pushed to be a leader of the group. 

This past episode, this challenge of leadership was made explicit when the bullying of Finn's future step-brother Kurt (also the only openly gay student at their high school) came to a boiling point.  In that moment Finn was challenged by his girlfriend, classmates, future step-father and teacher to "be a leader" and stand up for Kurt.

This to me was where the leadership rubber hit the road in the series.  While it certainly would be noble and expected for Finn to stand up for Kurt boldly in this time of need, we also need to think about the hits he has already taken for Kurt and the entire Glee club. 

In the series Finn has gone from being the starting quarterback with the head cheerleader as his girlfriend to being betrayed by that girlfriend (who pretended he was the father of her child) and best friend (the actual father).  He lost his starting quarterback position by advocating for his friend Artie (who happens to be in a wheelchair) to be on the football team, a move assumed to undermine the football teams new coach.  He dressed up in red vinyl sheeting to demonstrate his "theatricality" and stand in solidarity with his Glee friends against the neanderthal football players who were harassing them.  He recruited Sam to be on the Glee club knowing that it might not only cost him his male lead, but also his quarterback spot.  His future step-father blew up on him for being mean to Kurt when Finn finally blew a gasket and called Kurt a very mean name because Kurt was being inappropriate and pushing boundaries because he had a crush on Finn.  The list goes on...

And after all this, Finn is told he should "be a leader" and stand up once more for his friend and future step-brother. Man, that is a lot to ask of a 17 year old kid, isn't it?

Of course that is exactly what is asked of leaders everyday.  Leaders take the hits, are betrayed by "friends" and are often forced to make tough calls and choose a side only to be misunderstood by others who don't know the whole story.  This is what being a leader 24/7 is about, and Finn lives that.  But Finn also lives another reality, in the moment, Finn fell short.

If you haven't seen the episode, spoiler alert.  When the physical moment of truth comes, Finn isn't there.  The other guys on the club confront Kurt's bully and take him on, with Finn's biggest rival coming away as the leader and the sympathetic champion.  When they all gather, the question is put to Finn, "where were you?"

Certainly Finn missed an opportunity there, he should have been with his teammates, standing up for his step-brother.  He missed that as leaders sometimes do. You cannot always be present, you will miss some major "crises" moment and be challenged because of it.  "Where were you?" is a question every leader will have to one day confront whether that of a team of 3 people at a factory, pastor of a church, ceo of a company, president of a nation.

But the question he might ask back is "will you be there?"   Will you be there tomorrow, next week, a month from now, a year?  When the heat of battle has simmered and the glory to be gained isn't immediate, will you be there?  Finn has and one could argue that what Finn has done is model leadership for the others in the group.  I like how Finn is growing into a leader, because I see him growing and multiplying himself.

Leadership isn't always about being "there" in the moment of intensity, sometimes it is about keeping a slow burn, an eye on the vision of what is to come and ensuring that is keep forefront.  It is also about replicating yourself so you don't always have to be there.  So that when crucible times come for your organization, and you aren't there, you have multiplied leaders to ensure that what must be done, is done. 

I know many leaders who open and close their shop every night, who know everything that happens within that boundary.  They are faithful and do everything in their power to "be there" whenever they are needed.  I admire those leaders.  But perhaps we can learn something from Finn's leadership.  His leadership empowered Artie, Sam, Mike and ultimately even the lovably deviant Puck, to stand up for Kurt when he wasn't there.  Sure he missed the moment of glory, but in the world of high school, as in our world, no doubt there will be future opportunities.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

PIcking up leaves with a 2.5 year old

As Nika and I were trying to pick up leaves the other day in our yard, me sweeping and raking and stuffing into bags, her attempting to help.  I realized that leadership and picking up leaves with her had much in common.

In theory, she was willing to help and with instruction she could be useful, helping to sweep and pile the leaves.  But every so often, she would get distracted, bored or decide that while nice piles of leaves were good and orderly, that was a bit too much order in her life and she needed to shake things up.  At that point, out would come her Care Bears car and BOOM, my carefully stacked leaf pile was now all over the yard again. 

How many times has a leader gotten a team together, begun working on a project, see initial success and progress, only to have one member (or a cadre of saboteurs) decide they needed to drive their proverbial car into the leaf pile? With a 2.5 year old, you get it.  She wants to put the leaves in the bag, and then take the leaves out of the bag.  She is learning in and out, boundaries, etc...  But with "big kids" what it is in them that makes them decide to tip over the bag and dump out out all those leaves we worked together so hard to sort or to just blow the whole thing up before they even make it in the bag?

Do these "big kids" just get bored?  Do they not understand the goal completely?  Has it not been communicated to them what the goal is?  Do they doubt the ability of the leader?  Or are they just acting out because order threatens the chaos that allows them to thrive and keeps the status quo in force?  Or perhaps to think more positively, are they just trying to inject some fun into the whole thing?  I mean, raking leaves isn't the most exciting task in the world.  And neither is much of life.

Eventually, I was able to get all the leaves into the bag.  It took a lot longer than I thought it would, required much more patience than I thought I had and a lot of communication with her about the goal.  But finally, we accomplished the goal and even had some fun along the way.  So did I learn anything from this? Well, I might have learned not to include the 2.5 year old in the process if the goal is speed.  But also, perhaps there is something in the journey that jumping in the leaf pile and starting over again allows us to enjoy and might even produce a better result.  Not sure I have the personality type to always be picking up leaves with a 2.5 year old, but it can be fun.

Friday, November 19, 2010


Recently a facebook "friend" posted about how he was tired of the use of the term "brokenness" as a descriptor or potential substitute for the term sin.  He, and many of those who agreed with him on the thread of conversation thought this was a watering down of the theological term sin and one more example of how we are "accommodating" the modern world. At the end of the day, I think what he really meant is that folks like myself, who use the term brokenness regularly to help folks understand the concept of sin, are really just kinda wussing out.

So am I just wussing out?  Am I and others who find real meaning and a point of connection with folks, especially those who are unchurched in explaining the concept of sin by using the terminology of being broken, just not courageous enough to use the term sin?  Or perhaps, is there another way of thinking of this?  FYI, my wife K, will be most likely writing about this in her next column on Working Preacher if you want some real theological substance, instead of just my ramblings.

But to give some credence to my ramblings, I just want to establish a couple things.  I have been a pastor, student learner or intern in four congregations, with 6 years as the solo or lead pastor in 2.  In addition to this, I have the experience of being a pastor's kid for approximately 33 years.  Why do I state this? Just letting you know, I have been around a bit.

In that getting around, I have found that frankly, sin manifests itself constantly in "brokenness".  Much of the good of what we try to do in our families, communities, workplaces and the church is thwarted by "brokenness".  Dis functional families, teams, committees, city councils, school boards, work groups, bosses, subordinates, church councils, etc... are a constant in our lives.  Not always because people set out to do so, but because they are just broken.  They can't get it right.

The ingrained patterns of learning, manifesting themselves in behavior, experiences of loss, ignorance, prejudice, sexism, homophobia, inability to perform, racism, class warfare, misrepresentation of credentials, laziness, you name it...have left us incapable of actually working together without courageous conversation and an acknowledgment about how messed up we are.  We are broken, busted, can't get it right!  Just take a look at our political process, this grand ideal of government for and by the people, of open and fair political process and justice, how is that working these days?

If we start the conversation there, with the fact that we are broken, we have something to work with.  That conversation, once begun based on why we are so broken we can't make any decisions or do anything that doesn't hurt others, exude power over those who are powerless or shows disregard for the 10 commandments and Jesus' commandment of love and service, allows us an entry point into a conversation about sin.

Sin!  Please understand, I am not a wuss on this. Sin is real and is the cause of so much sadness and pain in this world there are days I wonder why we try to get up.  Sin is the cause of our brokenness.  Yet if we start with that theologically loaded term, one that has been used constantly throughout history to degrade, subjugate and demean human beings, and especially those who are of lower class, gender or sexuality, we aren't going to get very far with our mission to proclaim to them the good news of Jesus.

Jesus was no wuss on sin.  He called out the religious leaders for their hypocrisy and pride.  He confronted the woman at the well with the truth of her life.  Yet he didn't spend a lot of time beating them up for being "sinful".  He pointed out how their lives were broken, he offered a different way, encouraged them and trusted them to follow.  Brokenness is not a synonym for sin, but it is the condition brought on by our condition and an entry point into conversation.  Although many may think I am a wuss, I will keep using the term.  It is an entry point, it is a conversation starter and as our church is challenged to reach out and bring the gospel to a culture that finds us increasingly irrelevant and pointless, I will not apologize for using any terminology that opens up a door to preach Christ.

I confess that I am in bondage to sin, and I am broken.  Christ help me.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Fractals Revised

Last week I posted about Fractals and leadership, how seemingly messy structures can in fact be quite beautiful and orderly.  Many expressed appreciation, but one reader (who happens to be a math guy) corrected me that my interpretation of fractals was in fact a bit off.  After spending a few hours researching fractals, (thanks largely to this helpful site from Rice University), I agree his critique (that they would look differently based on perspective, they wouldn't) yet think their are leadership lessons to gain from fractals.

On closer reading I realized that Mack (from the Shack) was calling "a mess" not the fractal itself, but the light streaming through the prism of the fractal.  As we know, light can be separated into many colors and the image there presented (as I interpret it) is not so much that the fractal is a mess but the light shining through it.  Seeing that cacophony of light our minds do not see beautiful order but a mess with little to no order.

So what might this have to do with our communities?  I have often encountered situations in leadership where a process has been undertook, a system put into place, that seems completely orderly.  The layers of leadership accountability and structure have been carefully put in place so that good decisions can be made quickly in real time by leaders empowered to do the work they are assigned faithfully.

Invested in getting these structures in place we are convinced that if only you look closer (as my mathematician friend encouraged me) you would be amazed at the intricate and beautifully complex order of the thing.  Yet to the outsider who hasn't been through the process, who only sees the results of the process coming fast and furious (like the many colored light through the prism), the decisions seem too quick, disorderly and even exclusionary.

In a fast moving world, where you are punished for slow decision making it is essential that you have orderly structures in place to make decisions well and quickly. Yet despite your hard work the leader should also be prepared to realize that to those outside, or used to the "traditional" linear structures of leadership, these decisions might seem to be like the light through the fractal, disorderly and "a mess."

This is what makes this work so challenging.  Many of our congregations, cities, civic organizations are weighed down both explicitly and implicitly but structures that discourage change and dis-empower leaders.   These are structures in which those involved are used to taking 2 months to decide how many times a month to cut the grass.

So what is a leader to do? I believe you must first be faithful in building real relationships within your community.  These relationships build trust as you work with your leadership team to construct a new structure that is both contextual and also pushes the context to change.  Then you must train and multiply your leaders to operate within that structure while having flexibility to regularly revise this structure to adapt to this fast changing world.  Finally, you will need patience upon patience to deal with the inevitable charges that, at best, you have created a mess and at worst, that you have been unfaithful and misleading of the community for your own gain.

Ultimately, courage and stamina are needed to sustain the faith that the work you are about, this work that seems so messy to others, is in fact creating that beautiful fractal of a community that is pleasing to God.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Messy Fractal Leadership

Trinity has a Men's breakfast/book study group that gets together the 1st and 3rd Thursdays of every month to eat, pray and discuss a book of mutual interest.  This fall, the group has been reading The Shack and discussing about three chapters at a time each Thursday we gather.  Although I have to honestly say I wasn't terribly fired up to read The Shack (it seemed a little too pop-culture religion for me) the conversations these men of faith are having by the issues raised are fascinating.  Certainly worth my time and the energy it takes for me to get up before sunrise (which if you know me is a LOT).

This week we got together to discuss chapters 6-9, which (for those who know the book) is when Mack encounters and has conversations with the three persons who represent the persons of the Holy Trinity.  Papa, Jesus and Sarayu (the Spirit) have many conversations with Mack about their internal relationships, human structures of authority and power and the human choice of individualism over relationship.  If you can get over the Sabellian heresy within the structure of the conversation to listen to what they are saying, there is some real insights to begin to think about leadership, the church and our life together.

What was most impressive was how this group of men (mostly senior age) could take on and think critically about Papa and Sarayu's critic of human authority and power.  Although certainly challenging to their world view, a view shaped by time in the military and being raised in an era valuing conformity and following of authority, they could critically think about how power is used and can get in the way of community and relationships.

Most interesting to me was our conversation brought up by chapter 9 when Sarayu and Mack are in the garden.  Mack is stunned by the colors of the garden and Sarayu goes on to explain that when viewed from above, the garden is actually a fractal.  Which she/he describes as "something considered simple and orderly that is actually composed of repeated patterns no matter how magnified.  A fractal is almost infinitely complex." (page 129)

Yet while beautiful, Mack calls this garden a "mess."  For when viewed from his perspective, not above but within it, the colors and shapes seemed to go in no apparent order or structure.  He was confused and frustrated by it even as he admired its beauty.  Ultimately, of course, he learns that this garden is his own heart, which has been made more and more complex by the world and the experiences he has had, to the point where when viewed from one perspective could only be referred to as a mess, but from God's, is a beautiful and orderly fractal.

So what does this have to do with leadership.  Almost without knowing it, the men in the group began to tease out of this conversation that their family systems, communities, even their church, is just like these fractals.  In the midst of them they seem messy and painful.  To do relationship, to be in many relationships that aren't completely ordered by power and straight line authority, will be messy and sometimes chaotic.  Yet, if we can step back, we can also see that it is beautiful and pleasing to God.

Leadership from this perspective is certainly a post-modern ideal.  It isn't about creating power structures of councils and committee heads and elected officials and priests who utilize power to control and structure things linearly, top down.  But instead is about creating systems in which tangency can take place, in which relationships build upon each other over and over again, creating a multi-layered fractal structure that  creates beautiful and often chaotic results.

To modern ears and sensibilities, this is strange if not dangerous.  But as we see structures breaking down, power utilized not to build up the kingdom but to keep the status quo, I wonder if we don't need to be more fractal in our leadership.  To get a little messy in relationship so that a beautifully chaotic kingdom building structure that is pleasing to God can be created.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

New Link and Resource

For the past couple years I have been engaging in a training program through www.coachnet.org to become a certified coach.  Not only for ministry, but certainly focused on ministry and for use in leadership in my congregation and denomination.  One of the leaders of Coachnet is a guy named Bob Logan.  He has a new blog which I have linked to here on my page.  www.loganleadership.com.

Certainly some good stuff to connect to there.  Would encourage you all to check it out.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Cowtown History and the Cowboys

Last Wednesday I walked the three blocks east from Trinity over the the Will Rogers Memorial Center to give the invocation for a meeting of the Tarrant County Historical Commission.  While I know some of my pastor friends don't really enjoy doing these sorts of public events I see them as a good opportunity to meet people and network in the community.  Additionally, they provide a reminder to the community that the historic congregations and denominations are by no means dead in the community, for if I don't do it, someone else will.

This was the first time I had been inside the Will Rogers Coliseum.  It is an art-deco masterpiece built as part of the 1930's celebration of Fort Worth and also in honor of Will Rogers by his friend (and Fort Worth baron) Amon Carter.  It was a public works project of magnificent proportions for the time, and still allows the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo http://www.fwssr.com/ to be one of the premier events of its kind in the world.  This was the first rodeo to ever be on radio and television live thanks to Amon Carter's NBC affiliate, WBAC (known affectionately as "We Bring A Program").

So what does this excursion into history have to do with leadership in Fort Worth or anywhere for that matter?  Well the speaker spoke about how the leaders of the community have striven, been victorious and often failed to promote and build up Fort Worth, while also preserving its significant history.  The leadership lesson I took away was that so often as a leader you will lose your initial goal.  Your vision, whether it be to build a Coliseum, or to preserve a historic building, will have to be flexible and subject to change.  To do anything in a public arena you must be willing to change your initial plan.  You cannot control everything.

Some might see this as being a flip-flopper, but the principle of the matter is key.  You must decide what is the key thing you will fight for, what will you lay it on the line for.  To lead effectively, to preserve buildings, to build buildings/organizations, you must be willing to lose some battles to win.  The wisdom of those who built Fort Worth, although imperfect, was to know they couldn't win them all.  Fort Worth never became Dallas, although in the 30's they might have hoped it would, but in the long run they created a livable city with significant history and culture.  Is it a perfect place?  By no means.  But the wisdom of those who are trying to preserve it is to make sure we do not lose those things that connect us to that past, while moving us toward a significant vision for the future of Cowtown which includes the dramatic Trinity River Vision.  (see http://www.trvexperience.com/)  To do this, the vision must be flexible and compromises must be made.

In contrast to this vision of allowing for compromise, recognizing that absolute control isn't the road to success, are the Dallas Cowboys (who just happen to be playing MNF tonight).  Tonight they introduced Jerry Jones as Owner/President/General Manager.  While some might debate me on this, I would argue that the lack of success the Cowboys have had over the past 10 years is directly proportional to the control that Jerry has exerted over his team.  He has not allowed for others to have significant control and I believe that has stifled creativity and created a culture in which pleasing Jerry, not winning football games, is the most important goal.  While I still root for the 'boys, I do not hold out much hope for their long term success until Jerry relaxes some control, allows for creativity and flexibility.  So long as his vision is of himself holding the Lombardi Trophy able to claim that he, and he alone, is responsible for the success that vision will never come to pass.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Spirit Moving

Had the first cottage meeting tonight to get to know the congregation at Trinity. This one was held in just across the Tarrant county line in far eastern Parker county (to the west of FW).  The goal of these meetings is to get out into the communities in which the Trinity members actually live and have some time to get to know them in a relaxed, intimate setting.  Tonight's meeting was all that and more.

We talked a bit, introduced ourselves and got to know each other better.  Quickly going around the room with the 15+ participants we realized we had folks both young and old, members of Trinity dating back to the 1950's and those joining next weekend.  This was truly a mixed group of folks who I am grateful took time to get to know one another better, and I think made some friends tonight.

After the initial get to know you we spent a bit reflecting on Spiritual Gifts and the work of the Spirit.  Nothing too terribly heavy, but utilizing 1 Corinthians 12 we thought a bit about not only how we are all gifted, but also how those gifts can affect the Spirit of a place.  Christ calls us to be of one body and sharing of one spirit.  And in any community, family, individual that Spirit can be both good and strong, or the Spirit of a place can be negative and destructive.  Stories were shared, both personal and corporate about how times of great hope had been replaced by sadness and loss, only to be regained by the gift of time and relationship. 

Ultimately we came to a place of discussing how faith can give us a courageous spirit.  One that is willing to step out into things that seem uncertain, possibilities that have no guarantee other than a promise.  Truly a spirit inspired by God.   While certainly a small sample size, the honest sharing, optimism, hope and community I experienced tonight gives me great hope for our work to come at Trinity.  It took a sense of the spirit to take on this call, tonight (and this morning by the generous response to support our mission partners in Alvarado) that spirit was affirmed.  Thanks be to God.

Thursday, September 30, 2010


One of the major features of this blog will be reflections on the issue of leadership.  Many think this is a simple concept, those who are in authority lead.  Yet, in reality many of us are called to leadership in ways beyond that of which our "authority" would allow.  In today's post modern world in which hierarchy is always challenged, claims of authority require constant proving, and leadership is all the more required and requires more clarity.  When is a leader accomplishing there task?  When are they failing?

We see this in our current national political debate.  The current national leadership led by President Obama, has pushed through an ambitious agenda and achieved much of that agenda, yet is under considerable fire.  Why is this?  When they have done much of what they said they would do.  Is it simply a result of a national economy in crisis, with unemployment at 10% or more?  A national economy which logically began its decline long before President Obama took office in January of 2009.  Why is there such a backlash?  Well obviously we have an issue of leadership.  His leadership is being questioned based on a quantitative result he may or may not have much to do with.  Or perhaps he oversold his potential, maybe the nation wasn't ready for his agenda, even though in November 2008 they seemed to be.  Did he get too far out in front of his community?

This is the reality of leadership.  On Sunday, Donovan McNabb will be quarterbacking the Washington Redskins against his old team, the Philadelphia Eagles, quarterbacked by his former understudy, Michael Vick (who has his own demons to deal with).  What kind of leadership will each individual deliver?  In the face of a hostile crowd, who just 12 months ago cheered him, how will McNabb respond? Ultimately, what is the measuring stick by which we will measure their results.  The good news for them, is that in the NFL there is a result in 3.5 hours.  There is a win and a loss.  The NFL offers leadership a quick response, instant feedback.  In national, community or church leadership, the results are much more fluid, less concrete and longer in term.  How do you lead, when the results are not 3.5 hours in coming?

Leadership is a challenging and fluid role.  Coaches come and go, Presidents come and go, Pastors come and go...results typically come from a vision of leadership that begins to be carried out.  Not only by the leader, but by the people being led.  As we are thinking, it seems that being a successful leader in many ways means never getting to far out in front of the people being led, yet never allowing them to hold you back from bold decisions.  How does one decide?  Is it an exclusive choice? To be practical or visionary?  Is it that simple of a choice? In a world in which results are expected on an NFL time frame, how do you decide?

That is something on which to pray...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Post the First

Well I have officially landed in my new hometown of Fort Worth. In this new call, which I am sharing with my wife K, I am only 3/4 time. As a result, I plan to blog more regularly. The topics are going to range, but specifically I am interested in Leadership Studies (both in the church and non-church worlds), the Use of Scripture, Coaching, Church History (especially related to leadership) and finally, Football!

The blog is named Cowtown Lutheran because that is who I am. I am a native Texan from Austin (and have the license plates to prove it) who has sojourned around the country getting education and work experience. By chance, or the Holy Spirit depending on your view on these things, I have now wound up back in my home state as the Lead Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Fort Worth (Cowtown) while my wife K goes to Brite Divinity School and serves as our Teaching Pastor.

My ambition is to blog at least once a week about various topics of interest, current events, books I am reading etc... Please note that my views published here are my own, they are not those of Trinity Lutheran Church, the ELCA, Trinity Lutheran Children's Center, my wife, my family or anyone else you might like to hold responsible for my statements. If you find what I write interesting or worthy of comment please do so, if you have topics you might like me to discuss please let me know. It is good to be back in Texas and back on the web.