Friday, November 6, 2015

The Royals, Bandwagon Fans & Church Stuff

So those of you who know me, know that I love baseball. I love the game, everything about it. I played growing up and was able to play at a pretty high level until an injury just wouldn't allow my body to do the things I needed it to do. I love watching baseball, I love coaching baseball, I love seeing kids learn the game of baseball. I love baseball.

Now, admittedly...I have followed two teams for most of my adult life. I was born & raised in Indiana, my dad was a Cardinals fan & that is what I became. I've always been a Cardinals fan. I like the way their organization goes about its business. They develop talent through their system and bring them up. But when I was growing up there was this guy named Bo Jackson, I'm sure you've heard of him, but I loved watching him play. Football or baseball, I just loved watching the guy. He was smooth, yet intense at the same time. But when he played for the Royals I became a Royals fan as well. Have been since. So when I moved to Kansas in 2013, I didn't mind following the Royals, I'd always kept tabs on them, even in the years there wasn't much to follow. HOWEVER, I will say family moved to Kansas in the middle of the 2013 baseball season. 2 of the 3 years we have lived in Kansas, the Royals have played in the World Series & won this year. You are welcome. I'm glad we were able to bring some luck.  But I digress.

Yesterday as I was driving to an appointment I was listening to sports radio, which I often do, and a topic came up that intrigued me. They were talking about the World Series celebration in downtown KC this week and how many people were there, over 800,000 if I remember right. That's nuts! But the conversation revolved around how many were just 'bandwagon fans' and not true fans. I got me to thinking a bit, and caused some questions.

1. Who cares? Who cares if people are bandwagon fans? The players don't care...because they get to play in front of more people, and become bigger names. The front office doesn't care because it increases their revenue & productivity. The organization does not care...because bandwagon fans are gained by performing at a mediocre level. Bandwagon fans are created by people who follow success. What's wrong with that? Shouldn't a 'TRUE' fan be happy that their team is performing & producing at such a high level that others are starting to follow?

2. Who gets to define what a 'true fan' really is? The radio conversation I was listening to was so confusing to me, because they couldn't even define the terms they were using. What is a 'bandwagon' fan and what is a 'true' fan? Is a 'true' fan the one who is a season ticket holder? If that's the case, frankly there aren't many true fans because not many of us can afford that. Who gets to define that?

3. Does this happen in more areas of life than just sports? Think about it...really all we are talking about here is the perception in which we look at people & the groups we put them in. If one doesn't live up to certain expectations established by someone else, they are deemed less than. We have created a tiered system with levels of status based on how 'genuine' or 'bandwagon' we are.

Listen, over half of my life has been spent in church work. I've seen the greatness and complete joy of working with and for churches, and I have seen the ugly and the pain and the heartache that it also causes. I'm not naive when it comes to the church. I am a firm believer that one of the main reasons people ARE NOT going to churches in communities all around the country has absolutely nothing to do with God, and more to do with the fact that they have met too many 'church people'. These 'church people' have created a segregated perception of church. You're either a 'true follower' or you're a 'bandwagon' follow. But who gets to define that? I certainly don't. Dare I say, you don't have that right either?

I people that people have a natural tendency to follow what they see producing results. This is a simple, yet sustaining business philosophy; the better you make your product, the more people will want it. The more people want it, the higher appeal. The higher your appeal, the larger the responsibility to continue improving. People follow results.

I am very blessed to serve and lead a church that God has blessed with results. When I look at numbers & data (and yes, I'm a numbers guy), I look for eternally significant numbers, like decisions & baptisms. In 3 years we have had over 140 decisions made & over 70 baptisms. Not bad for a church in a town of 1,500 people. God has been good to us. But we have also seen people come to us because they see us producing results. They see people growing, being equipped, being sent out for ministry. They see our people invested in the lives of others in our community. They see the way we are focusing on our values and living them out. People are attracted to that. Just like people are attracted to the Royals. Just like people are attracted to Jesus.

I'm reminded of a story in the Mark 2, where Jesus was teaching and there was a massive crowd gathered, so much so that it was overflowing. But there was a group of friends who were desperately trying to get a man who needed to be healed to Jesus, but they could not get through the crowd. They were so committed to getting to Jesus that they crawled on the roof, created a hole, and lowered their friend down to Jesus to be healed. Great story right...maybe. But what bothers me about the story is that this crowd who was gathered listening to Jesus teach were not aware at all of the person who desperately needed to get to Jesus. They didn't get out of the way and help him get to Jesus. Instead, this group of men had to create their own way by digging a hole in the roof.

Are there times when we get in the way? Where we are so worried & caught up about separating ourselves from 'bandwagon' fans that we lose awareness that they still need Jesus? We are so caught up in protecting our tradition, or our church culture, or our image that we isolate the very people we are called to impact? Have we become the crowd gathered, listening intently to Jesus, yet not getting out of the way to help people get to him?

So let me ask you this? Who are the true followers of Jesus? Are they the ones gathered & listening, but not getting out of the way or helping others get to him? OR...maybe, just maybe the true followers are the ones that do whatever it takes to get people to Jesus, even if it means creating their own path because they just know they need to be with Jesus. Which is the 'true' and which is the 'bandwagon'?

For the record, I don't care if you're a bandwagon Royals fan. Welcome aboard. Enjoy the ride. I love their values-driven approach to building their club. They value things like character & chemistry & family & development. I respect that so much, and frankly I think we, the church, could learn an awful lot from them. Congratulations to the Royals for taking the crown & to all you 'true' fans...maybe you should welcome people in instead of pushing them away...your team is producing results, enjoy the growth, stop getting in the way.

Until next time...Love God, Love People, Period.


Sunday, November 1, 2015

Halloween masks, candy & a pursuit of Jesus?

Halloween is always intriguing to me. It's fun. I'm not one of those Christians who is anti-Halloween, in fact I think it's a great way to engage the reality of the culture you live in & be salt, light & connect dots for people between our lives & God. But that's another blog for another time...

Last night while I was sitting on my front porch passing out candy with my daughter who was dressed up like Cinderella (a gorgeous Cinderella by the way), it just kept thinking...why is this such a big deal? I mean we live in a tiny little Kansas town & easily had over 100 people come by to get candy fully dressed in disguise. Why is it so appealing to us?

Is their an innate desire within us to be something, or someone that we're not? Is there some level of appeal to wearing a mask so that no one knows the real you? Is there some level of security in disguising who we really are behind the costume? While this question was definitely driven by my Halloween experience, I think the same questions could be asked about our life & our experience pursuiting Jesus.

We dress up for Halloween with what goal???? To get candy? To get something we want? Or is it something more...we get the opportunity to BE something we want? Last night I saw everything from famous baseball players, to princesses, to zombies, to super heroes, you name it, we saw it. One night that we get to pretend & get what we want at the same time. But what if that's the way we live daily, and we just don't get our costume from the aisle at party city?

Have you ever gone through seasons in life where you felt like you were just pretending to be something you're not? With what motive? Trying to please someone or gain something you desired? Was it worth it? Sacrificing who God made you specifically to be for something less than? I think many people go through life wearing masks & disguises to cover up who we are & the stories that make up our lives, however God very directly tells us in Jeremiah that He has plans for YOUR life & they are pretty stellar plans. Why hide who you are? Why disguise who God wants you to be? Instead of running away from it, run to it? Being in God's will & becoming to person God has called you to be is sweeter than any piece of candy given away from a front porch with their light on.

God has specially challenged us, as followers of Jesus, to shine like stars. So stop wearing a mask. Stop putting on a disguise. Stop being a poser. have issues,'re a bit crazy. We all are. Rest confidently in knowing that the God who created everything...created you to BE you. So go be you, and be an awesome you. The absolute worst disguise or mask you could wear is pretending to be something you're not. Putting on the mask of a life you aren't living. If you aren't actually following Jesus, don't pretend you are. If you ARE actually following Jesus, don't hide it. There's no need to cover it up because you are exactly who God created you to be.

Happy Pretend To Be Something You're Not Day. I'm gonna go eat my kids' candy now.

Love God. Love People. Period.


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Elvis, Dorothy, Superman, Jesus &'s a funny thing.

Influence is a funny thing isn't it? I mean, think about it just for a moment...who has influenced you in life? We often think of that teacher, coach, mentor, parent...who was it for you? Hopefully you have several that come to mind. But the reality is that we all influence. Every single one of us have influence radiating from our lives. You woke up the this morning, you are breathing right now as you read this simple have influenced today. You may not even realize you influenced, but you did...someone, somewhere was watching closely. Observing your words, your actions, your response to conflict, your commitment to excellence or your settlement of good enough. How did you impact? How did you leave your mark today?

You see, I honestly believe that we think of influence as only being from the 'good' or 'elite' leaders in life, but that's just not the case. While these people certainly have influence, the reason that you remember them isn't because they had influence, but rather it was the type of influence they had. They took you forward. They helped you take steps in becoming the person you are today.

Here's my point. I think we all need influence as a staple in our life. As important as the air we breathe is that which we allow to influence us, and the influence we have on others. In my line of work I deal with people on a weekly basis who have been influenced in a very poor direction and their life resulted in the consequences of actions that can be traced back to a select few influencers. We live in a world today where the need for positive, Jesus-pursuing, grace-driven influencers has never been more needed! All you have to do is walk into your local high school or college and see the need for influencers. will play a part in someone's story. You will help them take steps forward, force them backwards, or do nothing as they stand still. It's all influence. How will you leverage yours?

Think about these people for just a moment...

Those of you who know me are very well aware that I am a huge fan of Elvis. I love his music, I love the show & the spectacle of his life. He was one of the first major rockstars & had a tremendous influence on ALL who would follow in his footsteps. So much influence that decades after his death the number of people that visit Graceland each outnumber the attendance of many churches in the Memphis area combined. But you see, while Elvis had much influence, and claimed to have a spiritual foundation in Jesus, he did not surround himself with positive influencers that could keep him from drifting. He surrounded himself with enablers who allowed him to drift, allowed his influence to drift, and ultimately his life ended under the weight of it all.

Now that I live in Kansas, I have been forced to learn all things Wizard of Oz & Superman...I mean both are FROM Kansas, what other state can claim that? But think of the influence they both had. Dorothy seems like an innocent & naive girl yet if we look at the influence she had on the Lion, The Scarecrow, and the Tin Man it is quite impressive. Without her influence & persistence in not only building the relationships, but discovering what their true needs were...they would have never received the courage, the heart, or the brain. She was willing to do whatever it took to take her new friends forward. She had influence. Superman? Where do we even begin? He influenced everything around him. He stood for morality, for values, for justice. When people were in need they called for him. Think of all the kids who grew up wanting to be like Superman. But who were his influencers? Where did he get his values from...even apart from his superhuman abilities...where did his values come from?

What about Jesus? Now, listen...I'm a leadership junkie. I love all things leadership. I love reading books on leadership, studying great leaders both in the corporate world & the church world. I love learning the common threads, systems & thought processes behind great leaders. But what is interesting is that the most common thread among all leaders is simply influence. Malcolm Gladwell, Steve Jobs, Rick Warren, Lincoln, MLK...the great leaders in human history have all had it in common...influence. I admit that I may be biased because I am a man of great faith, but in my studies I simply cannot find a more influential leader than Jesus. No philosopher or brilliant mind has been discussed more than Jesus. No teaching is still taught more than Jesus'. Many leadership principles that we so highly regard, are from Jesus' leadership style (whether we care to admit it or not). Jesus was committed to taking people forward. He lived in a way that people followed. And he was willing to go into places he shouldn't have gone & talk to people he shouldn't have talked to (Samaria) just to help people move forward and better their life. He influenced a small group of leaders he hand-picked & equipped them to go on and influence even more people. His influence still exists today because He chose to not have his influence end with Him, but rather He equipped other people how to influence.

John Maxwell once said, "Leadership is influence. Nothing more, nothing less." As simple as this statement is, there is a lot of truth in this. As you move throughout your day I want you to ask one, simple question. Who/What Am I influencing & Who/What is influencing me?

Always Believe,