Skip to main content


I helped two people move this week. Well, "help" is a rather strong word. I showed up for a few hours and did some small tasks. I carried boxes, rearranged things to make room for more stuff, and tried to be encouraging and calming. It seemed like very little. I am used to carrying more of the load, I guess, but here's the thing: you can pay someone to move your stuff for you, but you can't pay someone to be your friend. And I guess I am learning that I don't have to exert a lot of sweat and expend great amounts of effort to be someone's friend or help them out. I just have to show up on a consistent basis, be there at crucial moments, and then stand, walk, sit, listen, cry, eat, or laugh with them.

I finished reading Good to Great by Jim Collins this week. He said many things that got me thinking. And I believe that I have a lot more clarity regarding how to move forward with certain situations in my life, especially groups that I am involved in. Here are a few principles that smacked me over the head:

1. Trying to motivate people and keep them interested is a waste of time. It takes energy away from your real task, which is to do something unique and great that no other group can do. People will have fun because they love being involved in that amazing and challenging process. One leader said, "If you are not passionate about what we do here, then go find something else to do." Ouch! I have too often found myself trying to convince people that x or y is a great idea and they should get involved. In the end, my motivation or excitement is never enough to carry anyone else and people lose interest and walk away. People have to find motivation within themselves or it won't last. I am not sure how I can help them uncover it, but I would like to able to do that.

2. Being great takes no more effort than being mediocre. In fact, it might take less at times. Hard work alone does not get one to greatness. However, being single-minded, focused, facing the brutal facts, and saying 'no' to everything that does not fit within your pursuit of greatness (calling, passion, goal, whatever you want to call it) will keep you moving forward. Yeah, I've tried trying harder and it just makes you more tired and frustrated. It helps to take a hard look at what we can be truly great at (our unique qualities and opportunities) and let go of all those things that merely disperse our energies. Diversification is not all it is cracked up to be. We cannot do it all, so how about doing one thing really well? Oh, and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is bad news unless it already lines up with what you are passionate about.

3. Who you do it with is way more important than what you do. If you don't have the right people around you (who are passionate and disciplined), it doesn't matter what you do, it will not succeed. If you have the right people, they will help drive any project with their particular set of skills and their passion. You can always teach a skill. You can't teach devotion or passion. My question is, how do people get these qualities?

4. Humility will get you further than charisma. Leaders who were humble (cared more about their company or group than about their own reputation) served the company well, but leaders who were "stars" eventually drove their companies into the ground. This was because their own personal status was more important than the success of the whole group. Unfortunately, I have seen this happen a lot in church settings. May I never rely on charisma to produce lasting results or be sucked into following a personality. Humility also attracts God. I like that!

This week I have been thinking about what we as a faith community (and me as a person) could be truly great at. Surprisingly, it has not been that hard to see. And once I saw it, I got really excited! A bit scary to see where it could all lead, really. And that's a good thing.

This is a baby's belly button. Helpful at one time in her growth, but now that she's matured past that stage, it's just darn cute!


Popular posts from this blog

what binds us together?

For the past few weeks, I have been reading a book by famed psychiatrist M. Scott Peck which chronicles his travels (together with his wife) through remote parts of the UK in search of prehistoric stones. The book is part travel journal, part spiritual musings, part psychology, and part personal anecdotes. A mixed bag, to be sure, and not always a winning combination. At one point, I considered putting the book aside, not finishing it, but then Peck started writing about community. He is no stranger to the concept. He has led hundreds of community-building workshops over the years, helped start a non-profit organisation dedicated to fostering community, and written a compelling book about the topic, one which greatly impacted me when I read it oh so long ago.[1]

In preparation for a course I am teaching next year, I have been doing quite a bit of study on unity and community. Once you start thinking about it, you see and hear evidence of it everywhere. (See my blog on the impact of b…

job hunting

I am on the hunt for a job. PhD in hand, I am a theologian for hire. The thing is, not a lot of places are hiring theologians these days, and if they are, they are usually looking for scholars with skills and experience outside my area of expertise. Today I found job opportunities for those knowledgeable in Religion, Race, and Colonialism, Philosophy and History of Religion, Islam and Society, Languages of Late Antiquity, Religion, Ethics, and Politics, and an ad for a Molecular Genetic Pathologist. Not one posting for a Dramatic Theologian with  a side order of Spirituality and a dash of Methodology.

I know, I know. My expectations are a bit unrealistic if I believe I will find an exact match for my particular skills. I know that job descriptions are wish lists to some extent, so no candidate is ever a perfect match. I also realize that one must adapt one's skill set according to the requirements of the job and be flexible. But there are so few jobs which come within ten or even…

building the church

Imagine two scenarios: 1) Give every person in the room a popsicle stick. Ask them to come together and put their sticks onto a table. Invariably, you end up with a random pile of sticks on a table. 2) Give every person in the room a popsicle stick. Show a picture of a popsicle stick bird feeder and ask people to come together and put their sticks on a table according to the picture. You will end up with the beginnings of a bird feeder on a table.

What is the difference between the two scenarios? In both, each person brought what they had and contributed it to the collective. However, in the first scenario, there were no guidelines, no plan, and no right or wrong way to pile the sticks. People came, placed their sticks on the table, and walked away. In the second scenario, people were given a plan to follow and as a result, something specific was built. Instead of walking away after they made their contribution, people huddled around the table to watch what was being built. Some were…