Resisting the Motto – Just Do It

Resisting the Motto – Just Do It

You’ve probably seen statistics about how rich we are in America, and I know it’s so true. We are blessed, and I am very grateful, truly, for where I live. We do in fact live in an incredibly wealthy country. You’ve probably also seen statistics about how rich you are personally (at least compared to the rest of the world). And again, there is so much truth embedded into that reality, and I’m very grateful. However, if you’re anything like me, I certainly don’t feel rich…far from it. Granted, I’m a pastor and I didn’t exactly get into my career field for the money, but still.

I bet many of you who are reading this feel similarly to me – that money is a bit tight, and that you wish you had more for other things you want to buy or have. And perhaps you even pray that God provides more, especially in this Christmas season. I’ve prayed that many times, and on occasion God has provided in answering those prayers.

But something about this endless pursuit of more is alarming. Let me confess something personally. I have a really hard time letting go of what I subtly perceive as My Hard-Earned Money. I don’t really like the idea of giving my money to someone else or spending it on someone else. In other words, I generally want to use all the money I have on myself and my family. And when I do bite the bullet and give to others, even then I am confronted with my selfish motives (sad but true). Now I get it, and I know this isn’t right – and there is a disturbing truth hidden in my generalized greed. But stay with me without judging me too harshly yet.

You see, when I have stepped into an opportunity to give (whether it was to someone in need, tithing to my local church, giving toward a cause or a charity, etc.), I have experienced joy in the giving. Yet, when the next opportunity comes around, you would think I’d be all excited to get that joy “hit” again, but no. It’s still hard to let go of the money. Argh! Why doesn’t this get easier every time you give?

In moments like these, I not only realize how attached I am to earthly things, but also how detached I am from a core commitment to emulate the heart of God, which in its essence, is a giving heart. And though these moments are hard to be honest about, I feel compelled to engage the deeper realities of my heart, rather than resist the underlying meaning of such chronic closed handedness. And these unflattering reflections of my heart remind me how important it is for me to choose to give, even when I don’t feel like it. Why? Well, for a lot of reasons. But for starters because it cultivates deeper trust in God. It helps me practice greater surrender and submission to God. And although I may not be the most cheerful giver, at least I will glean joy from the act of worship it is to offer what is ultimately God’s anyways.

There is one thing that has helped me more than anything else in this journey of learning how to live and be generous. It is rooted in a greater understanding of the gospel. In 2 Corinthians 8, the Apostle Paul speaks about money, and connects it to a gospel perspective. He doesn’t command us to “be generous” simply because that is the “Christian thing to do.” He challenges his readers to think about and view money with a radically different perspective, what I would call a gospel perspective.

In essence, Paul says this – if we’re having trouble with money (we’re anxious about it, clinging to it too tightly, etc.), then it’s rooted in our lack of knowing, or one might say, the lack of deep and adequate understanding of the gospel. If we get anxious about our money, or if we find ourselves overly needing of money and constantly wanting more, then we need to rethink our understanding of the gospel.

If we really understand the Cross, we will see the profound nature of this truth – that Jesus Christ became poor so that through HIS POVERY we could become rich. If we really see this, we cannot edge ourselves away from being generous. Generosity is embedded into the gospel in such a way that if we really get it, then we have no other choice or response than to live with increasing generosity.

In essence, Paul is telling us that if you’re not openhanded, then you don’t really know the Christ who died for you at the ground of your being.  You haven’t grasped the gospel profoundly enough or rightly. If you had, then your unwavering response would be to live as generously as you could stand, constantly striving to give to others, and carrying the eternal perspective that only the Cross brings.

I urge you to remember that we’re all in process in life, and so this conversation isn’t one that should make us feel shame, but instead a conversation to move us towards clarity – of the nature and profundity of the gospel. Right gospel understanding cultivates a growing and deepening way of living that generosity flows inevitably and abundantly.  When we experience God’s remarkable grace at the deepest level through Jesus Christ, change doesn’t come small.  It comes radically.

I have learned along the way that when I’m not living generously, the Bible teaches that money is still my security. When I am not living openhandedly, I’m reminded that I don’t really know that Jesus is my Savior at the deepest level of my being. And man, I keep finding myself living in the struggle and need to depend on God’s strength and not my own.

The biblical writers don’t just tell us to “do this right now,” (implying, in our own strength). These writers don’t say what Nike says, “Just do it.” There’s a greater context and deeper understanding that is laced throughout the Scriptures and which specifically applies to generosity. We can’t just go “be like Jesus” as if it’s in our power. Instead, the Bible calls us to admit that we can’t be like Jesus and even that we can’t live generously (by ourselves). When we really understand Scripture, we understand that this is a journey of G0d-dependence. It’s a quest we’re all called into, to let go, to trust God, to submit to his will and purpose. Will we become better versions of ourselves if we rise to the level of trust God calls us to? No.  Will we become more enfolded into His heart and being?  Yes!

God doesn’t want our money, but He does want our hearts. And when we’re challenged to give, what’s really happening is this – our hearts and lives are being called out and tested – will we trust God with our money and with our lives? Will we lean on Him, depend on His strength, rely on his power that is at work in us? And to access that strength and power, we must see the Cross for what it really is – a picture of ultimate sacrifice, a picture of God who is so rich but made himself so poor so that we could possess what truly matters. Jesus takes your place on the Cross. Jesus sacrificed His life so you would find life. Jesus died so you wouldn’t have to die. And when you really grasp this, you will be transformed. And when you are transformed, you begin to experience the loosening grip of money on your heart and you begin to live generously for the One who has been so extravagantly generous to you!

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My Struggles with Prayer

I don’t know if you can relate, but though I WANT to pray regularly, consistently, passionately, and with great faith, I often find myself distracted, doubting, inconsistent, and irregular in my prayer life.

prayer delete

I know, I know – I’m a pastor. And pastors are supposed to pray more than anyone, and maybe you even think pastors should be “masters of prayer.” Perhaps many pastors are that, but I’m not. In fact, I’m even a little hesitant to share this struggle because I know people think this shouldn’t be the case. But here I am, right in the spiritual struggles like everyone else.


Like I said, I find myself very distracted when I pray. My mind thinks about many things. If I pray silently, man it’s worse. And when I try to pray out loud, often, I suddenly realize I’m not praying anymore. And sometimes, minutes go by until I realize this. Weird, right? And so there are two spiritual practices, or practical habits you could say, that I’ve adopted that have helped me the most.


First, most days, I write out my prayers in a prayer journal. To be honest, I don’t really like journaling. For starters, my mind goes way faster than my hand. And so I get a little bored. What I often do is not write full sentences buy words or ideas or phrases that get at what I’m praying about.


A second practice I’ve adopted is praying through the use of an acronym. I know there are a couple I’ve heard about that people use like A.C.T.S, but I just kind of came up with my own – it’s P.R.A.Y.E.R. Creative huh? haha


I start with Praise (and Thanksgiving). 

This sets the right tone in my prayers, focuses my mind and heart on who God is, and it often expands my faith.

The R is Repent (and Confess). I know we’re forgiven already because of Christ’s death and resurrection, however, the Bible teaches us to repent (not just once in our first decision to follow Christ and receive him as Savior, but all along the way. There is something powerful about confessing our sins and struggles to God. There’s something powerful about taking time to really think about turning away from something you’re doing (or not doing) that is keeping you at a distance from God. Sometimes I find myself repenting of good things, that I’ve made ultimate things, or that I’ve put my worth in more than God.

A is simply ASK. The Bible tells us to ask…and it will be given. I try to ask with faith, trusting whatever answer God gives. I try to ask faithfully for what God is putting on my heart to pray for. I also try to ask persistently.

Y is for YIELD. Everyday, my goal is to yield to God. That means, I want His agenda, His will, His purpose. And I have to fight (every day) to not make it about me, my agenda, my will, and my own purpose. This is hard, and so I know I must have a daily moment (actually way more) to yield, or surrender to God. I NEED to point my being toward God.

E is for EMOTIONS. This may not settle as easily as the others, but I have learned the utter importance of taking time to express my emotions to God. Sometimes that involves joy and gratitude, other times sadness and disappointment. On occasion, I notice that I’m angry or irritable, and I’ve learned to pay closer attention to this. Those emotions are more often than not clues that are telling me that something needs to be paid closer attention to. And often it’s even revealing of what God is wanting to do in me or how he’s want to change me. I’ve read tons of books on this topic, one of which was a second read through very recently – The Cry of the Soul (by Dan Allender) – amazing book. Hard to read in some ways, but incredibly insightful. I read Gary Smalley’s new book on Anger recently too. Great foundational book on that topic.

R is for Receive (and Respond). What does God want me to receive (what is he saying to me, what does he want me to just sit in, etc.). And then, upon receiving a word from God, a command, a encouragement, or whatever, then I must ask, “Ok, how am I going to respond?” This reminds me that living as a disciple of Jesus can be distilled down to hearing and obeying, or one might say being “receptive” and “responsive”.

I wish I could say I do this EVERY DAY, but I don’t. Recently I’ve been trying to do it every day, and truly I can say that every day I do walk through this acronym and pray out loud to God (or in a journal), my soul is in a different place. My soul is in a more centered place.


Praise (and Thanksgiving)

Repent (and Confession)




Receive (and Respond)

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Vulnerable When We Least Expect It

In 1996, I started college at the University of South Carolina. Life was going very well for me, as I was fortunate enough to enter these years on a baseball scholarship to be a Gamecock! But not long into my first semester, my life took a radical turn. Not only did I make a choice to become a fully devoted follower of Christ, but within weeks I started to sense a calling to vocational ministry. This was not in the plans before. In fact, I was on my way to dental school. At least that’s what I desired.

Though I didn’t understand all of what I was getting into, this calling was distinct. And it was birthed from my own experience of life because there were people, including my parents first and foremost, who became my own spiritual guides. These instrumental people offered counsel, support, and in their own faith in God, I was envisioned of what a life of faith is really about. And as college began, I quickly realized that I did not want what many others wanted (i.e. to party and have fun, etc.). I wanted something more meaningful. I wanted to live a life – even during my college years – that counted. I wanted to make a positive difference in people’s lives. And ultimately, I wanted people to know the God I was getting to know.

All of this led me to “enter the ministry.” And really, when I graduated college in 2000, I had already been doing ministry (I was selected to be the chaplain of the baseball team, and also the president of FCA, led a Bible study for the baseball team). And now it is getting close to 20 years since I’ve been “doing ministry.” That’s a scary thought to myself, but anyways…

Along the way, I have had some success, and of course I have also failed on many occasions. In the midst of both the successes and failures, I have learned many lessons about life and God and ministry itself. In many respects, it’s easier to learn when you fail because something obviously went wrong and you’re forced to learn something so you don’t make that mistake, or fail in that way, again.

But in the successes is where I have found the most hidden and often surprising lessons about life. One lesson I have learned, but really keep learning, is that when life is going well, when success is happening, we become most vulnerable. In words, sometimes during the seasons of life and ministry that are outwardly most successful, we become most inwardly vulnerable.

I’m reminded of Jesus here because what he did during his ministry was he prayed. Ok that may seem obvious, but wait. If you really ask yourself whether you pray more in hard times or in good times, I presume you might say what I would say – I pray much more fervently in hard times, when things aren’t going well, when I’m experiencing heartache or hardship. And in the good times, when I’m having success and when things are going well, I am less apt to pray. I know, I’m a pastor, and this shouldn’t be true. But I’m being honest, and so it is true. Don’t want it to be true, but that’s what has happened many times over.

And THAT REALITY is what makes us most vulnerable inwardly. In 15 plus years of ministry, one simple conclusion I have come to is that ministry can be really hard. But you know what, so can life. Life can be very difficult. We struggle and we are tempted. We face challenges all the time and waver on what decisions to make. Or we make poor decisions…over and over again. And we get stuck in life.

What did Jesus do in the chaos and busyness of his life? You guessed it, he prayed. Jesus prayed when life was crowded and draining it all out of him. After he began his ministry and the demands of his time and energy increased, the Bible says “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Why? Well, one big reason that I believe he did this is because he knew that sometimes seasons of ministry that are outwardly most successful are inwardly most vulnerable.

So when life is hard, pray. And when life is going well, pray. When you face important decisions, when you’re frustrated and discouraged, pray. When you are effective and successful, and when life is all going so well, express your gratitude to God, but resist the temptation to live life on your own. Take time to separate yourself from the crowdedness and busyness of life and pray. Pray fervently and passionately. Pray boldly and humbly. And make your prayers not just about asking God for something, but take time to praise God, worship him, thank him, and adore him. And then take time to surrender your own will to his will. Pay attention to his presence in your life, his activity, his voice. Prayer at its core is about being attentive to God’s presence, and then responding to what He’s saying. And if you life like this, you will live a life that is empowered by the Holy Spirit of God who lives inside of you and is present all around you.

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8 Core Competencies Every Leader Needs

I wrote about the previous 2 in a couple previous blogs, but here’s a short version of the next 6.


  1. Build Teams and Cultivate Relational and Emotional Intelligence 

The best leaders build trust, gain support, and cultivate loyalty through executing relational intelligence and cultivating environments for teams to grow closer and stronger. In other words, they build strong community around them. The most influential leaders know how to relate to a diverse and wide range number of people {male and female, all ethnicities, even “difficult people”]. They approach their daily environments and interactions with others as opportunities to build stronger relational connections. They learn how to build bridges even in the midst of challenging people, or uncomfortable relational dynamics. In addition, recruiting is always on a leader’s mind because their cause demands that more and more people get on board to advance the mission. They never lose sight of the value of people, and the power of team. They refuse to see people as commodities or as a means to an end. Relationally intelligent leaders also develop the skill of mobilizing people to leverage their talents to make their greatest contributions.


  1. Practice the Art of Transformational Mentoring (see my last blog for more about mentoring)

Effective leaders cultivate environments for others to learn, grow, and be transformed. Through intentional mentoring, great leaders create training and development opportunities that multiply their impact. Mentoring involves fostering dialogue that continuously stimulates people to be challenged to use their talents, increase effectiveness, bring change, grow their character, unleash their creativity, and live in their true selves. The best mentors always push and inspire others to take what they are doing or who they are becoming to the next level. This kind of mentoring involves building on people’s strengths, affirming what’s going right, and coming alongside individuals in their own life journey to help them become the best version of themselves.



  1. Help People Make Sense of Their Experience

The best spiritual leaders help others make sense of their life experiences in ways that move them closer to God and gain a deeper understanding of God’s activity in their lives. They guide people in seeing reality more clearly, and often it involves helping others redefine their reality, or change their mental model. Our hearts are easily deceived. Our self-perceptions are easily warped. On top of that, people experience life and God but don’t always know what to do with it, or don’t know how to extract meaning out of it, or sometimes they don’t even see how God is at work in those moments or in that season of life. This is the intersection where leaders become spiritual leaders. They help people make sense of what’s going on inside of them and all around them. Sometimes that is all I find myself doing when I’m sipping on a cup of coffee with them on a Wednesday morning. Paying attention to God’s activity, and trying to help them make sense of it.



  1. Be Driven By Clear Core Values

Leaders communicate strategically what they value most, what they care about, and what they believe others ought to care about. They strive to motivate, direct, and challenge people through their words [and actions] toward believing in and then embodying the values they believe in. The cause before them motivates what they communicate and how they communicate it. The best leaders inspire people into a new way of living, and direct people down a new path. Along the way, they rally people together and foster momentum toward their cause or mission. And, toward the values and convictions embedded into their heart.



  1. Become a Change Agent

Great leaders catalyze achievement by challenging the status quo and relentlessly [and tactfully] refusing to allow mediocrity to exist. Leaders raise the bar with individuals, teams, communities, and within organizations. They do all this in alignment with the organizations vision, mission, and core values. They know the importance of building trust and demonstrating that they believe in those they lead as well as in themselves. But they never stop pushing people forward, to take risks and step out of their comfort zones. At the core of their leadership, they’re always asking the question: How do I help this leader, or this organization, or this team, to get to the next level? They find creative and innovative ways to ask that question and move people forward to create a different and better future. They understand that leadership is ultimately about change, and they take the necessary risks to drive that change they desire in the world.



  1. Communicate Effectively, Wisely…and Creatively

Communication is an essential part of any leaders’ arsenal. This certainly includes public speaking where appropriately applied, but by communication I don’t mean this alone. There are many reasons why a leader ought to develop their craft of communication. Whether a leader is facilitating a meeting, in a one-on-one conversation recruiting or casting vision, sharing their faith story or the gospel with another person, or simply using their words wisely in a team meeting or even an informal conversation, the way we communicate matters. I believe that every leader should strive to develop their craft in a way that is unique to them. Whether you practice storytelling, practice crafting your words together more precisely and creatively, or practice writing as a discipline, do whatever you need to do to improve your interpersonal and your public communication skills.




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Distracted in Prayer: Can Anyone Relate?

I was in a recent phone conversation with a mentor of mine, really my spiritual director. She has had a tremendous impact on my life, and been very instrumental in so many facets of my life and where my life has gone.


In this recent conversation, I shared with her about this inner discontentedness that I carry with me all the time. God has shaped me in different ways in this arena, but in my most recent dealings of this unsettled feeling inside, this spiritual director guided the conversation ultimately into a really practical way I can begin to deal with this inner struggle.

In short, she “assigned me” centering prayer, everyday. Now, I have done centering prayer before, but every day. Ouch, that’s going to be difficult for me. In short, centering prayer is the stilling of the mind, and as my mentor put it, “It’s a way to practice surrender.”


I don’t know about you, but real surrender, deep surrender, that letting go of control…that’s very hard for me at a soul level. And so I’ve been sitting in this “activity” of centering prayer, and I wish I could say, miracles are happening, light bulbs are going off, crazy good spiritual goodness is happening. But that’s not the case.

Instead, I’ve first realized how easily I get distracted. Like, really easily. Like, I sometimes can’t even do centering prayer for one minute because I start thinking about how much I want a pancake, or what Hudson said yesterday that was so cute, or what song I listened in the car last night on my way home from work, or whatever.

At times, I have “judged myself” for this. You could say, “shamed myself” or thought lowly of myself for this. But in better moments, and what I’m realizing at another deeper level lately, is that I’m embracing what happens in those 15 or 20 minutes. Instead of “beating myself up” for being distracted in prayer, I’m inviting God into my distraction, and the very struggle of being distracted. What I’m finding is that God is nurturing me in that. What I’m find is that I am not as “surrendered to God” as I think I am, and that actually inspires me to live more fully in this.


In my days of playing sports, “practice” can be really hard. And sometimes you just don’t to practice. You simply want to play the game. But you play great games as a result of how well you practiced. So I’m starting to see centering prayer more and more like my mentor said, “the practice of surrender.” I want to “play the game well” – meaning, I want to live well for God and with God. And in practice, it’s ok to struggle, to “work through it,” to “strive to improve through repetition.” I’m embracing centering prayer more and more as a way to prepare me for life with God every day. The practice of centering prayer has been difficult, and revealing of my lack of ability to stay centered on God, but man, I’m so glad I’m realizing how much I need this if I really want to understand and live out “surrendering to God” every day. Because you know, I know that the path to real freedom is found in a life of surrender. And I don’t know about you, but I long to live in ever increasing freedom. And I long for God to REALLY be the one in charge of my life, leading the way, guiding me, and showing me all he wants to do. As Jesus once said, “I want to be about my Father’s business.” How about you?

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4 Questions Great Mentors Ask

I serve at Awakening Church as a pastor, and one of my primary roles revolves around helping our community not only reach the next generation but to raise up the next generation of leaders. I’m inspired to live this out weekly, if not daily.

One of the ways we seek to do that is through what we call the Protege Program. We have a select group of young leaders who have incredible potential not only as leaders, but as extraordinary human beings.

But for us, if we want to raise up the next generation of leaders who have great impact on the world for Christ, we can’t sit back and simply dream about that. We have to wrestle with and work out how we are going to accomplish that goal. And so we’re developing ongoing processes that we believe will shape individuals who open up their lives to us and allow God to use us to shape and mold them. The beautiful thing is that we get to grow with them along the way, often learned FROM them as they learn FROM us.

One of the elements of the Protege Program involves us mentoring each protege in a very personal and customized way. In my book, The Protege Playbook, I spell out more details about how we do this, but here are a few quick thoughts that may serve you in your own journey of mentoring others, or perhaps even open you up to the greater possibility of being mentored yourself. When I train our mentors, there are a few key things I tell them.


Obviously they could meet more often, and many do, but without this level of commitment, too much time usually elapses for that relationship to “go somewhere significant” (always exceptions, but this principle is generally true to have substantive impact). I tell them that their times together COULD BE over coffee or a meal, or it COULD BE simply inviting them to one’s house or into an experience they’re able to invite them to participate in (i.e. doing something together).  Whatever fits the unique personality of the mentor and their wiring, as well as their schedule. Quality time and conversational time is the key, no matter what the mentor and protege do.
I encourage mentors to help these proteges notice the God activity in their life and encourage them to talk about it and delve deeper into what God is doing. That may sound really obvious, but it often doesn’t happen, so I put great emphasis on that. Sometimes there can be “advice giving” (which we tend to think “mentoring” is) but often it’s more about showing up and helping a person see and find God at work in their life. That’s at least where things start. And then comes those moments to challenge a person to look more deeply at something, to reflect on it, and take action when necessary.
Also, I ask the mentors to commit to praying for them consistently over the course of each month. Again, that may sound obvious, but it doesn’t happen as frequently as it ought. 
In effort to equip them in what to do with their time with proteges, I start by suggesting the following questions to use, and I also encourage them to read through a book together, or a book of the bible together. That tends to stimulate conversation and give a base level of thinking even as each person enters the conversation that day they meet up. You can use these questions or this set of “tips” in mentoring others.
Questions You Can Ask When You Meet with your Protege:
1. What is God doing in your life? Really ask them what they sense God doing, or what they sense God saying to them.
2. Where do you feel God’s presence the most? Where do you feel His absence the most? Sometimes this opens up a deeper spiritual conversation, other times it opens up a dialogue about what’s hardest about their connection with God or about something difficult they are going through in that current season of life.
3. What’s going well? What are you struggling with? (Celebrate them, and offer encouragement, guidance and prayer). These are softball questions, and could sound generic, but they can open up powerful conversations if someone is willing to really share authentically. And I tell the mentors to share answers to these questions in their own life too. Stories they share with these proteges (often more than “advice giving”) can often have greater impact.
4. What do you hear or sense that God is saying to you in the midst of all that you’re learning? This is a pause to reflect on what they are in fact learning, and to pay attention not just to the learning itself, but what God seems to be really saying or doing that is embedded into that learning.
I also encourage our mentors to try to recommend a passage of Scripture for them to read, or a specific prayer or kind of prayer they can be praying; maybe you know of a podcast, a blog or a book that you can recommend, etc. Or maybe you share about centering prayer and invite them to do that, or to fast and pray one meal together next week. Just something to push them or encourage them to keep this conversation evolving and growing, something to invite them into engaging life-giving spiritual practices that foster transformation and growth. Mentors who then use their gifting, life experience, and input to serve these proteges in their journey wherever they are at foster the great possibility of making a significant impact.
And I’ll tell these mentors, “If nothing else, pay attention to where their hunger and thirst is and what God is doing. If you can help them identify that, and then help that protege pay attention to that, man, that’ll go a long way in helping them grow.” After all, God is the one who is growing and transforming them, and our job is to help people recognize what he’s doing or at least trying to do in their life. Transformation will follow.

The truth about effective leaders is that they cultivate environments for others to learn, grow, and be transformed. And that’s what we’re trying to foster at Awakening, in all different ways. I invite you to do the same. To find my book on mentoring, go to:





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The Best Teams (and Leaders) Embody Relational Intelligence

The best leaders understand the important of building trust with their team. They know that gaining support and cultivating loyalty is the make up of great teams. They recognize how essential team morale is, and for teammates to have confidence that others on the team of really “for them” and “for the greater good.” It is in these contexts, that healthy relationships exist. It is in these contexts that healthy teams exist.

Over the years, I’ve often used the term “relational intelligence” to describe the various ways we relate to others. I even wrote a book with Wiley & Sons, in partnership with Leadership Network, about how great leaders lead with relational intelligence. For me personally, I have learned over and over (often the hard way) that cultivating environments for teams to grow closer and stronger isn’t just secondary stuff. It is primary stuff. I loved it when Pat Lencioni came out with The Advantage, because it’s all about creating healthy relational cultures, and how important that really is. To hear that from this phenomenal author, and to hear this to be an emerging thought (at least in emphasis and importance) in the business world, instilled even more confidence in my own leadership and in how I strive to cultivate this.

In the church world, we often use the term “community” or maybe “fellowship.” I love those words. However, the original meaning of them often gets diluted. Fellowship can get to reduced to hanging out, or having a potluck. Community can get reduced to having people you know at church or being in a small group. None of those things are inherently bad, but they are not as substantive as what the biblical authors meant when they used words like koinonia (appears 19 times in the New Testament). In essence, this term means communion, joint participation, a gift jointly contributed, a contribution. This word encompasses the idea of unity and mission converging in and through a group of people. It’s a people with a cause. A community with a cause. It’s a tribe who is on mission together, sharing life deeply, and centered on God.


Now, when you begin to play this out on teams, and in leadership, this idea becomes a game-changer.


The best leaders approach their daily environments and interactions with others as opportunities to build stronger relational connections. The most influential leaders know how to relate to a diverse and wide range number of people [male and female, all ethnicities, even “difficult people”]. They understand that all people are unique, and that each person brings with them and creates a certain “dynamic,” or what I call “energy” (see Chapter 4 in my book Relational Intelligence for more about what it means to be an Energy Carrier.) The greatest leaders learn how to build bridges even in the midst of challenging people, or uncomfortable relational dynamics. They harness the best energy in the room, and dissipate the negative energy that emerges. They don’t allow the negative energy to overtake the positive energy. Yet at the same time, they walk the tightrope in making all feel included and part of the team. But sometimes they have to set clear expectations (in front of the team on some occasions, and on other occasions they must talk with a person off-line to clarify the “rules of engagement” on a team). Ultimately they focus the team on it’s intended purpose, but also raise the value of treating others with kindness and respect, and also with truth and candor.

In another intersecting area of leadership we have recruiting. That’s always on a leader’s mind because their cause demands that more and more people get on board to advance the mission. So they use relational intelligence to recruit. That starts with valuing people (whether they contribute or not). And second, it requires the communication of a vision to a person in a way that inspires them, connects the dots of an everyday task to that vision, and then an exchange of communication that relates well to the person being recruited. These leaders discern and identify what a person is desiring to do in terms of their contribution, spots their gifting and seeks to harness those desires and gifts that are already part of that person’s make up. They are essentially using interpersonal skills to move a person towards a next step they already desire to take, or didn’t know they needed to take.

The most relationally intelligent leaders never lose sight of the value of people, AND the power and importance of being on a team. They refuse to see people as commodities or as a means to an end. People matter most. And when that value is being lived out well, when love is “winning” on teams, at churches, within organizations, etc. then others will be compelled to joyful and meaningful koinonia.

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Will You Be My Friend?

My first son Hudson started school about 6 weeks ago, and something happened with him early on at school that I can’t stop thinking about. It was not long after school started, and that I picked up Hudson  from school, and we talked about his day, as we normally do.  That day, I could tell he was sad. After I expressed what I observed (that I sensed his sadness), I asked him, “Are you doing okay Hudson? Did anything happen at school today that was difficult or disappointing?” He looked up at me with a little surprise, wondering if I knew, or how that was possible. Then, he proceeded to describe an incident that happened at lunch, the one I haven’t stopped thinking about.

There were three kids sitting at the lunch table who he approached, and then asked with such innocence and pure longing: “Will you be my friend?” And what happened next broke my heart. They said, “No.”

As you can imagine, Hudson was totally dejected because he had been rejected. And what most of us already know is how painful rejection can be. The reason I haven’t stopped thinking about this is first because my heart just empathizes with that moment that Hudson experienced. It was rather shocking to Hudson, because in his sweet and tender heart, I don’t think he imagined that kind of rejection to even be a possibility. He was expressing this pure longing for someone to be his friend, and he just expected they would say yes. Of course that would have been the right thing to do, but that didn’t happen. And likely, something similar has happened to us, probably many times. So we know the pain of rejection.

The second reason I haven’t stopped thinking about this incident is because it reminds me of our deepest human longing – to belong, to be loved, to be included. God created every human being with a hunger to be loved. We want other people to love us, include us, accept us.  As a result, our biggest fear ends up being the fear of being rejected. And when we are rejected, that pain runs deep. Just like Hudson, we feel dejected because we were rejected.

We fear rejection because we long for intimacy.

And ultimately, the only kind of intimacy that will satiate our craving to be loved is intimacy with God.

I remember a conversation I had with a friend of mine who is atheist, and right in the middle of a dialogue about whether God exists or not, he asked me: “You don’t believe God is personal do you?” (And he asked this with disgust as if to say, “there’s no way you believe this man, do you?”). And my response was a resounding, “Yes, of course I do.” That’s the story of the Bible, that the Creator of the Universe, the Sustainer of all things, the One who gives us life and breath and existence, is also the God who sent His Son Jesus Christ, God in human flesh, to come to us in effort to bridge the gap that separates us from God. Jesus came ultimately so we can have intimacy with Him. He says through the Apostle John in Revelation 3:20: “Here I am, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and dine with them.” The door here is the door of our heart. And the question here is: Are you opening the door (every day) to invite Jesus into your heart so that you and Him can experience personal intimacy together?

If you long to belong, which we all do…

If you long to be loved, which we all do…

If you long to be included and known and cared about, which we all do…

Ultimately, these deep longings can only be partially met through human relationships, and must be met through an ever growing personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

We may not ask the question quite like Hudson did, so outright and straightforward, but we’re all asking the same question inside our soul: Will you be my friend? And along the way in life, some people will say yes, and others will say no. Some will accept us, and many will reject us. But we have One Person who will never reject us. We have One Person who is waiting for us to invite Him into our hearts so we can experience an intimate walk with Him. Jesus – and all the love He desires to give you – is the One you ultimately long for. He wants to lavish His love on you…today, tomorrow, and for the rest of eternity.

To live in love is to live in God.

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