Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wednesday Planter: "To thine own self, be true"

"To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man." - William Shakespeare

If you're gonna be a church planter, you've just flat gotta know yourself: your personality, your emotional needs, your strengths and weaknesses, and where you fit into the world - and just as important: where you don't.

In 1994, I worked for a slowly imploding family-led NGO and, unfortunately for me, I was not part of the family. We clashed. In an effort to try to "fix" me, our patriarch took the whole staff for a pysch review to have our personalities looked at and to learn why we didn't mesh. (My favorite part of the review was when my boss shouted about me, "He's not a team player!" The Pshrink pulled out the paperwork and said, "Actually, he's the only who is a team player.") As a part of that review, I received hundreds of pages of objective observations/information about myself. As I read it, there was no doubt whatsoever in my mind that it was accurate. It was as if someone had looked into a hidden box in the secret closet within my heart of hearts - a place I didn't even want to acknowledge existed. I saw on paper, for the first time ever, my quirks, my actual - not "perceived" - strengths, my real weaknesses, and the challenges of my personality.

Hearing a Pshrink describe me was painful, but it was a good painful - like relocating a dislocated shoulder or having the stabbing pain of a broken tooth end when it's pulled. It was information I could use. It was a resource that gave me the chance to change and to do something about me, and it gave me a way to measure the change.

I still read that paperwork a couple times year - and it's been 17+ years ago since I was a part of that, but it reminds me of my nature and keeps me moving forward.

I've become content knowing I best serve in a blue collar, average Joe setting. I simply love and understand common people who are just trying to get by day to day and who struggle with living out the Christian life in a grimy, gritty, not-so-friendly world. And I can help them, not because I'm better, but because I'm only a little further down the trail in my own spiritual journey.

The bottom line is this: Because I knew those things about me, I could do something about me. And I did.

If you're interested in church planting, all I can say is that if you think you can skip or don't need the assessment process, you probably think you're the exception to many other things, too, and the universe levies a heavy tax against that level of arrogance and ignorance.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wednesday Planter: Personal Transition #10: Identity and reputation are not the same thing.

I started learning this concept back in late 1994 just before I moved to pastor my first church in Iowa. I first saw it when I was checking up on that congregation during my interview process with them. (I'll guarantee I did more research into them than they did into me.) I called four unrelated congregations in the area, explained who I was, and asked those churches what they knew about the congregation I was interviewing. Three knew nothing except where it was once I gave the address, and the remaining one didn’t even remember seeing a church at that location. One of the three who remembered it only when I gave the address pastored in a church building about 100 yards south of the one in question – on the same street!

I worked hard at that congregation to make sure it had an identity within the community, but due to their reputation (in some cases a lack of one) I was starting with their deficit. The experience helped me realize how important this concept is.

I put a lot of effort into identity management when Adventure began 12+ years ago. To this day, when people see our logo or even my Jeep, they know who we are, but I've learned about something even better than identity.

I was driving to a meeting at my office one day when I saw a woman parked between the lanes on the interstate (yes, we have interstates in Iowa) with a flat. I made eye contact with her but kept going because I didn’t have time and was sure she’d call someone and be fine. As I pulled off my exit, I felt a pang of guilt and headed back to help her.

I pulled up behind her, got out, asked her to stay in her car, and if she could pop the trunk from the inside. She did, I replaced her flat with her spare, and went up to tell her good bye and to have someone check that spare for her. Her cheeks were wet with tears when I went up to the window. She told me something that shook me: “I saw your Jeep go by, and I saw you see me. I’ve never been to your church, but I’ve heard things, and I knew you’d be back to help me. Thank you.”

Your identity will get you recognized within a community, but your reputation will determine how you are viewed and whether or not you're accepted. Put your emphasis on developing your reputation, not your logo. Think in terms of the reputation and the identity will take care of itself.