Are You Listening?

Do you consider yourself a good listener? Most people would rate themselves above average as a listener, but few people are really good listeners. I read a quote today that jumped out of the page at me and made me start thinking about how I listen and see the world around me.

Here it is; “That’s why I am talking to you. You are one of the rare people who can separate your observation from your preconception. You see what is, where most people see what they expect.” That was from John Steinbeck in East of Eden.

It made me ask the question; Am I one of those rare people that sees what is? This can be a very difficult thing to do because we all view other people in a different way based on our own experiences and beliefs. It is so easy to make judgements about a person before we even get to know them. If we see a poor person we tend to think and act a certain way with them. If we see a person that looks wealthy again, we tend to act and think a certain way.

Do people want to talk to you? Do you find that people come to you often for advice and counsel? Do you wonder why this is happening? If so you are one of the rare people that God has given the gift of discernment. You are able to see the real issue or problem before others. You are able to quickly realize if someone or something is good or evil. You are able to see through the fronts that most people put on. You can even tell if people are lying or telling the truth.

Most people go through life with a mask on, not letting people too close to their world. The rare person can see through that because they really see and really listen. It’s the rare person that patiently listens to a problem or situation, asks a few clarifying questions to draw out the real issues and helps a person feel better. It’s an even rarer person that can see the problem without even having to hear a word.

I know some of these rare people and I am amazed at their ability to discern and see what is. I have to keep working on it because I still sometimes see what I expect. Slow down and really listen to people. Observe them and become curious about what is going on with them. This is especially true in our close relationships with family and spouses. Listening and trying to understand and empathize is a great gift to the people around you. All of us can listen and see better. Take off your blinders and begin to see other people the way God sees them. Listen with compassion instead of judgment. That will raise your compassion level and cause you to see what is, not what is expected.

Obligation or Opportunity

I am reading a small but powerful book called “You Don’t Need A Title To Be A Leader” by Mark Sanborn. That title says a lot, and I have always believed that, but I have not always lived it out. I grew up in the corporate world of banking and consulting and titles were very important. What level of Vice President you were gave you status and power. My goal was to become President and CEO. Great titles, right, but those titles didn’t make you a good leader, it just shows who is in charge.

Some of the best leaders I have seen were not the CEO or President. Great leaders don’t wait on a title to start leading. They take initiative and help get things done. They look for ways to make a difference and improve things. They make suggestions and give their opinion. They don’t back down when confronted, but take a stand for what they believe in. They persevere and are patient when they have to. They are humble and yet persistent. They get things done and work well with other people. They encourage team members and are willing to do the dirty work.

In Sanborn’s book he talks about opportunity versus obligation. This is what he writes “How do you live your life? As an obligation, or as an opportunity? Those who see life as an obligation want the task at hand to be done with as quickly as possible, with little regard to the outcome. The people who change the world around them-for themselves, their companies, communities, and families – rarely act from a sense of obligation. In fact, the people who act as leaders almost always act from a sense of incredible opportunity. They don’t interact with the world around them because they have to. They do so because they want to.”

So how are you viewing your circumstances, your job, your marriage, your church, your community, your school? Are these obligations or opportunities? When the phone rings do you respond to each call as an opportunity to impact someones life or an obligation to answer a question. The busier you get, the more pressure you are under, the more you tend to view things as an obligation and you miss many opportunities. As you feel the pressure and the stress your motivation goes down and your sense of obligation goes up.

To change your perspective maybe you need to simplify your life. Maybe you need to narrow your focus and re-evaluate your priorities. Viewing life as an opportunity to do your part in God’s bigger story will increase your motivation and drive. You see, God has a plan for your life and my life. Every day God gives us opportunities to make a difference, to be a miracle for someone, to be a light, to be an encouragement. Begin to look for opportunities to make a difference and pray for the courage to dive into God’s story.

Personal Growth

My personal mission statement is “Growing in Faith, Character & Leadership” To me the most important part of that statement is the first word; “Growing”. Growing means that I am learning, changing, adapting, failing, planning, attempting new things, going, doing, thinking and focusing.

If I am not growing then I am declining. I want to grow in my personal faith, becoming more intimate with my Lord. I want to know Him and experience His presence and learn His ways.

I also want to grow in character, which usually happens through adversity. I want to be known for the character qualities others see in me, not the accomplishments. Qualities like dependability, flexibility, patience, responsible, determined, gentle, wisdom, discernment and courageous.

I want to grow in leadership as well. To become a better leader with the people that I have influence with. Leadership is about influence and I want my influence to grow. I want to be the leader that God created me to be. To step out and take chances and live life to the fullest.

So how do I grow? One way is I read a lot of books. I love to learn from other people. The more I read the more I grow in knowledge and understanding. I just finished three books I had been reading over the last couple of months. Each of those books challenged me in a different way. It fed my desire to become a better husband, employee, pastor, friend and Christ-follower.

Reading is very important in growing. Remember as a child how reading played a significant role in your development. In school I had to read, in college I had to read even more. Now I read because I want to. I read books on leadership, Christianity, discipleship, business and management. I also read fiction, usually stories about ordinary and extraordinary people. My favorite fiction writer is John Grisham, my favorite non fiction author is Erwin McManus.

As important as reading is in personal growth, so is going and doing what what I read. I need to put into practice what I am learning or it is wasted. If I read the Bible and don’t do what it says, all that reading is wasted. My challenge to you is to Grow. Don’t stay where you are at spiritually, emotionally or intellectually. Read, listen to Cd’s, watch DVDs whatever works for you, but don’t stop learning and growing. The more you grow the more God can use you.

Lincoln Principles

I started out my career as a banker. First in auditing, then as a loan officer, then as a branch manager and commercial lender. In those early years I knew that learning and growing were important for me to make it to the top. That is when I began to read about leadership and management. I read a book about President Lincoln that I recently took off my shelf again (Lincoln on Leadership by Donald Phillips). As I scanned through the book I was struck by some of the incredible leadership principles Lincoln had. No wonder he was such a great leader. Most are simple yet profound. Here are some for you to ponder:

“Showing your compassionate and caring nature will aid you in forging successful relationships”

“A good leader avoids issuing orders, preferring to request, imply, or make suggestions”

“It would not hurt you much if, once in a while, you could manage to let things slip, unbeknownst-like”

Remember: Your organization will take on the personality of its top leader”

“Do the very best you know how-the very best you can-and keep doing so until the end”

“It’s not entirely safe to allow a misrepresentation to go uncontradicted”

“Remember that it is not best to swap horses when crossing streams”

“Seize the initiative and never relinquish it”

“If you are a good leader, when your work is done, your aim fulfilled, your people will say, We did it ourselves”

“Sometimes it is better to plough around obstacles rather than to waste time going through them”

“Leave nothing for tomorrow which can be done today”

“If you never try, you’ll never succeed”

“Loyalty is more often won through private conversation than in any other way”

“Remember, everyone likes a compliment”

“The probability that you may fall in the struggle ought not to deter you from the support of a cause you believe to be just”

“Remember, that the best leaders never stop learning”

Adversity

We all face adversity in our lives, some more than others. Some of it we bring on ourselves by making bad decisions and others just happen to us because he live in an imperfect world. I have been slowly reading through a book called “Beyond the Summit” by Todd Skinner. It is about mountain climbing, but has many great principles for our lives.

Todd talks about adversity while on the side of a mountain. I can’t imagine trying to climb a vertical wall 2,000 feet high and having to watch for falling rocks and storms. That is real adversity! This is what Todd says; “You can’t dodge a rock until it falls… we are more often stopped by the fear that a rock might fall than by a rock actually falling. But we can’t cower under an overhang, seeking shelter from any rock that might fall, and climb the mountain.”

As I read that I had to think about the church, not just NewPointe, but the church in general. Has the church been cowering under a safe overhang hiding from rocks that might fall? Am I as a leader hiding in a safe spot because I am afraid a rock might hit me or I will get caught in a storm? The church cannot reach the summit (all people groups) if it doesn’t keep climbing. It starts with us as leaders, getting out on the mountain and start climbing.

It is through adversity that we are shaped and molded into the men and women that God can use. The storms of life draw us closer to God and build our faith. The adversity helps us to make the changes we need to make in our lives. With no adversity or storms in life, we would never change. God does not want us to remain the same. We cannot change and grow if we don’t face our fears and start climbing. When a rock falls you dodge it. When a storm comes you persevere through it.

We as individuals and a church need to remember that we have the greatest mountain climber in the universe along side us. God is with us through every storm, every step, every circumstance, every rock slide. With Him we can reach the summit and beyond. Adversity can be a blessing, because it helps us to grow our faith, character and leadership.

God and Paint

I love it when God makes things happen. God brings people across our paths for a reason. It is our job to pay attention.

Butch & Juliene Price are leading a group of people down to the Eight Days of Hope mission trip to Louisiana. They stopped by my office to give me an update on how some things were going. As we talked they mentioned that a guy from Canton that owns a paint store (Harrison Paint) wanted to donate a truck load of paint for the relief effort. They gladly accepted this generous gift, but were unsure how to get it down their.

I remembered that at the last Group Link here at NewPointe, I met a guy named Jerry Weaver. Jerry owns a trucking and he mentioned that if I ever needed anything shipped down south for the relief efforts to let him know. So, I called Jerry and within a day he made arrangements to ship 26,000 pounds of paint to two locations in Mississippi and Louisiana. God is Good all the Time.

A big thanks to Jerry Weaver, Butch & Juliene Price and Harrison Paint. If we each do our part amazing things can happen. Yeah God.

Leadership Simulcast

On Friday we hosted approximately 160 business & Church leaders at the Maximum Impact Leadership Simulcast. This live event from Atalanta GA was a great event. The speakers were top notch. John Maxwell is a legend in leadership teaching and he kicked the day off talking about talent. The title of his new book is “Talent is Never Enough”. Tim Sanders followed him and hit a home run. He talked about balance in your life and how important relationships are in our lives. I have read two books by Tim Sanders.

The speaker that really got my attention was Bill Strickland. This guy is amazing. He started an art institute in Pittsburgh for poor kids and welfare mothers. He has branched into all kinds of training and outreach to help the less fortunate. Now he is building similar institutes across the country. He has a great ability to get things done. I would love to meet this guy and talk about changing the world. That is what he is trying to do.

Anyway, Terry Bradshaw was a hoot. Very high energy and very funny. I don’t know if he made a point other than be passionate about what you do and have fun. The theme of the day seemed to be to find what you are passionate about and gifted in and pursue that with all your heart. Malcolm Gladwell spoke about his book “Blink”. How we make quick judgements based on our experience and knowledge. It is also a great book. Can you tell I like to read.

I should be getting these speakers on DVD in a month or so if anyone wants to borrow them. Also be thinking about next year and how you can be involved on this day. Either as a volunteer or participant

A couple of cool stories from Friday include 7 students from Dover High School. The teacher that brought them told me he really thought this was great for students. He wants to bring more next year. More students need to be exposed to leadership and how to develop as a leader. I also heard a couple of people say they planned on coming to church this weekend.

It was a full day, but very rewarding to see and hear how people enjoyed the teaching and atmosphere. I have to give a huge thank you to the 17 or so volunteers that came out and helped all day long. Some of them took vacation days to come. Without them this event would not have been as successful. To Bryan German who stayed after the event and helped me clean up and tear down the tables and chairs I say thank you brother.

A huge thank you to these folks:
Franscene Davis, Diane Painter, Mary Low Crowe, Dana & Heather Foster, Tom Troyer, Ken Engstrom, Cherri West, Carol Miller, Peggy Peoples, Terry Royer, Brent & Jess Davis, Tom Miller, Mike Finley, Michael Harrow, Gene & Vina Hensel, Max Weaver, Dave Beachy, Wilma Mast. I hope I didn’t forget someone.

Mountain Climbing

I have been reading an interesting book written by a great mountain climber. His name is Todd Skinner and the name of the book is “Beyond the Summit”. I have never gone mountain climbing, I have hiked on some big hills and decided I like being on the ground below. This guy is incredible. He talks about the principles he has learned from climbing and how that can apply to our work and personal lives. His first major point is this “You are the product of your mountains”, wow how true is that. All of us face mountains in our lives and those mountain define who we are. Some mountains eat our lunch, other we conquer; regardless we must face the mountains and climb them if we want to become the person God intended us to be.

He goes on to say this ” Each mountain you climb will change you, and the more challenging the mountain, the more you have to gain from the ascent. Your mountains include not only those you have climbed, but the mountains that others have climbed whose lessons you internalize; and the mountains you dream about climbing, which make you better before you ever set foot on them, and inspire you even if you never set foot on them.”

As I think about that quote I can’t help but think about the challenges our church has faced. The many mountains we have had to climb and the many others we learned from. Too often we stand at the foot of a mountain and are content to just make camp and stay there. It is comfortable at the foot of the mountain, it is safe, it is familiar, but it is not good. God made us for adventure, to lead and grow, to learn and climb. I also believe that each mountain we do climb prepares us for the next one. Even if we don’t make it all the way to the top we learn along the way and are more prepared for the next one. I am thankful for the leaders in our church that have continued to climb and not stay safly in the base camp.

Later in the book he makes another profound statement that hit me between the eyes. He said “If you are not afraid, you have probably chosen too easy a mountain.” Whoa, hold on a minute, I like easy mountains. The first time I went snow skiing I went to the Kiddy hill and fell all over the place. I guess I was a little scared of even that small hill until I learned how to ski properly. Skinner says “To be worth the expedition, to field a team to climb this mountain, it had better be intimidating. If you don’t stand at the base uncertain how to reach the summit, then you have wasted the effort to get there. A mountain well within your ability is not only a misspending of resources, it is a loss of opportunity across a lifetime of potential achievement.”

Again, if we as a church are looking for easy mountains to climb we won’t make much of an impact. But if that vision is so big that we are standing at the base without a clue how we will reach the summit then I am in. I am tired of living it safe and staying at the camp. I want to start climbing and learn on the way. The church should be looking for the biggest mountain in the world to climb. We should be leading the way on impacting the world and making a difference. I love it when Dwight says he wants to change the world; I can be a part of that.

Skinner goes on to say “Being afraid shows that you are crossing the frontier edge of your comfort zone, and right where it starts to get uncomfortable is where you begin to grow.” The only time you grow is when you take a risk and get out on the edge of your comfort zone. It may be to pray put loud with someone, it may be to lead a small group, it may be to volunteer to serve at the church, it may be to go get help for your marriage, it may be to reach out to your neighbor, it may be to reconcile a broken relationship, it may be to change the way you spend your money, it may be getting baptized, it may be sharing your testimony, it may be finding another job, or staying right where you are, it may be getting help for an addiction to alcohol or drugs or pornography. I don’t know what you are afraid of, but if you are not afraid you are not even close to growing. God helps you to face the fear, walk through the fear and begin to change the world. It starts with you and me, together we are the church and we can change the world.

I feel like I am standing at the base of the biggest mountain I have ever seen. I have been practicing and getting ready for this climb, but the time has come to start climbing. Opportunity always arrives with a little uncertainty and that uncertainly is paving the way to a huge reward. God has a plan for me and for you, but we must start climbing. He won’t lift our feet and force us to climb but He will clear a path and give a a foothold and give the gifts and ability we need at the right time. There will be setbacks and obstacles along the way because we have an enemy that does not want us to climb. When those obstacles come keep your eyes on Jesus to provide the right way and keep right on climbing. See you at the SUMMIT!

Unique Worship experience

On Saturday night Scott Bell and I went to a local Hispanic Church in Dover. It was really an interesting time. At first it was a bit awkward as we got there and the pastor and our interpreter were not there. Scott was attempting to tell a few of the people why we were there, but I don’t think they understood. It was supposed to start at 5:00 p.m., but they are much more laid back than we are. At about 20 after most everyone had arrived including the pastor and we began to sing. There were about 40 people there. They love music and they played with passion. They had a full band; two keyboards, bass player, lead guitar, drums and singer. It was a little rough but they were giving it their best. Three women and two men took turns leading the singing. I didn’t have a clue what was being sung, but I did know they were sincere. The music was loud which created a sense of energy and excitement, it also allowed me to clap even out of rhythm and hum along. They would intermix some Scripture readings and prayer. When they prayed, most everyone in the room would pray out from their seats. The Pastor finally got up about an hour later and introduced us. At that point Scott went up and the pastor tried to interpret for him. Scott explained that we would like to partner with their church to reach the community for Christ. We left at that point because we couldn’t understand the preaching and we each needed to get home. I hope to go back again sometime with more people.
The reason I wanted to go was because this is a great mission opportunity in our back yard. I also love new experiences and learning about people groups. There are over 2,000 Hispanics in this general area (Or so I’ve heard). Those are 2,000 souls that God cares very deeply about. The reality is that they are here in our neighborhoods and God wants to use this as an opportunity to show them the Good News. I plan on beginning to study their culture, most are from Guatemala. This could be the beginning of something special. A few other people from NewPointe have been to this Church and to the Latin American center in Dover. Our own Jim Mason has reached out the them and built some friendships as has Jr & Ruthanne Yoder. Are you looking for mission opportunities. This may be it. Call Scott Bell or me if you are intrigued.

New Family Story

You may have heard Dwight say this before; “People haven’t given up on God, but they have given up on the church.” I met with a woman today that is planning on coming to church with her four children this weekend. She visited us when we were at Sugarcreek about 4 years ago, and they occasionally go to a catholic church because their children go to the school there. Her husband will not come with her this weekend, but she is so excited about coming after the short tour I gave her. She talked about wanting to improve her marriage, finances, parenting and build some lasting relationships. I wonder if she will find any of that here? She said that church for her and her husband was so irrelevant that she would much rather let the kids sleep in on a Sunday rather than pack them up and go to church. The rituals and stuff have zero meaning to this family. After getting a brief tour she said “now this is my kind of church, with the band and the cafe” she hasn’t even heard a message yet.
This is only one sample of the stories that are being written every week here at NewPointe. It is so cool to see God bringing the people here. He does it in so many ways. Our job is to help remove any distractions and make sure they have an incredible experience and want to come back. I can’t wait to see how God will work in this family. The transformation started today. Every week someone is walking through our doors for the first time looking for something. Why do they do it? Usually because someone invested in them and invited them or they are going through a very difficult time and are looking for help. Once again today I was reminded why we do what we do.