Tuesday while I was leading a webinar for church leaders about social media and the local church, Apple CEO Tim Cook was busy launching “one more thing”: the
iWatch Apple Watch. What on earth could Apple’s latest tech have to do with your church or ministry? I’m glad you asked!
Apple is in the business of taking what is, and making it better. Apple didn’t “invent” the smartwatch category on Tuesday, but neither did they invent the tablet category when the iPad came out. Nor did they invent the mp3 category when the iPod was launched. And it wasn’t like they reinvented the telephone when they launched the iPhone. Heck, they didn’t even invent the mouse. I don’t know that Apple really “invented” much of anything. At least not in terms of “categories.”
Apple has not really been in the business of inventing things. They’ve been in the business of taking what’s been invented, and making it better.
They redesigned Xerox’s “pointing device,” made it better and then made it popular (you’re welcome, Microsoft and IBM users). They took a look at a clunky device that nobody cared about and said, “we can do better.” Such is the backstory of the iPod, iPhone, iPad and now, maybe, the Apple Watch.
But what does this have to do with your ministry?
It’s about keeping an eye on the times.
I’ve been thinking about sin lately. I know it’s not a popular subject to talk about. But don’t worry. My finger is pointing in one direction. Me. Actually, it’s a thumb because it’s easier to point at yourself with a thumb than a finger.
I was reading a book about Apple Inc. and Simplicity and strangely enough, the author who is decidedly not Christian compares complexity to sin nature, and simplicity to that place we all love, but can never seem to stay. In case you missed it, here’s the analogy: complexity = sin (easy to do, we drift there naturally, we hate ourselves for it) and simplicity = holiness (not easy, but when we’re there we feel a relief, there’s a sense of cleanness and beauty).
Throughout life I find myself drifting away from God constantly in the same way that most of us drift toward complexity. Sometimes, especially if I stop looking in a mirror, I find I’ve drifted so far that I end up doing something stupid and regretful. When that happens it’s usually a wake up call. I drag myself back to God who of course playing the role of the prodigal son’s father, picks me up from the mud, hoses me down and brings me home.
The majority of ministers have families and bills and are leading small churches. A little bit of extra income could go a far way, am I right? Well here’s the thing: Pastors have a unique advantage over most others in today’s world when it comes to making a little bit of extra money from home.
Information is, as it always has been, a high commodity. The difference with today (from any other point in history) is that it has never been so easy to monetize information and generate a little extra income.
What makes this particularly advantageous for ministers is that researching, creating, and delivering information is what you do. In other words, the “product” is already in place and you already have a platform. All you have to do is learn to package and sell the “product.”
He broke it. Not accidentally either. He picked it up and began wailing it against the ground like a rock star with his guitar, busting it into two pieces. But that wasn’t enough. So he picked up an axe of some sort and proceeded to chop it up like a madman with a vendetta. Hezekiah “broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made.” (2 Kings 18:38)
You probably know the story well. When Hezekiah came to power in Judah the people of God had long been worshipping other gods. Hezekiah’s first order of business was to “remove the high places, smash the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles.” He then turned his attention to the bronze snake Moses had made, and broke it into pieces because “the Israelites had been burning incense to it.”
You’ve heard the axiom “readers are succeeders.” Well here’s another little axiom you can hang your hat on: “church leaders who read, grow.” It’s not quite as catchy, but it’s true. And the opposite is also true. I’ve experienced this in my own life. Periods of growth that can be attributed, at least in part, to a habit of reading. And periods of drought and stagnation characterized by a lack of reading.
Reading isn’t everything, and what you read makes a difference. But reading is one of those habits that divide those who grow from those who do not. It’s a pattern common among the world’s most successful people. Reading is a humble practice because by reading what you’re saying is: “I don’t know everything, but I want to grow.” Or as Isaac Newton put it:
In my most recent book review I endorsed Jeff Walker’s book, Launch: An Internet Millionarie’s Secret Formula To Sell Almost Anything Online, Build A Business You Love, And Live The Life Of Your Dreams. It’s a strange subject to broach for me since I don’t write to help people become millionaire’s. I write to help ministries grow through strategies and social media.
But Jeff’s business strategies are a great fit for ministries. In fact applying his “sales” methods would probably make John Wesley (“Method-ist”) proud. One of Wesley’s great theological contributions to the faith was a renewed emphasis on the Holy Spirit. But he was also strategic in his ministry (I’ll be talking more about this in an upcoming post). And I believe we should be strategic in ours too.
From Jeff’s book I want to highlight three strategies that can have great benefits for Christian ministries.
The other day 20th Century Fox released the first trailer for Ridley Scott’s rendition of Moses, Exodus: Gods and Kings. Already it seems people everywhere are bracing themselves for a flaming hailstorm of controversy. But based on what we learned from the controversial tidal wave that was NOAH (released earlier this year), I’ve got some thoughts about how leaders in the Christian community should respond. First, the trailer:
Hollywood thrives on controversy. And nothing pumps the blood of Hollywood success like a controversy of biblical proportions. And nothing makes a controversy of biblical proportions like a Hollywood movie based on a biblical character. First NOAH, now EXODUS, next: DAVID.
In the past I’ve struggled with a messianic complex. It’s innocent enough. I like to help people, but sometimes I make situations worse because rather than lead I tried to “fix” them. This problem is particularly acute when I feel that someone is not learning fast enough, or not at all. Rather than lead and let go, I try harder to fix them and I grow more frustrated, and so do they.
What I’ve found in my life, something I’ve learned from good leaders I’ve surrounded myself with, is that the best policy is to lead and let go. When I don’t lead and let go, when I try to fix people, I often find myself behind them, demanding them to do what I want. I’ve become a boss, someone who expects change simply because it’s commanded. And it’s at that point where I lose any influence I might have had over them. I have ceased being a leader.
Today is my first day on the job. I am now a full-time blogger and self-employed entrepreneur, having left the day-to-day grind of retail marketing and now venturing out on my own. The journey building up to this point has been a melting pot of mixed emotions: excitement, anxiety, fear and joy. I haven’t had a lot of control over which emotions creep up, but I have had control over which ones dominate, and I choose excitement and joy every time.
Whether you’re about to launch a new project like me, or you’re about to re-launch your ministry or career through innovation or redirection, here are six things I’ve learned that will help you in your new endeavour.