The Three Characteristics of Quality People

What is the most valuable resource to your organization?

There are lots of different answers—all of which might be important, but let me go ahead and tell you the right answer—people. The people are the most valuable resource in any organization.

In my context, we rely heavily on people who serve on the church staff and others who serve as unpaid servants out of a commitment to the mission and vision. Money is important and nice to have. Facilities are key as well. But the overwhelming need in any organization is people and the right people can overcome a lack of any other resource. So how do you know if you have the right people?

Here are the top three characteristics that define quality people* as the greatest resource.

1. Quality people are committed to the mission.

The mission of the church is to be a vehicle for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven. This includes ushering people into relationship with Jesus, encouraging people to follow Jesus, and equipping them to fully live into this mission. Quality people deserve the opportunity to speak into the vision of how this mission plays out, but there is no room for personal agendas. We can discern together how best to get there, but if you are more interested in promoting your “stuff” (I’m hesitant to name examples of the stuff here), then you will always create sideways energy keeping those who are committed to the mission from moving further faster.

Quality people strive to live out this mission in their own personal lives.

2. Quality people exhibit a positive and encouraging demeanor.

Quality people demonstrate a friendly demeanor. They understand that this is a team effort. They are positive, flexible, teachable, and generally excited to be a part of the team. And when things do not go as planned, they want to know what they could have done differently, rather than pointing the finger at others or crossing their arms with a “told you so” smirk across their face.

Alternately, you know the “expert” in the group. You know the “negative Nancy” in the group. Those who are completely inflexible and always right—who never exhibit any signs of remorse, mistakes, or teachability—are poison to the team. The interesting thing, is that those without the right demeanor can be some of the best talkers around the mission. But their true colors will eventually show through.

There are lots of dynamics that play into an individual’s demeanor and many times he or she may not even be self-aware of how he or she comes across to others. Others simply don’t care how they come across. Poison.

3. Quality people are ambitious.

Have to be careful here, because those with a detrimental demeanor can also be very ambitious. Their ambition looks great at first, but it will cost you in the long run.

Quality people do not just rely on you as the leader or the systems you have created to produce the work. Instead, they create solutions to roadblocks of the mission on their own and their ambitions leads them to filter potential solutions, updates, and tweaks through the values of the organization. They bring their ideas and do not simply consume whatever is being fed from above. They think, create, and challenge.

These are the top three qualities I look for in people as we develop leaders to build a faithful and successful organization.

How about you? How would you describe the quality people in your organization? What am I missing?

* Disclaimer: By using the term quality people, I do not mean to pass judgement on anyone being more or less valuable as a person. At the same time, I often witness leaders operate out of a naiveté that all people are quality people “deep down” and, although I think people can develop these three specific qualities, I have found that energy spent moving difficult people toward being quality people is not energy well spent. I try, however, to love and serve all.

Advocate, Apathetic, or Curmudgeon?

A few weeks ago, one of our leaders here at Matthews United Methodist Church closed a meeting using a concept with which I was previously unfamiliar. He spoke about a principle used in business called NPS, which stands for Net Promoter Score.

The NPS illustrates the level at which people are promoting your service, product, or whatever you offer to the public. This system is vital for gaining feedback that decision makers use to improve the overall experience for their target audience. The NPS all begins with one question: On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely are you to recommend our service/product to a friend or colleague? An organization then takes the responses and places each into one of three categories:

Those who answer with a 9 or 10 are Promoters.

Those who answer with a 7 or 8 are Passives.

Those who answer with a 0 to 6 are Detractors.

This system of evaluation and pursuing feedback hit me right in the heart! The NPS is a great revealer of passion. Promoters radiate passion. And people follow passion. I immediately began to wonder how many people I lead would be in the 9-10 range as promoters of both their relationship with Jesus Christ and their love for the local church.

Everyone who professes the label “Christian” and is somehow affiliated with a local church needs to answer this question for him or herself.

So here is my churchified equivalent applying the NPS principle to my world:

On a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to speak about your relationship with Jesus when given the opportunity and, secondly, invite a friend to attend your local church?

Those who answer with a 9 or 10 are Advocates.

Those who answer with a 7 or 8 are Apathetics.

Those who answer with a 0 to 6 are Curmudgeons.

So where do you fall on this CAS (Church Advocate Score)?

Self-awareness is key. I’m afraid that too many Apathetics and Curmudgeons view ourselves as Advocates. “I love my church,” we claim. But how many of us can point to a real life conversation in which we share the story of our faith or invite someone we know to a worship experience or small group environment? Raising CAS self-awareness is my problem to figure out and I will continue to do so as I encourage people to advocate for how God is continuing to deliver on His promise of hope in our world.

The CAS is a concept that the organized local church sometimes misses. We tend to simply do what we do and give little attention to evaluation expecting everyone involved to be an Advocate just because they should be. We are then shocked when people fall into the Apathetic or Curmudgeon category. We, as church leaders, must determine and evaluate people’s level of passion about their faith and their view of the local church. One responsibility of the local church is to be a vehicle leading people into relationship with Jesus. If those we lead are not exuding passion, then the vehicle is sputtering, and we need to know why. Then do some maintenance on the vehicle.

By the way, if you qualify as a Curmudgeon, I strongly recommend you spend your energy finding a local church about which you can be a strong Advocate.

To better understand the NPS concept, check out this video.

Are You A Future-Thinker? (801South NEXT)

My experience and research has led me to believe that those who think about the future the most are also those who are able to create a desired future the best. The daily whirlwind quickly and stealthily consumes our time and energy that could be spent on discerning a preferred future. At 801South, we try (although we are not always successful) to be intentional at continually carving out the space and time to be future-thinkers.

This past Sunday, we invited all who have been serving through 801South to attend a gathering and hear what our leadership is discerning about where God is calling us NEXT. We titled it, creatively, 801South NEXT.

So what’s NEXT for 801South?

We are most excited about our Community Launch on Sunday, September 7th. All of our expectations were exceeded with the Invitational Launch on April 27th of this year so it is with great expectation that we prepare for extending our reach and opening our doors wider early next month!

My prayer for this season is that our current crowd, which has averaged over 250 people each week, will continue to be ridiculously invitational and hospitable. I expect those who have been a part of the growth will be using a phrase regularly between now and early next month.

What’s the phrase? It’s easy. “Come and see.” That’s it. A simple invitation to those who you know are disconnected: family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, teammates. Hey, why don’t you “come and see” this new thing with me.

And what has our growth looked like in 801South? In a snapshot, over these past nine months, 801South has grown from zero—to a group of ~50 interested individuals—to a launch team of over 80 teammates—to now a regular crowd of ~250 each week. And then there are the continually reproducing small groups. More on these in a minute.

As part of the NEXT level, we welcome Erik Langston as our first worship leader.


If it weren’t breaking my own rules, Erik might even fill the role of my newest man-crush! That’s how excited we are for him to join the Band and Creative Teams! Erik will be here this Sunday.

We have also been diligently engaging our local community and beyond with various channels of external marketing. You can hear or see 801South on multiple radio stations, print publications, online banners, and through other marketing avenues such as SEO (search engine optimization).

Take a look at some of the incredible promotional work spearheaded by our Communications Director:

Radio Spot for 91.9 New Life:


Radio Spot for Channel 96.1:


Promotional Video for All Pro Sound and Church Production Magazine


Charlotte Parent Magazine:


We are also in the middle of creating marketing material that will be featured in Creative Loafing, including their Best Of Charlotte edition.

I’ve also had the honor to apprentice our newest 801South servant as the first Small Groups Coach. Tracy has a very high capacity to serve in this ministry as a leader of leaders. She’s already put some effective systems in place and will be much better serving as a small groups coach than I have been. We love having Tracy, her husband, Matt, and their two sons on the 801South team.

We will engage in a big push for new small groups in September with these new groups launching in the first week of October. We can’t wait for you to see the new options and choose one of these intentional communities for yourself!

Sound like a solid NEXT level for 801South???

Whatever the NEXT level looks like, I can make some guarantees as we prepare:

We will ask for more.

We will engage people in community on a deeper level.

We will pray harder.

We will serve stronger.

We will resource other communities of faith to do the work of the local church.

We will continue to make an even greater impact in the lives of people in our community and beyond.

All in the name of Jesus and His Kingdom here on earth.

Take One For The Team

I started playing team sports and at very young age and I loved it. I remember seasons when my brother and I were playing two different sports on two different teams and my parents would drive us from field to field all day long. When I think back to those days, it was like we were either practicing, playing, or sleeping.

I was not particularly gifted as an athlete in those early years of soccer, basketball, and baseball. But that never kept me from having fun while playing on those teams. As a child, it didn’t matter if we were out on the field, sitting on the bench, practicing late into the evening, or getting a chocolate-dipped cone after the game—we were just a bunch of kids having fun together.

How about you? Do you have fond memories of playing team sports? Maybe you are still involved in team sports. Up until just a few years ago, I was still participating in church softball teams, church basketball teams, and mens lacrosse teams. Even as an adult, I was having a blast playing on these teams.

Perhaps one of the dynamics that make team sports so much fun is simply the fact that you are on a team. Everyone has a responsibility. Everyone has each other’s back. Everyone must act together with knowledge of each other’s strengths and weaknesses in mind if the team is going to excel. By its very nature, you are never alone on a healthy team.

One of the reasons we have so much fun here at 801South is because we operate in teams. The best teams are those in which everyone gets a say. Everyone is respected, appreciated, and honored. Everyone learns from one another. Everyone gets to speak into the process.

Over time, teams develop a sense of community. It has been incredible for me to witness the relationships that have developed on the 801South Launch Team. Now I see similar relationships developing on all of the Service Teams that serve weekly to ensure for an incredible experience—both in worship and in small groups.

The teams here at 801South are always inclusive and open. Our teams have exhibited this inclusiveness over the past few weeks as we had the opportunity to network with different worship leaders in the area. Two of those leaders are KC and Julie Clark. KC and Julie are experienced and confident worship leaders who have an incredible passion to serve the local church. They are currently pursuing a dream that God has laid on their hearts to develop the next generation of worship leaders. This Family Worship Collective provides intentional community and mentoring so that young vocalists and musicians will be well equipped and well discipled to serve in the local church.

During two of our first three weeks in the 801South worship experience, KC, Julie, and everyone else involved in the worship preparation has acted as a team. Everybody has been pitching in to help us all get where we want to be. KC is a great team captain and our worship band has grown in a short time thanks to his leadership and vision. We are all grateful for the way KC and Julie have shared their gifts with us and we look forward to connecting with their ministry in the future. I recommend that you check them out at their website to see and hear what they are all about. There are several opportunities to see them play around town.

So what team are you a part of?

Are you having fun on your team? If so, keep it up! If not, how can you positively impact the dynamics of your team?

Stupid Rich Denominations

The decline of mainstream Protestant denominations in America is one topic that has been discussed, written, and researched to death. There’s no use in debating or even explaining the statistics detailing this decline. The situation speaks for itself.

So what can we, who are young and remain in a denomination, do moving forward?

We can listen and adjust. What if there is a different posture we can assume on this whole topic?

Last week I was having lunch with a campus pastor of a very large multisite church; which has done an incredible job of using today’s popular culture to reach those who have little, if any, interest in church. His grandfather was a Baptist pastor. His parents were pastors in a different denomination. He studied at a very prestigious religious school—even researching denominational history specifically.

So what is his take on denominations? “Denominations are stupid.”

Serving within a denomination, there have been many, many days that I’ve shared his take on the dogmatic and doctrinal divisions of denominations. These differences are something for which people my age and younger have absolutely no room in our daily lives. If curmudgeons (curmudgeon is a posture and state of mind, not a number) want to sit around arguing about particulars of the faith, then have at it. The rest of us will spend that energy checking our Twitter timelines. Oops, I meant to write “we’ll spend that energy changing the world.”

The most interesting part of this situation is that we will never know the true answers to these arguments that divide us, nor do either side of the arguments actually change anything about our daily behavior.

So in one sense, yes, denominations are stupid. But maybe we don’t have to stop at stupid.

The other side of denominations is that many denominational churches are rich. The resources denominational churches possess can be reallocated to new ministries—to new ways of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and caring for widows and orphans. These resources can be used to share the message of Jesus in new ways to reach a hurting world with our infinite hope.

Some denominations are real estate rich. They possess some of the most functional facilities in the most desirable locations. Some denominations have deep pockets in the pews and just because those who possess these pockets aren’t emptying them into the offering plates every week doesn’t mean the money is not there. I have seen pockets emptied when the leadership void is filled and the mission is prioritized.

It has also been my experience that the bureaucracy and committee models of being a local denominational church only impedes ministry if you let it. If you assert leadership and confidence, the political structure serves as accountability rather than interference. Then you get to redirect and reallocate the current resources toward the mission of the church—not the institution.

So some parts of denominations can be labeled as stupid. But rather than abandoning the ship entirely, perhaps there’s a more effective solution. Maybe the most well-resourced plan moving forward involves sticking it out within our stupid rich denominations.

Manifest The Concept

Up until this past weekend, a worship experience (called 801South) in a new modern venue on the campus of Matthews United Methodist Church was nothing more than an abstract thought in the minds of a few individuals. Today, however, the concept that began as a vision on paper is now a tangible experience.

So how does one move from an ethereal idea to something people can touch, taste, and feel?

One word: movement.

Just keep moving. When a challenge, issue, or problem is presented, remind yourself why the original idea first came to your mind, then take a step. Each step might not be perfectly in line with the path you had hoped, but I promise you’ll still be closer to where you want to be than if you had stood still. Unforeseen bumps in the road will knock you off course. There is always time and opportunity to correct along the way. Don’t stop.

The answer is not superior intelligence, luck, money, or knowing the right people–although all of these factors play a role. The answer, however, is movement. Some days, when starting something new, you simply adopt the well known tagline made famous by Nike: “Just Do It.”

The whole journey over the past 10 months has been a blast and I can’t wait to see where God leads us as we continue to put one foot in front of the other. I am so humbled and honored to be working with incredibly passionate leaders who desire to serve Jesus through serving people. I have already seen evidence of life change and transformation through this process; which will only grow more abundant through the 801South environments in the future.

Here are some pictures of what can happen when a group of generous people commit to a vision and “Just Do It”:





Tight Shot




Wide Room

Remember, this is just the beginning. We are incredibly excited to share our story as it continues to unfold and resource others to “Just Do It” as well.

Would you like to come alongside for the journey?

Seeing Life Thematically

My buddy, Brian Zehr, talks about seeing life thematically. Sometimes it’s the songs that come on the radio, the books we read, or the shows we watch on television. We have seasons in life during which the world around us is centered around a particular theme.

I feel this way right now. Whether it’s a book someone recommends or even the new album from my favorite singer/songwriter, there seems to be a theme. The current theme I’m experiencing in life is simple: don’t give up. Very interesting that I’m in the middle of launching a new ministry and the theme I feel is not giving up.

The truth is that if doing what we are trying to do through 801South was easy, then lots and lots of people would do it regularly. But it’s not easy. In fact, the other day Ken Lyon (senior pastor at Matthews UMC) and I had the chance to share with a group of pastors about our experience in starting a new ministry. We were asked the question, “What have been some of the challenges you’ve experienced so far?” My answer is everything. The whole endeavor is one big challenge. And I think it’s fun to meet the challenge. Most days I’m having a blast figuring this out, following the leading of the Holy Spirit, and watching other leaders thrive as we move toward launch.

But there are some days that I might not describe as “fun.” These are the rare days that I have to overcome listening to the voices in my mind telling me that failure is imminent. These are the days that require the most courage. So, again, it’s interesting that what I’m reading and hearing these days has to do with overcoming voices and being courageous.

Here are a couple examples:

John Mark McMillan, whose music speaks to my soul more so than that of anyone else, writes in his new song about not being able to do life alone when times get hard. He sings,

“Where the bombs break/
Right outside my door/
And I can’t shake the onset of my wars/
When the stakes are raised/
We hold the hand we’ve drawn/
You’re what I’m counting on”

I have stated from the beginning that if left up to our own intelligence, skills, and intellect, then 801South has no chance of being the movement we all hope to see. We have to be continually open to God’s direction and guidance as we allow Him to lead us through this vision.

In his latest book, David and Goliath, Malcom Gladwell writes, “Courage is not something that you already have that makes you brave when the tough times start. Courage is what you earn when you’ve been through the tough times and you discover they aren’t so tough after all.” Gladwell affirms that courage is something earned from putting one foot in front of the other and knowing that the end result is not going to be as bad as the voices tell you. We are definitely earning our courage these days.

These are just some of the ways the world seems to be speaking to me today. How about you? Do you ever see life thematically? Do all the incoming messages seem to share a particular message as you journey through life? If you’ve never stopped to consider listening for a theme, you might just find it helpful.

Arriving At Simple

It seems like everywhere I go these days I hear about simplicity. The concept of simplicity is a buzzword, especially in the worlds of marketing and design. I see it in commercials for car dealers and read about it in articles written by branding professionals (marketing, not cattle). There are even whole books dedicated to the concept.

Simplicity is also one of the five key values that we use to filter decisions for 801South, but what does it mean? (The other four are Relationships, Reproducing, Unchurched, and Fun.)

There are several definitions and perspectives of simplicity, but perhaps the best definition for our context is the freedom from complexity, intricacy, or division into parts; which I pulled from Notice how simplicity is not the opposite of complexity. I’ve heard it explained that simplicity is the other side of complexity. Simplicity is a destination at which you arrive only after driving through much complexity. And the drive is hard work.

The natural trend in any organization (and life itself) is toward complexity, because it is so much easier to add than replace. For example, in the context of the local church, when someone wants to add a policy, ministry, or staff person, we typically say, “Great, let’s do it!” But often times we don’t spend adequate time considering all the implications this addition brings to the overall organization. So how do we avoid and fight complexity?

What about life in general? How many of you would say that life is simpler than it was five years ago? Ten years? If so, I would guess that you put in the hard work driving through complexity and were intentional to arrive at a simpler life. But for the rest of us, life is most definitely more complicated, because we’ve added (children, responsibilities, bills, expectations, land, etc.) without much thought toward giving anything up to accommodate what is added. We want it all and we want to do it all. And many of us can…for a while.

There are lots of layers to peel back when it comes to simplicity, but one of those layers is mission. If we take an example from the early church, we see a great illustration of the hard work required to arrive at simple. In Acts 15, the decision makers convene to discuss an issue facing the church. There were some who wanted to add a requirement to those joining The Way (technically they want to remove something–painfully). Finally James stands up for the mission. After much discussion, he says, “I conclude that we shouldn’t create problems for Gentiles (non-Jews) who turn to God.” He then suggests a short list of essentials: avoiding what has been sacrificed to/associated with idols, avoiding sexual immorality, avoiding eating meat from animals that have been strangled, and avoid consuming blood. (Personally, I’ve got the last couple mastered. I’ve been very successful in NOT drinking animal blood.) Peter and James both used the mission of the church to navigate toward simplicity while working through the complexity.

The simplicity of 801South–worship, community (small groups), and service–is part of its beauty. We strive not to have competing systems or ministries. The 801South Coaches are meeting regularly to take the drive through complexity together. (Off-roading is always more fun with a vehicle full of friends anyway.) Our goal is to arrive at simple and always fight to stay there.

How much time do you spend thinking about how to drive through the complexity to arrive at a simpler business, home, life?

Pray. Act. Learn. Repeat.

Do you feel like you’re not accomplishing what you had dreamed of doing in life? That you have too many road blocks to do what really matters? What you really want to be doing?

I travel down this road of self-pity almost daily.

So what’s the difference between people who change the world and those who do not? After all, most of us have dreams. Many of us have great intentions and awesome ideas around improving life for us or for others. So why is it that some people get there and others do not?

Some may be inclined to think that it has to do with intelligence or wisdom or education or fate. Certainly all of these factors play a role in how far and how fast a person can go toward a particular goal. But when we get to peel back the veil and push past our misconceptions of how others are able to achieve so much, we see that it almost always comes down to one word: action.

The Pray. Act. Learn. Repeat. mantra is adapted from a business approach many were talking about on blogs and in books a couple years ago. An even more recent book I enjoyed, simply titled Start, by Jon Acuff, focuses on pushing past the resistance. For example, he tells a story of a counselor asking him, “What do your voices tell you?” Acuff asked the counselor to explain his question further to which he responded, “Well, I’ve asked thousands of people that question over the years, and I’ve learned something: no one has a positive internal voice.” Yep, that’s right. No one has a positive internal voice. So all people–successful or not–have voices telling them why they are not going to be successful or why their efforts will not work. Why are they there? I don’t know. And I don’t have time to figure out why.

More and more I see that the difference between those who do and those who do not comes down to exhibiting a bias for action. The classic moments of resistance are always present for everyone. We have fears. We have doubts. We listen to people who are in opposition to the very thing that we believe is good. For whatever reason, they do not seem to appreciate our work even though our motives are pure and we simply want to help people. They don’t care!

So here’s what some people do…forget about ’em. Forget about the fears. Forget about the doubts. Forget about the people who want to fight what you are doing even though they seem to have no intention of offering an alternative solution or providing constructive criticism. Sometimes this forgetting actually looks more like ignoring. Ignore the giant fire-breathing beast right in front of your face–whatever form it may take–in that moment and take the next step. Act.

We do not, however, ignore research. We do not ignore those who are offering genuine advice. We do not ignore wisdom. We do not ignore the mistakes made by others who have previously walked a similar path. We do not ignore the voices of those closest to us and to whom we’ve made committments. All of these should inform that next step, but sooner rather than later, we have to take it.

Then learn from that step. Then repeat.

What is keeping you from taking the next step toward your goal?

What shape does the fire-breathing beast on your path take?

Can you do your best Cee Lo Green impression and angrily sing to it, “F(orget) You!”?

Making Babies Breeds Change

Merry Christmas, everyone! As you celebrate this holiday with people you love, take a minute to consider this question: Do my traditions look the same every year?

Do I always go to the same relative’s home? Is there a routine that we follow year in and year out?

As I sit in expectation of the Holy Spirit’s work at tonight’s Christmas Eve worship experiences, I also think about how different my holiday season is today than when I was younger. For almost 25 years, my Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years celebrations were basically identical. And I loved it.

So why is it different now than for so many years in the past? Every year, I waited in great anticipation of the familiar routines that my stable family afforded us as children. Our plans allowed space to spend time with essentially every relative every year. It was awesome. But then something happened:

Babies started having babies.

My cousins and I reproduced—literally. We started convincing unsuspecting victims to spend the rest of their lives hitched to our clan and then we mated with them. Naturally, things got complicated. Grandmothers and grandfathers became great-grandmothers and great-grandfathers. Mothers and fathers became grandmothers and grandfathers. Sons and daughters became fathers and mothers. Brothers and sisters became uncles and aunts. With all of these people moving into new roles, the previous schedules and travel plans no longer met the needs of everyone involved. So we changed them to accommodate the new family.

Reproduction is a major value and driver in 801South. Some think we should change the term to “multiplication,” because people will think we value making actual babies. Personally, I think baby making is a lot of fun (fun also happens to be one of the key values). But we really want to make spiritual babies. Our apprenticeship model in every aspect of the ministry is an intentional pattern to provide a deep one-on-one discipling relationship through which people will learn to follow Jesus in new ways. They will also be developed as leaders.

When these new spiritual babies grows up, they will then be a part of leading the spiritual baby making process. With all of these spiritual children running around and people moving into new roles, our systems will be in constant flux, because we will always be reproducing. The result will be a culture of change. Hopefully the words, “we’ve always done it like that” will never have the chance to be uttered.

So if you want routines and patterns to stay exactly the same forever, then never reproduce. However, if you would prefer to operate within a culture of change, then never stop reproducing. When we reproduce, change is required. We outgrow the previous systems, procedures, and structures. It might be easier to always keep things the same. But baby making is way more fun.