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.

Battling Entitlement

Do you know the names of your neighbors?

Are you concerned for the wellbeing of those who live around you?

I was recently invited to attend an event here in south Charlotte called A Gathering For The City. A couple dozen local pastors filled the backroom of a trendy breakfast spot as we listened to an author named Eric Swanson speak about his greatest passion.

According to his website, Swanson “has a passion for engaging churches worldwide in the needs and dreams of their communities toward the end of spiritual and societal transformation.” He is a professor at Denver Seminary and has co-authored several books including, The Externally Focused Church, The Externally Focused Life, The Externally Focused Quest, and To Transform a City.

In his presentation, Eric focused on a text from the book of Jeremiah (one of the major prophets to the Israelites while exiled in a nation called Babylon—700 miles from their home in Judah). God’s instructions to his people at this time, through Jeremiah, is to “build houses and settle down; cultivate gardens and eat what they produce. Get married and have children; then help your sons find wives and your daughters find husbands in order that they too may have children. Promote the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because your future depends on its welfare.”

As I understand Jeremiah’s words, God is telling his people to settle down, take care of yourself and your family, and actively demonstrate concern for your neighbors. The future of the Israelites depended on the welfare of those is the city in which they resided.

What if we all believed that our future is dependent on the welfare of our neighbors?

Our concern for our city’s welfare can be made tangible through many different initiatives, but perhaps it starts where our individual properties end. Who are your neighbors? Who lives in closest proximity to you? What are you doing to promote their welfare? (All of them, not just those with which you have “good chemistry.”)

These concepts are the basis for our 801South Neighbors campaign. We will always be a gathering of people who are focused on promoting the welfare of our neighbors. One way we are trying to promote the welfare of our city is through prayer. Our Small Groups also partner with other organizations in the community to promote our city’s welfare in other ways, such as landscaping community centers or mentoring unwed pregnant teenagers.

Perhaps the greatest byproduct of focusing on the welfare of our city is that doing so also combats our own entitlement. There may be no stronger hindrance to advancing the work of God in our world than to think that we, as His people, are in some way entitled to any part of what we have. We are His people because He has given us grace. Therefore, we are compelled to be always grateful, always serving, and always extending His grace to others. Sometimes we expect to be served or to receive thanks for doing God a favor by showing up—in essence getting it all backward.

So the best part of promoting the welfare of our city by caring for our neighbors is to see God’s Kingdom becoming tangible on earth. A close second is to see the entitlement of us who claim the name of Jesus slough off as we focus on those around us. Our future depends on it.

Learn more about Eric Swanson and his efforts to lead churches in transforming their cities by visiting his website.



Generational Degeneration (Part Two)

Should the focus of the local church be different for different age groups? If so, how does it change over the stages of life? What are the opportunities for people of different ages to interact if the focus changes between different age segments? When we decide the focus should be different for people in different stages of life, the natural trend is toward programs and event, so we then shift our efforts away from discipling students from a young age to providing activities in which they participate. Perhaps the assumption has always been that discipleship would occur in the home so the local church needs to provide social opportunities for students who are learning to live like Jesus at home. I would agree that the greatest discipling relationships are those into which we are born. God perfectly designed us to naturally live into relationships where we would disciple each new generation. I firmly believe that I will be held accountable for how well my children are discipled—not the staff at my local church. Somewhere along the way, however, the work of discipling was passed from the home to the local church for many “Christians.” In 801South, we focus on making disciples; which we define as a person who chooses to learn from Jesus and apply what he or she learns to his or her life. That’s it. Fairly simple I think. We do this mainly through coming together for communal worship, reading the Bible, praying, and listening to other disciples. If the great commission is to make disciples of Jesus, I suppose I’m fairly unconvinced that this mission requires a lot of programs and events. Instead, I think we need more relationships. Programs and events might be helpful as a means to an end, as a tool toward developing new relationships, but programs and events cannot be the end themselves. Another area where we are seeing intergenerational ministry is in our children’s ministry. Our children’s team servants are working hard to train teenagers (and even some preteens) who are active in discipling younger children. This naturally provides an ownership of teenagers in the ministry and is one dynamic about which I am super excited when I look to see where God is taking us next! So in 801South, we will continue to use events as we feel they are beneficial in the mission, but we refuse to let them become expected traditions. We want to equip each generation to be a discipling generation, rather than a generation who participates as long as events are being planned for them to attend. One of the events we are planning for the near future is an 801South Summer Serve; an opportunity for those involved in 801South to serve our local community over the summer. This event is being inspired by the passion of a 10 year old who attends 801South and I can’t wait for you to hear her story. So how can the church be intentional to showcase multigenerational ministries that equip each other to be and make disciples?

Generational Degeneration (Part One)

It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve taken the time to sit down and craft a new blog post. I don’t have any good excuses, but I do have some less than satisfactory reasons. They include writer’s block, a lack of energy, focusing attention on seemingly more pressing matters, working to bring a full-time worship leader on the staff team, and others.

But now I’m back and committed to posting at least once a week. I have seen a benefit in being able to connect through this blog with those who I may not see on a regular basis otherwise. It also makes a great vehicle for continuing to tell our story as it unfolds.

Now to the topic of today’s post, which is one that will surely elicit a strong response from some readers. This post will actually be split into two parts. I will post the conclusion next week.


Has your experience in church included working alongside mainly people your own age or has your work cut across many generations? (Sitting in the same room with people of different ages on Sunday mornings does not count.)

Seeing multiple generations working alongside each other toward a common goal is one of the greatest components of 801South. In fact, one of the original goals was to create environments where people of all different ages could actually serve together and we have seen that happen in the early stages of 801South. There are a handful of environments where we are setting up multigenerational ministries.

Hands Up Band Cropped DSC_0143

The 801South Band Team, Setup Team, Tech Team, Hospitality Team, Small Groups Team, and others include individuals as young as 15 years old up to those beyond 50 years of age serving together.

Some of our first small groups have included individuals who were empty nesters sitting next to young singles sitting next to high school students—all in the same room. Another area where we see multiple generations serving together is on the Band Team. We’ve had musicians and vocalists as young as 15 and as old as…well we won’t go there. It’s been very cool to see them come together around a common interest and ministry; rather than seeing people only serving (or being served) in siloed-by-age ministry compartments.

Through my interaction with some of the middle and high school students in 801South and in reflecting on my years serving as a student (youth) ministry director, I have come to understand that the traditional church has done a great job of setting up expectations for students to experience particular programs and events. Students tend to be most passionate about the upcoming events in which they have seen older students participate with great anticipation.

But perhaps there has not been the same emphasis placed on discipleship of students in the traditional church.

Parents can sometimes fall into the same trap. I remember a mother telling me, “My daughter and her friends are excited. Way to go!” following a big event we held for hundreds of middle and high school students. So if your children have a good time and are excited about an event, then that is your win?

We talk about the percentage of students who leave the church when they leave the home. This is a complicated issue and there are several layers, but perhaps part of the problem is that there’s no one planning events any longer.

(To be continued next week, but feel free to comment on Part 1.)

Welcome To The Jungle

Not having a worship leader on the staff team for 801South has been a bummer in many ways. The burden of scheduling and arranging other typical logistics that would be easily handled by an experienced worship leader fall primarily on our tech director (and somewhat on myself). This redirects our energy, time, and focus away from further developing the Tech team. Handling these needs also hinder our ability to live into a rhythm in which we are dreaming about the creative potential of the 801South worship experience. We are hustling every single day to find the one who will serve God and lead us as the 801South worship leader.

But there has been one incredibly enriching benefit to this added burden. Related to my post a couple weeks ago, the opportunity to meet and join in ministry with incredibly talented and passionate worship leaders from the local (and beyond) community has been an unforeseen fortune. One of these talented and passionate leaders is Colin Mukri. You can actually check him out on our website and see his beautiful gifts for yourself.

Colin brings a very unique story to us here in suburban America. He was born and reared in Malaysia. The worship leader program at Liberty University brought Colin to America and he has been living in the USA ever since. His family, his friends, and most things familiar remains in Malaysia.

The church in Malaysia provided a beautiful environment and fertile soil for Colin’s upbringing. His father is actually a pastor of a church and continues to minister today. When I was spending some time with Colin last week, I asked him if he had spoken to his father recently and inquired how he is doing. His answer, just like his story, piqued my interest. He told me that his father is doing well and enjoying the church where he serves, but he has a “real heart for the jungle.” As I dug deeper, I discovered that Colin’s father spends much of his time and energy on leading trips into remote areas of the country to spread the message of Jesus Christ and care for those living in the surrounding jungle.

So when was the last time you were in the jungle? What images does your mind conjure up when you think about the jungle? Giant green vegetation and machetes? Dark-skinned native in loin cloths? A big blue sloth bear named Baloo teaching his new friend Mowgli the rules?

If these images are closer to the jungle (except for Mowgli) where Colin’s father travels to reach people, what are the jungles of our culture into which we could travel for the same purpose? What are the seemingly dangerous, unknown, and difficult places we could enter to reach a people who live without the purpose and peace of being in relationship with their Creator?

Of course the easiest action to take is no action at all. Honestly, it can be very easy and comfortable to be in ministry in our culture. I can speak about reaching new people, but then spend most of my time in very comfortable settings–like the church. But we have to stop and ask ourselves, “What behavioral patterns am I living into for reaching people who are hurting and in need?”

Having a worship leader on the team will be a great opportunity to proclaim the message within. Unfortunately, if we do not spend our time, energy, and prayers going into less than comfortable places or conversations, then we might find ourselves proclaiming the message to only ourselves.

As a pastor, I can only hope that my sons one day respond to someone asking about me with, “He likes being a minister, but he really has a heart for the people of the jungle.”

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?

What Are You Trying To Prove?

Several weeks ago I was asked a great question from a very smart guy. “One year from now, what are your goals?” he said. Then the followup question: “What would you like to see in the lives of the people you are shepherding?”

See, I told you he is smart. What a great way to think about what we’re doing, because what we hope to see in a year should determine the decisions we make now.

I could simply copy and paste the table of metrics we have developed and used when applying for grants, which would show you our goals for the number of people in worship, small groups, and in service to the community. But I chose to take his questions a little differently and perhaps a little deeper. I interpreted this guy’s questions as, “What are you trying to prove?”

What are we trying to prove through this whole 801South initiative? There are several different ways to approach this question and a lot of the answer can be summed up by our five key values. But rather than pointing people to a spreadsheet with numbers or going through the story of how we arrived at our key values, I decided to give this question more thought.

What am I personally trying to prove? Am I trying to prove that I am cool and capable as a leader? I hope not. I’ve never been particularly cool in the past so I’m not going to try now. As far as being a capable leader, the only thing I try to do is surround myself with the smartest and most passionate people I can find. And then I give them permission to dream. So far this strategy is working well. If it comes across as capable leadership, that’s another win.

So I’m not really trying to prove that I can be cool or a capable leader. Instead, I think about the people whose lives will be transformed through the environments of 801South. I suppose I’m trying to prove two things. First of all, I want to be a part of an environment that is created around (unapologetically) introducing people to a life in Jesus Christ. The settings for worship and small groups are designed around easily inviting people to enter into this relationship, which provides more peace and purpose than any other relationship in life.

Secondly, I would love to see people who have already chosen to follow Jesus to also reflect their created-ness in being more intentional and thoughtful about their rhythms.
I continue to see people in our society today, myself included, who can too easily float, exist, and even thrive according to the world’s standards without making much space for thoughtfulness. Too much is left to the notion of fate or chance. I would love to see families make decisions based on what is best for them and their relationships, rather than just filling schedules with all that is available and affordable. What if families said “no” to more of the stuff in this world—even the really good stuff—so that they can say “yes” to one another. This has a lot to do with the simplicity of 801South: worship, small group, and service. That’s it.

Is it all a utopia? Maybe. But it’s what continues to fuel our vision and ultimately it is what I’m trying to prove.

Mind The Gap

I’ve heard from several of you that I’m causing guilt in your life. “Your posts keep building up in my inbox and I want to read them, but I keep putting them off and then I feel guilty” is one comment I’ve received. Not that I’m totally above using guilt, but hopefully I have relieved some of this by taking a break from posting last week.

Everyone caught up? Good. Let’s get to this week’s idea; which I think you will find very helpful.

When you hear the word “gap,” what comes to mind? A clothing store? The space between the tube and the platform in London’s Underground subway system?

A gap can be a break, opening, empty space, interval, wide divergence, difference, disparity, among many other definitions; however, I was recently introduced to another concept of the gap—the gap between what is now and what can be. Taste is the cause of this gap. Vision is another concept that works alongside taste; the two of which go hand in hand.

This idea came to me through a video I received from one of our children’s worship directors here at Matthews UMC. She mentioned it in a hallway conversation and I was very interested so I asked her to send me the link. When I sat down to view the short clip and read the attached article, immediately I became incredibly grateful to hear someone explain this phenomenon in these terms. The video and a link to the article are below.

Honestly, I wish I could produce a high-quality photograph (with appropriate hipster filter applied, of course) of what I picture in my mind when it comes to the environments of 801South—worship experiences, small groups, serving opportunities. There are similar ministries out there to which we have directed people through websites, publications, and even site visits as we continue to develop this new ministry. Ultimately, it will continue to change shape and form as we move forward with more people coming onboard who add their own taste.

As opposed to the artistic mediums of paint or music, which are sometimes derived from an individual, the art of fashioning new environments for the church often include a team. Fortunately, I continue to be impressed by our 801South team. These servants are working hard to give us the best start possible; however, no matter how much time and effort our team applies to the launch, ultimately there will be a gap between my vision for these 801South environments and what actually materializes. I’m ok with this. I have to be. Knowing the gap is inevitable helps me understand that we have not failed just because the initial experience does not perfectly match the original picture. The full potential of 801South will not be realized at its inception.

I found this concept of the gap between taste/vision and the tangible work very encouraging as we near the launch. No matter what 801South looks like at launch, I still know my tastes are “killer” and our greatest impact is yet to be realized.

via PetaPixel

The Branding of a Beginning (801South Logo and Video)

How will people know about it???

This is one of the most asked questions I hear when telling groups of people about the 801South venue launching later this spring. My immediate answer is, “Well, you, mainly.” We want to see relationships drive through 801South so naturally, a face-to-face invitation extended to those who are currently disconnected is the best marketing we can encourage.

There are also some other plans in the works for getting the word out in the community—that there is a new space for new people—that fall under the category of “marketing.” But how exactly do we package that which we hope to market?

I recently read a response to an article written in the New Yorker Magazine about the concept of brands and branding. The blog was written by Brody Bond, who co-leads a brand development agency in Baltimore, MD. If you are at all interested in the concept of marketing, I highly recommend you read both the original article and Brody’s response. What I loved most from the response is how he defines the term brand. Brody writes, “A brand is a promise of an experience.” What a great and thought-provoking definition! For us, it begs the question, “What kind of experience do we hope people encounter from the time they enter the parking lot to the moment they drive away…and beyond?” This starts us down the path of preparation to best provide this pre-determined experience.

We recently rolled out some helpful relational tools for our launch team to use when explaining, as well as inviting others into, 801South. The first is a short video; which explains some of 801South’s genesis.

The second tool is a small, simple invite card; which features the logo (a small part of branding) and a picture of people in relationship on the other side. This is not the final product that the launch team will receive at our next event on Tuesday, March 4th, but it is a prototype.


Invitation Card Final.Large

These relational tools aside, what is it that we want people to experience? This question guides so much of what we form as a worship experience for adults and for children. The worst thing we can do is to brand 801South with a promise that in no way matches a person’s actual experience. For example, if we promise that our band sounds exactly like Coldplay, but they actually sounds more like that band you started with your buddies back in middle school (mine was named Tempest) then we have lied about our brand.  Or if we promise that all people will be warmly welcomed and that our hospitality team will serve them from their very first time on campus, but no one even speaks to them (or even worse-ignores a clear need), then our brand is not particularly valuable. And further marketing within the community only exacerbates the problem when the experience does not match the promise.

I know that God is at work here. I have incredible confidence in this vision. The people behind 801South will play a role in shaping lives for years to come. I can’t wait to see how lives are changed and futures are transformed through Jesus. Yes, we have a logo—I love it and we’re super excited about it. Yes, we have some promotional material. Yes, we have a plan for marketing the worship experience to the community. Yes, we have someone developing a website. But if there is a gap between our promise and the experience, then our brand will miss the mark. This is why the heart of the 801South servant is critical. The leaders are providing training, but without the servant’s heart striving for excellence in his or her ministry, the brand ultimately suffers. Those who serve through 801South have an opportunity to be a part of changing someones story forever. Yeah, it’s a big deal.

So maybe the question is not “How will they know about it?” But instead, “What will they tell of their experience?”

And in full disclosure, Brody Bond played lead guitar in Tempest.

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!”?