Archive for January, 2015

Moving Back Into the Neighborhood

January 26, 2015

Here is a short two minute video that we had produced to give people a glimpse into the exciting missional ministry taking place in the Presbytery of San Diego:




My New Year’s Resoution is to Preserve the Status Quo?

January 6, 2015

There is a tradition every New Year’s Eve when people talk about what resolutions they want to make for the new year. The end of a year can prompt us to sit back and reflect on the past year – what has gone well and what has not gone well. We think about what we are proud of and what we are ashamed of. We think about what we were able to accomplish and what we did not achieve. We think about how we want this new year to be different from last year. What can we do, and what do we need to do, to make our lives better?

It occurs to me that I don’t think I have ever heard anyone say that their New Year’s Resolution was to preserve the status quo. I don’t remember hearing anyone say that they had reached perfection and they wanted to do everything exactly the same in the new year as they had done in the previous year.

But, some of us live in families, or work for organizations, or interact with systems where there is pressure to preserve the status quo. We are told not to “rock the boat”. We are not rewarded for being innovative or creative. We are not encouraged to think outside the box. Someone once said that the mindset back in the Middle Ages was that the greatest achievement was simply to repeat what had already been done before. Some of us feel like we are still living in the middle ages.

As we begin a new year, is the best that we can hope for just to preserve the status quo? Really? Is that as high as our dreams go? Is that the fullest extent of our imagination? Someone once said that the seven last words of any organization are “We’ve never done it that way before.” Perhaps it is time for a change. Perhaps this is the year to begin to change the culture that we are living in to become more hopeful, more imaginative, and to dream some new dreams.

In the book The Leadership Challenge by Kouzes and Posner, they write “to achieve something extraordinary, you have to be willing to do things that have never been done before. Every single personal-best story we have heard and read speaks to the need to take risks with bold ideas. Nothing new and nothing great is achieved by doing things the way you’ve always done them before. You have to test unproven strategies. You have to break out of the norms that box you in. You have to do the things you think you cannot. You have to venture beyond the limitations you normally place on yourself. Making extraordinary things happen in organizations demands a willingness to try new things and take chances with new ideas.”

They go on to say, “So how do you do it? How do you get people to want to move in a new direction, break old mindsets, or change existing behavior patterns in order to tackle big problems and attempt extraordinary performance? You climb that mountain one hop at a time. You make progress incrementally. You break the long journey down into milestones. You move people forward step-by-step, creating a sense of forward momentum by generating ‘small wins’. A small win is a ‘concrete, complete, implemented outcome of moderate importance.’ Small wins form the basis for a consistent pattern of winning that attracts people who want to be allied with a successful venture. Planting one tree won’t stop global warming, but planting one million trees can make a difference, and it’s that first tree that gets things started. Small wins identify the place to begin. Once a small win has been accomplished, it sets in motion natural forces that favor progress over setbacks.”

I see a lot of organizations that are stuck. I see a lot of groups that have a culture that keeps trying to preserve the status quo, which is a losing battle. Things don’t stay the same. People change. Groups change. Societies change. To try to keep things as they are is a losing battle. We keep trying to hang on to things even though it is impossible to do so. But, we are afraid of the change, so we discourage ourselves and others from engaging in the life giving actions that can open up new windows of opportunity.

Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” If we want to try to achieve something great in this new year, it won’t happen by doing the same things we have done before. It will only happen if we are willing to experiment and try something new. It can start with a dream. It can start with a new experience. It can start with a new conversation. It can start with a new relationship. It starts with courage. It starts by inviting one or two others to experiment with us. It starts with one small win. And then another. And then another.

A lot of good things happened to me last year. I am very grateful for some great experiences, accomplishments, and relationships that I had in 2014. But, I don’t want to repeat the same year over again. I want this new year to be even better. I want to keep learning. I want to keep growing. I want to keep discovering. And I want to help the organization I work with to keep stretching to become the best God intended us to be.

If our New Year’s Resolution is just to preserve the status quo, we’ll never become what God intended us to be. In fact, we’ll go backward. My New Year’s Resolution is that we will continue to nurture a culture that encourages creativity and imagination. This will lead to more people dreaming. This will lead to more people trying new experiments. This will lead to some small wins. And when we have developed enough small wins, we will discover that we are a part of something great that God is doing in our world. That’s a New Year’s Resolution I can get excited about.