Growing Deep and Wide: The Push and Pull Between Risk Taking and Limits!

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Feb 052014

Stretched Rubber Band 1Expansion, promotion, growth, and exploration of new fields of opportunity are all desirable goals of any enterprise, business, church or individual that does not want to become stagnant or settle for the status quo. We love being part of the happening thing where there is momentum and movement.  Most of us like the feeling of being on the winning side. The perks that come with growth such as more people, more money, more recognition, and the buzz of activity are attractive. Yet premature, or rapid expansion may be fraught with as many problems as there are perks.  Any healthy organism, organization or person will grow deep in the unseen sub-terrain foundations to sustain the visible outward growth of more production, programs, and more people to serve. It is my observation and analysis that companies, churches, and individuals that grow their spheres of influence in a sustainable and healthy way live in the tension of their present fences, boundaries, and limitations; while preparing and planning to extend their operations and influence into new fields. They are like a rubber band that is pulled from both ends without snapping or breaking.

The questions that arise are: ‘How do we know what our fences. limits, or boundaries are? When do we stay put within these fences and consolidate? How do we know when to take risks and move out into new fields of opportunity?

Most of us chafe at the idea of having fences put around us. We tend to see these fences as keeping us from something better on the other side, or as an obstacle to our freedom and growth. How can limits, boundaries, and fences actually be a gift? King David paints a different picture on the benefits of boundaries in Psalm 16:6:

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.”

Boundary lines or fences in our lives help us to know where our assigned field is, and where we have authority tofences 1 operate. In this context, I would like to define authority as the ability to influence flowing from a delegated position, or earned through relationships developed in a defined field of geography, an area of expertise, or an organization. Authority comes from having a skill set or gifting, and the necessary resources to do the assigned job or project. For example, after coaching soccer in our neighborhood of Bowness for over 10 years, and coaching or playing soccer at a many levels since I was a child; I have both delegated, geographic, and relational influence with the families of the kids I coach in soccer.

When we are working from within our fences around our assigned field, we will being doing what we are good at which brings both a sense of fulfillment and visible results confirmed by those around us.”

How does one determine their fences and assigned field? In 2 Cor. 10: 13-15, Paul gives us a few clues about how we determine our fences and field:

We however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but we confine our boasting to the field God has assigned to us, a field that reaches even to you. We are not going too far in our boasting, as would be the case if we had not come to you, for we did get as far as you with the gospel of Christ. Neither did we go beyond our limits by boasting of work done by others.”

  • Relationship Fences: Who do you have relational equity with? These folks invite you to influence with your message, skill set, or want to buy your product. You have established trust with these people, companies or churches over time by being trustworthy, authentic, and dependable with your marketing, message, and product. The tricky part can be when you have relational influence that crosses organizational authority fences or lines.

Be aware of the spoken and unspoken rules of engagement in an organization when you work through relational authority lines that are outside the lines of delegated authority. If you don’t you will step on toes, and rightly or wrongly be pegged as stepping into someone’s sand box without permission to play!”

  • Capacity Fences: Know your limits emotionally, financially, energy wise, and in skill set!

When you feel frayed, spent, overwhelmed, in over your head, and over extended heed these limits, or you will burn out or end up bankrupt! When you are working within the field of your relational, delegated, and resource fences or limits the extra peace, provision, and people will come to position you to take on more.”

  • Character Fences: This fence includes the slats of humility and honesty. Give credit where credit is due!

Pump Your Tires“Don’t take credit for someone else’s work as a means to fast tracking growth or as a tactic to promote yourself and your company! This will bite you sooner or later. Resist the urge to pump your own tires. Let others do that for you!”


When it comes to knowing when to expand your sphere of influence,Jumping Together 1 there is one good litmus test that is a great check and balance especially for entrepreneurial, visionary type leaders. Are those around you ready to risk with you? This is what I like to call the ‘team leap test’. Our sphere of influence expanding is not only determined by our readiness to risk, but also the willingness of those in in our present circles of influence also being willing to risk. Paul states this in the latter part of 2 Cor. 10:15 when he says, “Our hope is that as your faith continues to grow, our area of activity among you will greatly expand…”


Whiplash 1We can all give examples of leaders who have boldly taken steps to risk without taking the pulse of the key people around them, and measuring the risk quotient of key contributors. Often the result is the visionary leader ends up alone without the help they need to be successful in the venture, or there is a lot of collateral damage in relationships as the company or church veers in a different directions. Sometimes the company or church collapses from being over extended without the infrastructure to sustain the expansion.  I call this visionary whiplash syndrome. What the visionary leader thinks is a slight, small 3 degree shift or change in direction can feel like a 90 degree snapping of the tail to those at various levels in the company, and tje communities they lead.


Not everyone will have the same risk quotient or be willing to grow. There will always be naysayers and laggards,snowball rolling 1 but the more people we can bring along the better. Another way to put it is that when those around us are growing and expanding their spheres of influence, our sphere of influence will grow! This is essentially the commitment to mentoring and multiplying of new leaders by empowering and envisioning them to see how their personal vision can be fulfilled within the context of a larger shared vision. When the culture changes from ‘I’ to ‘we’, we all win. A ground swell of momentum and movement slowly builds like a snowball going down a hill. It starts out slow and small, and then gains speed becoming an unstoppable force! Remember, it may take some years of living the dream within the confines of your present fences and field before your sphere of influence expands.

Go start a movement by helping folks heed their fences, focus on their fields of relational, geographic, and delegated influence, and by helping folks stoke the flame for taking new jumps of faith or risk!”

By Tim Schultz

Matrix Leadership: Navigating Between Parallel and Colliding Worldviews!

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Jan 212014

Travelling Between Parrallel UniversesWe are living in a day, when maybe more than ever, there are growing chasms, nasty collisions, and ugly cultural wars being fought around which ideologies, worldviews, theologies, systems, and perspectives on social issues will shape the world we live in. One doesn’t have to look far in the arenas of politics, the church, and economics to see this reality. The following are blatant examples of these wars going on. Who can forget the gong show last year in America exhibited in the utter intransigence of the left and the right to budge nary an inch over how to deal with the budget and debt ceiling crisis. The polarization and unwillingness to seriously dialogue and seek solutions from both sides led to the shutting down of the American gov’t. What about the kerfuffle that the singer Neil Young stirred up in the last couple of weeks with his, sometimes informed and sometimes ignorant of the facts, crusade against the oil sands development in northern Alberta? How about the media battle waged over the Christmas break between those who are pro and those who are against homosexuality and gay marriage demonstrated in the Duck Dynasty controversy, and the scrutinizing of Pope Francis’s comments about gays.

In leadership circles, there are the ongoing debates about the merits of flattening out and implementing ofCollisions in Worldview 1 more egalitarian models of leadership versus the more hierarchical, top down styles of leading. In systems and organizational theory forums, there are discussions over whether a centralized or de-centralized system is better than the other. Then there are the social justice issues as they relate to where we shop based on the ethics of how our clothes are produced. Do we know whether the workers who are producing   our favorite brand name clothes are being paid a fair wage and working in horrific conditions or not?  Are all the box stores and multi-nationals to be avoided in favor of the boutique shop? What about only shopping from local, organic producers? Are simple, small churches better than large, mega churches?

Parrallel universe 2In the church, there are vociferous theological battles being waged over everything from the existence of hell; to whether homosexuality is an acceptable sexual orientation one is born with, or an abnormal, sinful choice made out of rebellion or gender confusion; to hermeneutics (how we should interpret the Bible). The Neo-reformers and emergent folk are lobbing verbal grenades of judgment at each other that at times gets quite personal. People are being branded heretics for believing in the ‘openness of God’ perspective (the view that God may choose not to exert meticulous control over everything that happens in this world), or for having a different angle on the penal substitution theory of the atonement.  The post modern emergents are not without fault. Often emergents can come across like snobby elitist liberals who have somehow attained perfect enlightenment on the truth, and hold disdain for their right wing conservative brothers and sisters who they view as stuck in the dark ages and neanderthals.

I can appreciate the fear and concern coming from the conservative neo-reformers that absolute truth is beingParrallel Universe 1 watered down into a milquetoast relativism, or a universalism where it doesn’t matter what you believe because all roads lead to God. Yet the longer I live and the more I study history, I realize that most of our wrestles with truth are not new. None of us have the corner on truth or on Jesus. We all know in part. There is absolute truth, but none of us have the corner on absolute truth. A genuine seeker of truth is both humble and hungry to find truth never claiming that they have fully arrived. We are all progressively coming into greater revelation of the Truth. We all are needing to close the gap between what we say we believe, and how we then live.

The resulting polarization, mean spirited vitriol, and violent gun slinging with words and actions is leaving a lot of collateral damage, division, paralysis, disdain for leadership, rejection of the traditional institutions they lead, and even sometimes death when folks revert to violence to defend their point of view.Tug of war

Around the world we see the push and pull either towards tribalism or nationalism, rigid fundamentalism or intolerant liberalism, and the accordion effect from centralization to decentralization and back. Just look at the mess in the Middle East, especially Syria. These clashes of ideology are not going away. Our world seems like a complex matrix made up of opposite, yet intersecting universes. It is overwhelming and scary. We can choose to either bury our heads in the sand and pretend these tectonic collisions are not happening, or out of fear we can dig in and defend our present position at all costs.

There is a desperate need for a different kind of leadership. Most people are fed up with the bickering and are looking for leaders who will bring people together rather than polarize. We need leaders who seek a common center that embraces paradox while avoiding partisan politics and the extremes of either side. We need leaders who have an appreciation for conflicting ideas where the answer may not be either/or but both.

Travelling Between Parrallet Universes 2“Matrix leadership is the ability to travel between two divergent universes holding onto the strengths of each worldview while discarding what is blatantly evil, and challenging the polarizing behavior or blind spots of either worldview. Matrix leaders are at ease with paradox and mystery. They are able to rise above myopic thinking to see the big picture solutions that transcend partisan politics. They seek a higher ethic, give space for divergent opinions, and  don’t see diversity as a threat, but a thing of beauty.”



Ecclesiastes 7:18 says it this way: “Its best to stay in touch with both sides of an issue. A person who fears God deals responsibly with all of reality, not just a piece of it”


Matrix Leadership Skills to Practice and Develop:

  • Become a Gatekeeper, Synergistic Thinker, and Cross-Cultural Translator: This calls for a person who is willing to immerse themselves in and understandCollisions and Beauty cultures, languages, and the customs of 2 worldviews that are polar opposites in many ways. For example my wife grew up in Japan and I grew up in Africa, yet we are both Canadians. How Africans view time is quite different from how the Japanese view time. A Japanese train is rarely late while a meeting in Africa rarely starts on time.The funny thing is that when it comes to time my wife is more African and I’m more Japanese! This skill requires developing a third worldview or perspective that can hold in tension the diversity of 2 opposing ways of thinking on an issue and offer up a 3rd alternative. They are good at using humor to poke at the blind spots and inconsistencies in a particular perspective in a non-threatening way. They are good at translating the meta-narrative of one worldview into the language of the opposing worldview in a way that brings appreciation and understanding.
  • Become a Statesman and Storyteller: This skill requires searching for creative solutions that move opposite poles to a common center where both sides compromise and feel they are able to contribute. Learn to tell stories that unify us around a grand vision, and communicate our deepest longings in the language of the heart.
  • Matrix 1Become a Curious Life Long Learner: Read, study and become versed in both sides of an issue of ideology, theology, or economics. Most of us react to the other side out of ignorance and fear.
  • Become a Peace Maker and Negotiator: Learn the skills of conflict resolution. Take a course on the subject. Make it part of your life’s work to help bring reconciliation between estranged family members, friends, and conflicts in the work place.


  • “Matrix leaders are bridge builders, peace makers, and statesmen or women who can hold in tension paradox without compromising core values and ideas.”

  • Become a Relationship Broker and Connector: Create spaces where you bring people of different views together to hear each others story. Develop friendships and enter into respectful dialogue with people who hold an opposing view on politics, theology, economics, or sexual orientation. Do not enter into the dialogue with the goal of trying to change the other persons beliefs, but simply listen and try to understand their point of view.
  • Become a Systems Architect and Collaboration Coach : A systems architect will give room for differentParrallel Structures 1 shapes and structures to co-exist and even support each other without trying to change one another, compete with one another or  judge one another. In a large business, organization, or church where there are multiple departments that are competing for resources, there is a need for leaders who will help competing entities see that through sharing of resources all can win.


  • “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if large, mega churches or businesses would financially support and help start simple church movements or small businesses without having to control them or keep them under their organizational umbrella.”

  •  Develop a thick skin as you will have arrows shot at you from both sides.

The Top 10 Things I’ve Learned About Church Planting Through the School of Hard Knocks!

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Feb 132013

10 tips for church plantingI get excited whenever I hear about new churches starting up. As far as I’m concerned, there is always room for more churches of every stripe and type to be planted in every neighborhood, town, and city. Over the years I have had the honor and delight of planting a few churches as well as being a birthing coach and cheer leader to a number of new missional communities. By virtue of my personality type and gift mix as a persistent, and yes at times bull headed and stubborn pioneer, I must confess that I have had to learn some of what I’m about to share through the application of the two by four method. In other words by doing things the wrong way and wondering why my nose is so raw, I’ve come to realize that perhaps this is simply the nature and learning style of most church planters, catalysts, and pioneers. With that in mind, I hope that through the hard lessons I’ve learned backwards with a few bumps,bruises and scars to show for it, I can help a few pioneers not repeat those mistakes and possibly help prevent some church planting disasters or shipwrecks.

1. Start with a team of faithful, forgiving friends who have complimentary gifts and a shared vision!

Plant a missional community with some faithful, forgiving, friends!

Plant a missional community with some faithful, forgiving, friends!

  • Ask the question who would you want to ‘be and do’ church with?
  • The two tests of true friendship are conflict and time. Look for friends who have passed these tests to be part of your team.
  • A good team has a mixture of pioneers and settlers, gatherers and nurturers.
  • Keep clarifying and coming into agreement with your team around your core values and practices in living out mission and community.
  • Have fun together and don’t take yourselves too seriously.
  • Be in each others homes eating and sharing life together.

2. Set the DNA for missional living right from the get go!

  • Become friends with the poor.
  • Form community around the friends you make.
  • Be present and make time to form authentic relationships with your neighbors.
  • Find the ‘third places’ in your community and hang out there. These are the places that people gather and are neutral such as cafes, pubs, the library.
  • Volunteer to serve in your community through coaching a sport, getting involved in your kids schools, forming a book club, or by starting a parenting or marriage course and then advertising it in the community
  • Take people on a missions trip to the developing world or on a ministry trip where they get to do the stuff at least once a year. Forming a hospitable missional culture will keep the community healthy.
  • Be cognizant of your ‘spoken versus your unspoken culture’ – what we say versus what we actually do.

Spoken values need to be translated into feet values!

3. Go slow to go fast!

  • Resist the temptation to go to a public Sunday morning gathering as long as you can. Going public to quickly will draw the malcontents, and those looking for the the ‘next big thing’ to attach themselves to.
  • Remember that a crowd does not a community make!
  • Prioritize small groups right from the get go. The rule of thumb is to have 3-5 small groups before going to a Sunday service.
  • Pace yourself. The temptation as a visionary is to go so fast that those following you can’t keep up, and then unknowingly the community or your leadership will burnout or feel like they are constantly getting whiplash.

Remember that what you as a visionary consider to be a 3 degree slight shift of direction will feel like a 90 or 180 degree jolt farther down the tail.

Relax in the rest of God by living His unforced rhythms of grace.

Relax in the rest of God by living His unforced rhythms of grace.

4. Keep the mission simple: “Love God and Love Your Neighbor”!

  • Practice the unforced rhythms of simplicity, silence, solitude, and prayer on a daily and weekly basis.
  • Encourage your team to move into the same neighbourhood together, or encourage clusters of folks to consider moving into other neighbourhoods in your city.
  • Practice the “art of neighbouring”.  There is great little book written by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon that has the same title and well worth having your community read and apply!
  • Bake some cookies and go meet your neighbours who you don’t know by name yet.
  • Have block parties.
  • Give and receive from the people living right next to you with no strings attached! When we put ourselves in a posture to receive we get out of the power position, and the relationships with our neighbours become mutual and authentic.
  • Don’t try so hard to convert people that’s God’s job. Simply tell your story and watch for who the Holy Spirit is drawing into the Kingdom.

5. Prioritize One To One Apprenticing!

Making babies is the fun part of parenting or apprenticing, yet it also comes with the hard work of changing diapers!

  • Get our of your office and spend a good chunk of your week in ‘one to one mentoring’.
  • Look for who is hungry and teachable and spend lots of time with these folks.
  • Be organically intentional or deliberate in the process.
  • Remember that church planting is just the natural byproduct of apprenticing. The making of disciples is the accidentally on purpose strategy for church planting. Once you have a few disciples you have the core team for a church plant.
  • Pass on the Jesus way of life by having people live in community with you or shadowing you.
  • Spend time surfacing and walking out healing for the family of origin wounds that we all bring to and project on the church. If someone has unresolved ‘mommy or daddy owies’ these wounds will impact how that person relates to you as the church planting couple. Spiritual health is directly connected to how emotionally healthy a person is. Suggested read: The Emotionally Healthy Church: A Strategy for Discipleship that Actually Changes Lives by Peter Scazzero

6. Lead from your sweet spot!

  • Relax and don’t over grip your club or racket!  When we are stressed or trying to hard we will not be fruitful. Live in the pocket of God’s peace and rest.
  • Resist the temptation to copycat models and methodologies that work for someone else and don’t compare yourself to other churches or leaders.
  • Be yourself and don’t fall into the trap of trying to live from the ‘ought self’ – what you internally and others externally expect you to be.

7. Keep Casting a Vision for Jesus and the Big Story of His Kingdom while calling out the song of the Kingdom in each person. 

  • We are part of a grand narrative that needs to be told afresh to each generation.
  • God has dropped the song or seeds of the Kingdom in each person. This is the longing in each person for intimacy and the desire to make a difference on this earth through the gifts and passions they have. We as leaders are to call this out and cheer folks on to live the Kingdom dream!
  • Give room for the mystery of the ‘already not yet of the Kingdom’.
  • Teach and live the themes of justice, peace, righteousness, joy, mission, reconciliation, and healing.
  • Do the stuff of praying for the sick, deliverance, caring for the poor, and loving your enemies.
  • Train others to do likewise – watch what I do, go do it,  and then let’s debrief.

8. Do a few things well.

  • Learn to say no to the good things that are not the best, especially the good ideas that people bring to you, but want you to execute.
  • Focus on those things that people are willing to commit time, energy, and money to.
Look for life and nurture it.

Look for life and nurture it.

9. Find life and form simple structure around that life.

  • God is the initiator of life. What we need to learn is to see where God is birthing life and put some simple structures around that life.
  • Look for circles of 3 people who are already friends and doing something together. Simply bless that and come alongside and coach it.
  • Start your small groups by asking these two questions: Who do you have faith for? Who would you go to if you had a struggle in your marriage, or if you had an hidden addiction that you can’t kick on your own.

10. Discern the seasons of your life and community.

  • When it is winter season there will be some culling and pruning of activity and people. Don’t panic or try to start new things in this season. Ask the question what and who do we need to let go of even if it is painful? God is wanting you to go deeper in your roots and character.
  • Practice lament when there is loss.
  • Celebrate when it is a season of growth such as when with new babies are being born in the natural, and into the spiritual family.
  • Throw great parties and remember to have fun!


By Tim Schultz





The Who, What, and How of Apprenticing: Part 2

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Oct 082012

Who do we apprentice? 

This is the chicken or the egg question. Which comes first? Does the mentor choose the apprentice, or does the apprentice choose the mentor? The answer is both. Ideally the mentor initiates with the apprentice. Yet in Star Wars the ‘jedi mentor’ Qui Gon Jinn finds his ‘padawan apprentice’ Anakin by accident. Either way, I encourage folks to initiate. Go after what you are looking for, or be what you have never received!

The systemic problem that we have had through the ages is that there are never enough mentors, or as Paul calls them, spiritual moms and dads. In I Cor. 4;15 Paul says, “There are a lot of people around who can’t wait to tell you what you’ve done wrong, but there aren’t many fathers or mothers willing to take the time and effort to help you grow up.”   That means that we need to become what we are looking for. If we wait around for a mentor in our work place or a spiritual mom and dad in the church to apprentice us, we may be waiting a long time and never find what we are looking for. That is why I am so passionate about apprenticing. I am committed to investing in a few people and places for a lifetime.

Healthy apprenticing starts as an organic or relational journey between two people. So often we have an epiphany that we need to disciple or apprentice people, so we quickly default to the implementation of an ‘apprenticing program or system.’  We assign people to one another for mentoring,  recruit people for mentoring classes where we tell people how to mentor, or try to mass produce apprentices through meetings where we dispense information. This is backwards, hard to sustain, and will not produce the desired results.

Another obstacle to apprenticing is that most of us feel like we are not a ‘jedi’ mentor, so we think we don’t have much to offer, no less the confidence to invite a ‘padawan’ into an apprenticing relationship. Yet the truth of the matter is that we don’t have to be an expert or have it all together to apprentice. A good mentor is simply an available friend who is a few steps farther down the road and is willing to pass on the little that he or she has learned.

Many folks have been hurt by overly authoritarian leaders who abused them, or absentee types of leaders who abandoned them, the consequence being a disdain and avoidance of any forms of mentoring or apprenticing. Leading in any fashion is like a rash, and the distrust of leadership is high.

Healthy apprenticing is not a hierarchical relationship in which all the advice and wisdom flows one way from the guru down to the apprentice. It is a relationship of mutual learning. Neither is it a relationship in which the leader controls or manipulates their apprentice to puff up their ego or use the apprentice to accomplish their agenda. A good mentor comes alongside his or her apprentice to coach them to be all that they were created to be and do.

The first step for leaders is to observe where people are already connected to one another in their business, church, or organization. We don’t need to force relationships. In every community, church, or business, there is a tapestry of relationships where people are connected in circles of two or three. It is not hard to spend time with people you like. This is the starting point for developing an apprenticing culture. Here are few questions to help people discover who to mentor or who to be mentored by:

  •  Who do you have faith for and who would you be willing to spend time with to mentor?
  • Who in the church or company do you admire for their character and because they have a similar calling, career, or gifts/skills that you would like to be mentored in?
  • If you were struggling in your marriage or with an addiction, or needed input on a major decision, who would you feel safe going to for counsel or coaching?
  • Look for people who are hungry, available, teachable, and want to spend time with you.
What is apprenticing?

Find a Few to Apprentice in a Way of Life.

Apprenticing is investing in a few people that you love, by passing on what you are passionate about and living a way of life that is caught, and then passed on to others. Real apprenticing starts with God putting some people in your heart or gut – the stomach was the Hebraic understanding of where the heart is. Paul says in Galations 4:19 “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth, until Christ is formed in you.” Apprenticing is a journey of formation, not just giving people information.  Love is what changes people, not first and foremost a program of apprenticing.

Apprenticing is the journey of seeing a person come into maturity in both their character and their calling, and that person then walking with someone else to do likewise. It is a relational yet intentional process. I’ve identified five key practices in the full cycle of a healthy apprenticing relationship, or one could apply this to parenting as well.
  1. Calling the person out: This is inviting a person you have faith for to enter into an apprenticing journey. It also means affirming the God-given gifts, calling, and potential you see in them.
  2. Caring: This is the constant encouragement that we all need to hear that someone believes in us.  Caring is learning to communicate in that person’s love language. It means being there for that person in the hard times as well as the good times. Celebrating birthdays, having fun, going on trips together where the apprentice can watch what you do, and living life together.
  3. Coaching: This is modeling to the person how to do things, letting them go and try it for themselves, and then giving them feedback. This is the intentional part of the process where we adapt to the person’s learning style in helping him or her grow in life skills, leadership, and how to mentor others.
  4. Correction: This is earning the permission to speak into a person’s blind spots and giving correction out of love, especially in areas of character development. Often we avoid healthy evaluation, but constructive input is necessary for growth. To the degree people know that you truly care for them, they will receive your correction even if it hurts.
  5. Coaxing out of the nest: This stage is when the person we are mentoring needs to go and apprentice someone else. The person will often feel like he is not ready and will need to be nudged out of the nest.
How do we apprentice?
  1. Demonstrate what you are trying to pass on – We need people to show us the way, not just tell us the way. When our son Jonathan was around two years old, he came with us to some meetings with our church leaders. He loved playing (or pretending to play) the guitar, so we let him bring his miniature guitar with him. When we walked into the meeting there were about 4 or 5 guys in a circle having a jam session on their guitars, with one foot propped up on a chair and their guitars resting on their knees. Immediately Jon saw this and looked up at me with a great big grin and this look asking, “Could I join them, Dad?” I nodded down at him, and he walked over to the circle, put his foot up on a chair and started strumming his guitar. At that moment I caught a glimpse of apprenticing!  Paul says in I Cor. 11:1, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”

    Learning by doing what we see!

    Learning by doing what we see!

  2. Do the stuff – Most people learn by practicing what they have seen demonstrated. This summer at camp I had the joy of apprenticing some of the counselors in deliverance. After one of the chapel sessions, a counselor asked if we could pray for one of her campers who was quite distraught and could not stay in the chapel because she was so agitated. I said, “Sure!” As we started to pray for this girl, she started to exhibit the signs of being under the influence of the demonic. I called a few other girl counselors, and we took the girl to a side room. Instead of doing the deliverance myself, I coached them on what questions to ask to get to the root of how this girl had become terrorized by the demonic. After getting to the root, they then prayed for deliverance for this girl. What a joy to mentor others in doing the words and works of Jesus! For most of these counselors this was their first experience of deliverance.
  3. Debrief – We need to have followup after doing, to see what worked and what didn’t work!

The fun of catching fish together.

I believe the most effective way to apprentice is to have a person shadow you. The ideal would be to have the person live with you or in close proximity, so that he or she can be immersed in a way of life. Most things in life are caught, not a theory that is taught. This is how we apprenticed our spiritual daughter, Trang who came from Vietnam to study at the University of Calgary, with no church or Christian background. She lived with us for four years and became a Jesus follower in our home. She became a part of our family. We had been afraid we might scare her away from Jesus if she saw our imperfections and weaknesses, yet as we tried to live the Jesus way, talk about the Kingdom around the supper table, and then encourage her to welcome some friends to learn about Jesus and His Kingdom, we saw a few of her friends become followers of Jesus, too.  She understood right from the get-go that as a follower of Jesus she was called to be an apprentice that makes apprentices of Jesus. She is now doing this in Sydney, Australia, where she is studying to get a masters degree in Marketing. The outcome of Trang living a life of apprenticing in Sydney is that a simple community of people who are not-yet Jesus followers, new Jesus followers, and a few ‘older’ Jesus followers is forming around her.

Stay tuned next time as Trang shares her story of apprenticing from Down Under. There is no greater joy than to see one of your apprentices go and do likewise. You will be so encouraged by her story of apprenticing friends in the Jesus Way!

Why Apprenticing is the Heart of the Matter: Part 1

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Oct 052012

Do as I do!

Over the years I have had the privilege of traveling around the world to coach leaders and their communities and teams. Again and again in every culture and context,  I have heard leaders lament over the dearth or lack of people who are willing to lead. Even Jesus said in Luke 10:2, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.”  Why is it so hard to find leaders? Whether in the business world or the church, we can get sidetracked by the discussions and debates around what are the right models,  programs, structures, systems, leadership styles and philosophy, and miss the heart of the matter.  These are important discussions, but they need to be preceded by addressing a couple more important questions: Why do we exist, and how do we pass on our way of life to others who pass it on to others?

For example,  Jesus makes it very clear in Matthew 28:19 that the raison d’etre for His followers is “Go and make disciples or apprentices of all nations.” He didn’t say go plant churches, or run meetings, or simply make converts. These things simply are the by-products of apprenticing people in the Jesus way of life that they then go and pass on to others. As I often say, leading people to Jesus is like having fun making babies. The long haul work is the journey of nurturing babies and investing in them till they reach  maturity. The question we need to be asking is: How are we doing at making apprentices that go and make apprentices?  I will be using different words such as mentoring, discipling, coaching, and apprenticing interchangeably to describe the same one on one journey of passing on a way of life.

As a pastor for many years, I put an inordinate amount of my time and energy towards planning a Sunday meeting, running the organization of church, and crafting 52 life-changing messages a year that I hoped would produce mature apprentices of Jesus who would go make other apprentices.  I kept doing the same old thing getting the same result, which some would call insanity! Now don’t get me wrong, I believe in and enjoy preaching and teaching as one small part of the continuum of  how we apprentice people in community. What has changed in me is that I believe that the deepest forms of transformation happen through an intentional relationship of one-on-one mentoring, where we can dig in on the core growth issues as we live out life together. The Sunday message or speaking to groups at conferences is no longer the locomotive driving how I disciple, but simply one of the train cars.

Many of us leaders need to go through a radical overhaul to re-calibrate and shift our priorities. Our priorities are revealed by where the majority of our time, energy, and money is going in a typical week. Thus my primary metric or measuring stick for evaluating my success as a leader is no longer how good of a preach or talk I gave to a crowd, though this is one of my gifts which I still value, but rather how many hours of a week I have invested in one-on-one intentional apprenticing relationships, to pass on the Jesus way of living.

Watch and learn.

My conclusion after years of coaching, leading, and pastoring is the following transferable, ageless, cross-cultural, and transcendent principle: Healthy organisms or organizations grow when they develop a culture of apprenticing where a way of life or the genetic code/DNA is passed on. Where there is a healthy mentoring culture there will be a multiplication of leaders who have caught the vision, values, and practices of that church or business, and are passing it on to the next generation of leaders. To develop an apprenticing culture will require a re-prioritizing of where we put our time, energy, and money! The seduction of rapid numerical growth, or the insecurity around being small and looking for the panacea to fast track growth, so quickly de-rails us from apprenticing. This initially is the slow way and is time intensive, but paves the way for multiplication that lasts.

In my next blog I will address the questions: Who do we apprentice? What is apprenticing? How do we apprentice people in our churches, businesses and communities?





How Do Organizations Stay in a Movement State? Part 3: By Practicing the Accordion Principle

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Apr 222012

Starfish have no central brain or head!

In the book The Starfish and the Spider, Brafman and Beckstrom compare the nature of a spider and a starfish when it comes to multiplying. If you cut off the leg of a spider it may survive, but if you cut its head off it will die. Yet in a starfish there is no head. The major organs are replicated in each arm. So if you cut a starfish in half it will replicate itself. With the Linckia, or long armed starfish, you can cut it up into pieces and each piece will grow into a new starfish. For a starfish to move, one of the arms must go through a process of communicating with and convincing the other arms that they should also move. (p.35) What an amazing creature! This is the nature of how de-centralized movements function.


Catalysts work at not becoming the center

The nature of most movements is that they start out being decentralized, and yet over time there is a natural gravitational pull to become more centralized. This happens as the movement develops structures to serve the organic life of the movement. The struggle revolves around the ebb and flow of centralization and de-centralization. So the seminal question in most organizations, businesses, church denominations is “How do we remain in a movement state?”  A subset of questions is: “How do leaders keep from staying in the center, so that if they die or resign the movement shrinks or dies?  How do we steward power and authority? Is it possible for de-centralized movements to exist in harmony within more centralized movements?” The core of the questions revolves around the issues of leadership and structure.

“Every river has banks to guide the water to its end goal; every tree has a trunk to support the sap getting to the extremities of the branches; and every body has a skeleton to contain the spirit.”

Sometimes organic movements overreact, out of the fear of becoming a hierarchical organization that is a bottleneck to change and growth, by becoming very suspicious, or even anti or allergic to any type of leadership, or anything that smacks of structure, ritual, or deliberate planning. This is one of the central themes or plots of history. The upstart spontaneous movements throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater. During the Luther led reformation, people reacted to the Catholic tradition of icons and relics by tearing down and destroying many of the icons in their churches. All icons and relics were seen as potential for idolatry and tools to manipulate people. Thus we get the word iconoclastic. On the other hand, the older more institutionalized organizations often see the new movements as a threat and try to squelch or even stop them.  This has resulted in numerous rifts, schisms, and divisive splits.

These same proclivities to swing from one extreme to the other are evident today. For example, look at what is happening in the Alberta political scene with the Progressive Conservative reaction to the Wildrose Party, as they threaten to unseat the PC’s from power in the upcoming election. Another example is the strong negative reactions and polar swings of some of the de-centralized emergent or postmodern forms of church, which reject any type of leadership or organization in meetings.

The Art of Moving From De-centralization to Centralization and Back Again

An alternative way which Brafman and Beckstrom raise in their book is the accordion principle. In the study of systems, what is being discovered is that a healthy organization will learn how to navigate the natural rhythms of moving like an accordion from de-centralization to centralization and then back again to de-centralization. If leaders learn how to deliberately take steps to move from one spectrum to the other in the life cycles of an organization, it is possible to remain in a movement state. Thus the question is not whether there is a need for leadership and structure, but more so how do we lead, and how do we adapt structures to serve life?


Brafman and Beckstrom posit the 5 legs of a movement that are keys to remaining in a movement state, moving back and forth from de-centralization to centralization.

Look for Circles of shared vision and trust!

1. Circles:  These are pockets of organic life organized around a common vision and natural relationships. These groups are small, self-governing, self-supporting, and self-multiplying. There is a strong sense of ownership for the raison d’etre of the circle, and there are norms that are passed on as a way of life that is caught, not as a set of rules or procedures that are passed down from on high.

  • Where are there circles of three people in your business, church, neighbourhood who have shared vision and trust one another?
“When people feel like a vision is their own they will voluntarily and joyfully sacrifice much to see the vision become reality.”


2. Catalysts:  Catalysts are inspirational leaders who develop an idea,  start a circle, and then get out of the way. They don’t care about recognition and holding on to power. They love to empower people to pursue the vision they already carry within them. They are allergic to hierarchy and becoming the center that the movement revolves around.  An example of a catalyst is Granville Sharp, who, even before Wilberforce, was the initiator of the anti-slavery movement in the 1800’s. Most of us have heard of Wilberforce, who gets all the credit, though we know nothing of Sharp, the original catalyst.

  • How can we inspire people with a big idea or help to draw out the vision in folks and encourage them to go for it?
  • What are some leadership models for charismatic catalysts to be who they are, and yet not mess things up by becoming the center or the bottleneck?
  • How are decisions made in your organization and who holds the trump card in the decision making process?
3. Ideology:  This is what I like to call the ‘Big Idea’ that grips people, or the song that already resonates with the longings in people’s hearts. For example, these days people are moved by the vision for justice, and ready to get involved in stopping human trafficking or dealing with poverty.
  • What big idea has gripped you so that you would voluntarily sacrifice to see that idea become a reality?
4. A Preexisting Network:  All movements are birthed out of a preexisting organization. For example, the Quakers were a platform for the antislavery movement in England.
  • How can existing organizations serve new movements being birthed from within, instead of fearing them and trying to control or stop them?


5. Champions:  These are folks who are salesman for the ‘Big Idea’. They are people persons and hyperactive networkers. In the anti-slavery movement, a fellow named Thomas Clarkson worked with Sharp to spread the idea of anti-slavery.

  • Who are some people persons you know who are great at networking and selling a ‘Big Idea’?