Monday, May 31

A Collection of Interesting Stuff

Happy Memorial day to all. As so many already have today, I want to start by saying "thank you" to all who have served to protect our nation and the things we love. Like you, I have friends and relatives who have sacrificed greatly for the freedoms that we enjoy. So "thanks" to all who served.

Below are a few interesting websites that I have seen over the past few weeks. I thought you might enjoy at least some of them.


Preaching has presented their list of the 25 Most Influential Pastors of the Past 25 Years. Do you disagree with any of the selections? Who would you add that isn't listed?

Along the same line, Time Magazine has listed their 100 Most Influential People. Again - do you agree, disagree? Who did they miss?

For those who like to travel, here is a list of Eight of the Weirdest Hotels on Earth. I think the one in Chile is the one I would most like to stay in. How about you?

I have always enjoyed the movie Mystery Men. Here is a story of some folks who have moved the movie to reality.

And, finally, a story for The Chronicle of Higher Education that I find personally affirming - The Trustworthiness of Beards.

Wednesday, May 26

Leader as Designer

A couple of weeks ago, Collide Magazine posted a very thought-provoking piece on the role of a leader. It talks of author Peter Senge, who often asks groups of leaders to imagine themselves as head of an ocean liner and their role within that organization is the leader. He then asks them to pinpoint their role within that organization. The most common answer is the captain, but others will name navigator, engineers, helmsmen, etc.

Senge argues, however, that the most important role of leadership is never mentioned - that of the ship's designer. The ship's design will influence much of what the other positions can do: How fast they can move, what direction they can turn, how quickly they can turn, etc.

The article has really got me thinking about the leadership roles that I fill and how I can help the "design" process to make the organizations better able to respond to conditions and better able to stay on course and move toward their purpose more effectively. Often, we as leaders don't think broadly enough. We try to manage the status quo rather than thinking about organizational systems that may be hindering our effectiveness. Leadership isn't always just doing the same thing we have always done. Sometimes what we have always done needs to be re-evaluated or even re-designed to better accomplish the purpose of the organization.

One could even say that one of Jesus' role as a leader was to re-design the spiritual structures of his day and bring about a better way (the only way) for people to know God and be reconciled to him. He received opposition from those who were vested in the structures and status quo of the day, but Jesus' goal was to give all people access to God through his death and resurrection and our faith in him. It wasn't a tweak of the "organization" - it was a brand new (but long promised by God) "re-design."

I currently serve in some kind of leadership capacity for about eight different organizations. (That is probably more than I need to be involved in, but that discussion is for another post.) Some are Christian organizations and some aren't. They range from local groups to national ones. One of my roles for each of these organizations is to help evaluate the design to make sure that each part works together to accomplish the purpose of the group.

As a leader, are you thinking big picture? Is the structure of your organization helping or frustrating your effectiveness? And if the design is in the way of the purpose, which is more important to you?

Friday, May 21

The Spiritual Life of Young Adults

The last worship time of the year is almost always one of the best. Our tradition at Christ on Campus is to give students who are graduating the opportunity to share what God has done in their lives during their time at the University of Arkansas. It is probably my favorite week of the year as we get to hear stories of changed hearts, changed lives, and changed visions.

This year was no exception. Several students shared during the service. They came from Illinois to Mississippi to California to Georgia, as well as from Peru and South Korea and England. Some had grown up going to church all of their lives. Others had never stepped into a church until they arrived at the UofA. Some shared about the darkness and hopelessness they had felt in life until they came to know Christ and the joy and life he brings. Some talked about the disappointment they had felt with churches or Christians and their renewed commitment to and excitement about their relationship with God. Others talked about how God had changed their vision for their lives and how excited they were to serve him and make a difference where they were with the gifts that he has given them.

It is the kind of day that reminds me of why I love campus ministry and why I have done this for 28 years - and will continue to do this until God tells me to quit. Changed lives and changed hearts. A vision of being used by God to touch the world - not just in a distant land but wherever God puts them in their career.

Some recent articles have come out that don't shed a positive light on the spiritual life of young adults. A recent article in USA Today starts off:

"Most young adults today don't pray, don't worship and don't read the Bible a major survey by a Christian research firm shows. If the trend continues, 'the Millennial generation will see churches closing as quickly as GM dealerships.'"

However, another article that recently appeared the Leadership Journal starts off this way:

"If you want to rile up church leaders, drag out dubious statistics about how many Christians fall away from the faith after high school. We fear for our youth, that they'll rebel against what their parents and churches taught when they leave home and the youth group. But what if we're wrong? What if our particular fears about 'emerging adulthood,' the period between the ages of 18 and 29, are unfounded?"

There are difficult times for Christians on university campuses. But that's not the whole story. God is still changing lives on college campuses. And God is still raising up leaders for his Kingdom who will make a difference in the generation to come.

Monday, May 17

Some Holy Discomfort

A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of getting together with nineteen of the finest Christian men in our country. The things that brought us together were the fact that we each have been in ministry on college and university campuses for at least 20 years (in fact, the total combined experienced was over 500 years) and a love for the Kingdom of God and a desire to see it grow - especially on college and university campuses.

Though we spent some time talking about transitions and the next steps for us and the ministries we work with, what I mostly experienced was a continued enthusiasm for ministry to college students. We spent more time talking about how to channel our strengths and opportunities and overcome our weaknesses and challenges than we did about what comes next for us as individuals. That is one of the reasons why I have such great respect for the men I was with (and others, who weren't able to be there). They have been through the battles on campuses and with Christians who don't grasp the vision of campus ministry. They have spent decades teaching students, training staff, raising millions of dollars of support, and traveling all over the world in a ministry setting that has few of the "perks" of many church settings. But rather than counting down the days until they can transition out, their minds were on what's next for the Kingdom and the ministries that we believe in and care about so deeply. After spending a couple of days together, I left as enthused about campus ministry as I have ever been.

But I also left challenged. Late one night, after our day's meetings were completed, a small group of us were sitting around and chatting. One of the group asked, "What in your life or ministry is making you rely upon God right now?" One by one, friends shared about the things taking place in their lives or ministries that were keeping them on the "edge" of their faith - things that were pushing the envelope of their abilities and resources and forcing them to rely upon God. As I listened, I came to realize that, even though I wasn't just going through the motions of ministry and that we have seen God do some amazing things in the lives of students over the past few months, I have been operating pretty much in my comfort zone. The ministry is going well. My family is doing well. Our ministry's financial situation has been pretty stable. It has been a pretty comfortable place to be.

But I don't think God calls us to just be comfortable. And I don't want to just be comfortable. I want to walk in faith. I want to trust God. I don't want to be content with visions and dreams that are small enough that I can accomplish them. I want to be moved by God's visions and dreams - things that are only accomplished when God is providing the power and wisdom and resources. I don't know what any of that means right now. But I am praying for some holy discomfort.