Friday, June 20, 2008

Seek and Obey

It’s been a day now since I’ve returned from the “Spiritual Fathers” project (see previous post) and I have finally given up on processing all that I took in. There was just too much. Instead, I’ve tried to boil down all that I learned to a few key action items – one or two things I learned that are most essential for me to act on now.

What I settled on were two things that actually stemmed from the same question. At one point, the Spiritual Fathers were asked “what spiritual discipline has been the most critical in your life?”

Constant Prayer: All of the men had this answer in common. To my surprise, they did not emphasize blocking out huge portions of time each day for dedicated prayer. In fact, they avoided saying specifically how much time they spent praying each day for fear we might benchmark against them and become legalistic about it. Instead, they all talked about cultivating a life of near constant prayer; constantly praying throughout the day. Having time each day dedicated to prayer is important, but they had all moved beyond that to a point where they were also praying intermittently throughout the day about every situation they faced. Paul, of course, describes this 1 Thessalonians 5 where he says to “pray without ceasing.” These men actually do.

Instant Obedience: This one came from Jack Hayford. He said that one of the most important disciplines he focused on was seeking to respond instantly to instruction or correction from the Holy Spirit. In other words, instant obedience. I felt immediately convicted about this. I often like to say things like “God is working on me on that” when what I really mean is that “I know what I’m supposed to do (or not do) and I’m not obeying – yet.” Delayed obedience, of course, is not much different than disobedience.

I realized, too, that the two are closely related. I can always tell when I’m not walking in total obedience to the Holy Spirit because my prayer life suffers. I avoid spending too much time in prayer because I know what the Lord is going to tell me, and I don’t want to hear it. And it doesn’t matter what I want to pray about, I know that the Lord will immediately shift the “conversation” to the area where I am not doing what I know to do, so I pray less. A lot less.

This is my resolution, to renew my pursuit of constant prayerfulness, and to strive for immediate obedience to Lord’s instruction and correction (including the area I’ve been fighting him on lately). To seek and obey.

The men on this panel have accomplished truly incredible things in their lifetime. Building some of the world’s most successful ministries while remaining respected and scandal-free is no small feat, especially considering the temptations and constant public examination that come with it. It’s considerably more difficult (and rare) than accomplishing the same in the business world. If the “secret to success” these men share is simply cultivating a lifestyle of constant seeking and obeying, imagine what is possible when Christian businessmen and women consistently live by the same mantra. If we truly see our calling in the business world as ministry (and it is) then we must.

Seek and obey. Simply and consistently. Not just daily, but throughout the day. Cultivated as a lifestyle, it just might change the world.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Historic Event

Have you ever participated in an event and knew that somehow it was a MUCH bigger deal than you could fully appreciate at the moment? That it was much more important than your own little brain could fully understand? I've had that feeling since the moment I arrived here at The Cove in Ashville, NC for the taping of "A Fireside Chat with Fathers of the Faith."

As you've probably gathered from this blog, I am a big believer in learning all that I can from those who have gone ahead of me. This week I have a unique opportunity to do that from several true patriarchs of the faith -- internationally recognized authors, speakers, and founders of major Christian ministries and movements. Most of them are in their seventies and eighties. They have lived lives that have had a profound impact on the Kingdom. To have the opportunity to meet even one of them would be a tremendous privilege. This week they have all been brought together (a huge feat itself, given their schedules) for a "fireside chat". For three days, they are passing along their wisdom for the next generations of leadership. They are:

Jack Hayford – pastor, teacher, author and currently the President of the Foursquare Church as well as the Founder/Chancellor of King’s College and Seminary.
Loren Cunningham – ‘the world’s most traveled man’ is the Founder of Youth With A Mission (YWAM) as well as an author, and the Founder/President of the University of the Nations.
Lloyd Ogilvie – pastor, preacher, author, 61st Chaplain of the United States Senate and named one the ‘twelve most effective preachers in the English-speaking world’.
John Perkins – an international leader, teacher and author on issues of racial reconciliation and community development, awarded seven honorary doctorates.
Winkie Pratney – a New Zealand author, Christian apologist, authority on revival, and a young adult communicator who speaks worldwide to 500,000 annually.
Dr. Robert Schuler - an often misunderstood patriarch of the faith; founder of the Chrystal Cathedral, world's first seeker-sensitive church; best known for his widely viewed "Hour of Power" television program
Henry Blackaby - (to be taped at a later date) author the best-selling and profoundly impactful book, "Experiencing God".

These are some of the real "grandpas" of the faith for this generation. Last night I listened in as they sat around the Billy Graham's fireplace and shared their answers to questions like these: "What has been the most important spiritual discipline you've cultivated over your lifetime?" "How have you tended the integrity of your heart when others have criticized or wronged you?" "How have you balanced family life with your calling?" And of course, many others. Hearing them share unscripted from their hearts has been an incredibly powerful experience. I can't believe I get to sit in on two more days of it!

I am sure I'll write more on this as I have time, but you can learn a little by visiting The project was devised by Dave Beuhring and is being produced by Lionshare Leadership. You won't find much information publicly available on it, since its completion and launch is still quite a ways off, but let me tell you now... You will want to get these DVDs!

The project is still in need of some more donors to be seen through to completion, so do consider joining with me in supporting a vitally important project for the next generation of Christian leaders. If you would like to help, please let me know.

More on this soon!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Categories of Business Thought

I try to learn all that I can from people who understand business better than I do. As I’ve done that, I’ve begun to see that there are very distinctive categories of business thought. While the top players in these categories all know their stuff, they really do not speak the same language. If you’re seeking counsel from guys like this, it’s important to understand the framework they think in and how it may or may not apply to yours. The three categories of business thought I’ve come to recognize are Corporate, Corporate Entrepreneur, and Bootstrap Entrepreneur.

Corporate: Some of my primary exposure to the world of corporate thought has been through the Executive MBA at Vanderbilt University. The guys at the top of the corporate world are playing a sport I know little about. They deal with leadership on a very high level and tend to think and talk in broad concepts. The best of them are visionaries, but they really do not – and probably should not – think much like I do.

Role Models: Mike Hyatt, (CEO, Thomas Nelson) and Marty Dickens (former President, BellSouth/AT&T) are both fine local role models in this camp. They are effective leaders whose impact extends beyond their companies. They’re also fine Christian men who exemplify Kingdom mindset. Inspiring and leading well enough to steer massive bureaucracy takes serious clarity and strength of mind. I have a lot to learn from them. However, although I deeply admire them, I do not aspire to be them. In many ways, their lives are not their own.

Corporate Entrepreneurs: This category of business thought is a blend of Corporate and Entrepreneur, but it is absolutely its own category. The guys who operate here really do have their own way of thinking about business. If you sit in on a board meeting or brainstorming session with them, they speak and operate in very corporate ways, but they think and act as entrepreneurs. While they might never try to bootstrap a business off of a few hundred dollars, they are highly effective at raising large sums of money, quickly turning it into a fast-growth enterprise, and then selling it at handsome multiple a few years down the road. These men and women are the favorites of venture capitalists.

I like these guys. I am learning a LOT from them. They think like entrepreneurs in a lot of ways, but they are very effective at putting structure to their enterprises. They are big on planning and do it well. They take the best of the corporate world and apply it to the entrepreneurial mindset.

Role Models: I am building relationships with as many of these folks as I can. I cannot name them all here, but Dan Hammond (President, American Hometown Publishing) and Michael Burcham (President, ParadigmHealth) have both taught me a lot recently.

Bootstrap Entrepreneurs: This is business thought in its most basic, primal format. The guys who excel here have generally built their companies from the ground up, often with little formal business training, investment, or outside help. If you were to tell them “it takes money to make money,” they just might laugh. I could write all day about this mindset, because it’s closest to my own. I learn quickly and easily from those who are ahead of me here, because I already think and speak much like they do.

Role Models: Having an Bootstrap mindset does not mean thinking small. Many of these folks are wildly successful. Dave Ramsey is one of my current favorites. His company’s numbers are not public, but they do have over 200 employees and they’re growing fast (debt free, of course). Their company is extremely well run. I know a number of his employees and I’ve learned a lot from them. Dave’s “EntreLeadership” course is a fantastic study on effective management techniques for those with this mindset. I’ve also learned a lot from Robert D. Smith, Lighting Crown Publishers. He runs a massively successful organization out of the basement of his (albeit quite large) home. The level of leadership and efficiency that bounce around between those walls is mind boggling.

The Point: Your own business mindset has probably been formed largely by the career experiences you’ve had so far. Whether you’ve worked primarily in large corporations, in the fast-paced world of venture capital startups, or in the boot-strapper’s world of small business, your work experience has shaped how you see both business and opportunity.

So who should you learn from? In the early stages of your career, I think it best to learn from those who are already excelling in your business category. A recent college grad in a Fortune 500 company, for example, could learn a lot more from successful people in his own organization than from boot-strappers like me – at least more that would be useful in the early stages of his career. However, the more successful you become, the more you will have to gain by studying the ideas and techniques of those outside of your category. They can bring fresh insight, new ideas, and perhaps the inspiration you need to shake things up. In other words, wherever you’re playing ball, learn the rules of that game first – then do all you can to broaden your perspective.