Gospel, Queen Street, Reflections

Jesus said where your treasure is there your heart is also. Jesus says “follow the money” … wish he hadn’t!

Recently I was listending to a conversation with Tim Sanders on his new book Today We Are Rich. Tim tells the story of his grandmother Billye taking him into her home and raising him as her own. In his early years Tim remembers the day a stranger happened to visit their very humble farm. He was out of work and trying to get to another town in New Mexico and was desperate to perform some work in order to get a good meal. Billye and the man agreed to do some chores around the house in exchange for $10 in wages. The man worked hard that day under Tim’s youthful “supervision” and at the close of the day Billye paid the man with a twenty dollar bill and offered him a pair of his grandfather’s shoes. As the man walked away with wealth in pocket and new shoes on his feet Billye whispered to Tim: “Today we are rich!” (check out the inteview on the Catalyst podcast: Episode 131 with Tim Sanders)

If you ask most people to define wealth its always one dollar more than they make. Someone else is always richer. Today I want to challenge you to see that you are rich when you have time, talent and resources to share and to spare. Which means most of us are rich!

Today I want to invite you to ponder one of Jesus’ sayings with me. In the sermon on the mount Jesus offers this insight “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). This is so true that it hurts. As a spiritual exercise open your checkbook up and see where your biggest expenditures are. I remember as a teenager doing this with my parents’ checkbook and suggesting that the car I wanted could be found if my parents were to cut back to tithing. I discovered that they gave away almost eighteen percent of their income that year … Jesus says to us follow the money to find where your heart truly is. I wish it was not so, but you can wander into my libraries (one room does not hold all my books) and you will know that I treasure books and the knowledge they hold. What is your treasure? 

As a closing thought you may want to “follow the money” and ask yourself do I use my time, talent, and resources for purposes that honor God and bless others? If so, then join me in saying “Today We Are Rich.”

The following are my notes from reading about “Wisdom and Finance” in Adam Hamilton’s book ENOUGH: Discovering Joy Through Simplicity and Generosity.

  • The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to want (Proverbs 21:5).
  • Precious treasure remains in the house of the wise, but the fool devours it (Proverbs 21:20).

Where Does the Money Go?

Living as Prodigals:   The story of the prodigal son (see Luke 15:11-16) demonstrates the habits of squandering and spending. The word prodigal does not mean someone who wanders away or is lost. It literally means “one who wastes money.” A prodigal is one who wastes money, who is a spendthrift.

Many of us struggle with that habit as well. We’re not worried about tomorrow. We want it today. The problem with that kind of thinking is that, for most of us, the “famine” eventually comes. It comes when we have spent everything we have and even a little bit of next year’s income. So we use the credit card and charge it, and we go a little further into debt. Finally, we come to a place where we “find ourselves,” just as the prodigal did. We have nothing left, not even any credit, and we can’t figure out how we are we going to make it.

The More We Make, the More We Waste:  It also seems that the more financially secure we become, the less we worry about spending money here and there. We waste a dollar on this or that, and we forget where it went. Money just seems to flow through our fingers. We’re not as careful with our money as we should be. There are many ways we waste money, but there are two primary money-wasters that many of us struggle with. It is not necessary to eliminate these two things all together, but we should think more carefully about how we spend our money.

  • Impulse buying: Tips for avoiding impulse buying: • Never go grocery shopping when you are hungry. • Shop for what you need only. • Make a list and stick to it; buy what you need and get out of the store! • Wait twenty-four hours before purchasing an impulse buy.
  • Eating out: The issue is frequency. The average American eats out an average of four times a week. By eating out less frequently, we will have more money to save, spend on something more important, or give away.
  • By the way, are you wasting money? I ask you to perform a simple test. Go through you check register and add up all the ATM receipts. Tell me how much went through your hands and where did it go. If you do not “know” then it was a waste.

Clarifying Our Relationship With Money and Possessions

We do not exist to consume as much as we can and get as much pleasure as we can while we are here on this earth. We have a higher purpose. We need to know and understand our life purpose—our vision or mission or calling—and then spend our money in ways that are consistent with this purpose or calling.

  • Be Clear About Your Purpose and Calling:  Our society tells us that our life purpose is to consume—to make as much money as possible and to blow as much money as possible. The Bible tells us that we were created to care for God’s creation. We were created to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves. We were created to care for our families and those in need. We were created to glorify God, to seek justice, and to do mercy. Our money and possessions should be devoted to helping us fulfill this calling.
  • Set Worthy Goals:  Being able to accomplish the greater purposes God has for our lives requires some measure of planning. Taking the time to set goals related to our lives and our finances is crucial if we are to become wise stewards of our God-given resources.

The Discipline of Managing Your Money

The Necessity of a Budget/Spending Plan:  Once we have set some financial goals, we need to develop a plan to meet those goals. A budget is a spending plan that enables us to accomplish our goals. Many people find it helpful to seek the advice of a financial advisor. For those who find themselves in the midst of a financial crisis, a financial counselor can help to work out terms with creditors and develop a workable financial plan. Whatever approach you choose, the important thing is simply to have a plan.

Six Financial Planning Principles:  The following financial planning principles can help us to manage our money with wisdom and faith:

  1. Pay your tithe and offering first. Put God first in your living and your giving. Give your tithe and offering from the “top” of your paycheck, and then live on whatever remains.
  2. Create a budget and track your expenses. Creating a budget is simply developing a plan in which you tell your money what you want it to do. Tracking your expenses with a budget is like getting on the scales: It allows you to see how you are doing and motivates you to be more careful with your expenditures. (Suggestion: Use the bulletin insert “Basic Budget Worksheet.”)
  3. Simplify your lifestyle (live below your means). Because this discipline is critical to the success of any financial plan, next Sunday’s sermon will be devoted to this topic.
  4. Establish an emergency fund. An emergency fund is an account separate from checking or long-term savings that is set aside specifically for emergencies. Dave Ramsey recommends beginning with $1,000 and building that to three months’ worth of income.4 When you have this amount, you won’t need to use your credit cards anymore.
  5. Pay off your credit cards, use cash/debit cards for purchases, and use credit wisely. As you are building your emergency fund, begin to pay off your credit card debt and start using cash or debit cards for purchases. Some experts suggest starting with the credit card that has the highest interest rate. Others suggest paying down the smallest debt first, experiencing that victory, and applying your payments from the first card to the second, and so on, creating a snowball effect to pay off the cards as soon as possible. Cut up your cards as you pay them down so that you are not trapped or leveraged by your future for present-day pleasure, as the prodigal son was. If you must use a credit card, such as when traveling or making purchases online, be sure to pay off the debt monthly. If you are unable to do this, then it is better for you to cut up your cards and stop using them altogether.
  6. Practice long-term savings and investing habits. Saving money is the number-one wise money management principle everyone should practice. We do not save merely for the sake of saving. There is a word for that: hoarding. Hoarding is frowned upon in the Bible as the practice of fools and those who fail to understand the purpose of life. Saving, on the other hand, is meant to be purposeful. There are three types of savings we should have: 1) emergency savings, 2) savings for wants and goals, and 3) retirement savings.

Resources for Developing a Budget

Crown Financial Ministries offers the following Spending Plan Calculator: http://www.crown.org/Tools/Calculators/Budgeting_SpendingPlan.asp This is a fun and helpful budgeting calculator that automatically generates a suggested budget based upon the user’s inputs and Crown’s recommended expenditures.

Resources for Getting Out of Debt

Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University offers a great deal of online information including his approach to reducing debt using the following “Debt Snowball” tool: https://www.mytotalmoneymakeover.com/index.cfm?event=displayDebtSnowballLanding

Gospel, Queen Street, Reflections

When Our Dreams Become Nightmares … thoughts on having Enough Stuff

This past week I took off for a four day retreat with a duffle bag, a bag of books, and another book bag with several journals and my computer. As we begin our sermon series centered around Adam Hamilton’s book, ENOUGH: Discovering Joy Through Simplicity and Generosity, I have a confession to make. The stuff I carried to Camp Rockfish was the same amount of stuff I lived on for eighteen months in Kenya. 500 days of living out of the same amount of stuff I “needed” for a four day domesticated adventure? Really?!? Several scripture lessons come to mind as I reflect on where I find myself today.

  • Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith, and pierced themselves with many griefs. (1 Timothy 6:10b, NIV)
  • The lover of money will not be satisfied with money; nor the lover of wealth, with gain. This also is vanity. (Ecclesiastes 5:10)
  • For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? (Matthew 16:26)

Below are the rough notes and thoughts from reading the first chapter of ENOUGH.

The American Dream

  • For most people, the American Dream has to do with a subconscious desire for achieving success and satisfying the desire for material possessions. It is the opportunity to pursue more than what we have, to gain more than what we have, and to meet success. We tend to measure our success by the stuff that we possess.
  • The love of money and the things money can buy is a primary or secondary motive behind most of what we Americans do. We want to consume, acquire, and buy our way to happiness—and we want it now.

The American Nightmare

  • Affluenza is the constant need for more and bigger and better stuff—as well as the effect that this need has on us. It is the desire to acquire, and most of us have been infected by this virus to some degree.
    • The average American home went from 1,660 square feet in 1973 to 2,400 square feet in 2004.
    • Today there is estimated to be 1.9 billion square feet of self-storage space in America.
    • Meanwhile, the average American family size has decreased … fewer people in bigger space
  • Credititis is an illness that is brought on by the opportunity to buy now and pay later, and it feeds on our desire for instant gratification. Our economy today is built on the concept of credit-itis. Unfortunately, it has exploited our lack of self-discipline and allowed us to feed our affluenza, wreaking havoc in our personal and national finances.
    • Average credit card debt in America in 1990 was around $3,000. Today it’s over $9,000.
    • The average sale is around 125 percent higher if we use a credit card than if we pay cash, because it doesn’t feel real when we use plastic instead of cash. 
    • Credit-itis is not limited to purchases made with credit cards; it extends to car loans, mortgages, and other loans. The life of the average car loan and home mortgage continues to increase, while the average American’s savings rate continues to decline.

A Deeper Problem Within

  • There Is a Spiritual Issue Beneath the Surface of Affluenza and Credit-itis. Our souls were created in the image of God, but they have been distorted. 
    • We were meant to desire God, but we have turned that desire toward possessions. 
    • We were meant to find our security in God, but we find it in amassing wealth. 
    • We were meant to love people, but instead we compete with them. 
    • We were meant to enjoy the simple pleasures of life, but we busy ourselves with pursuing money and things. 
    • We were meant to be generous and to share with those in need, but we selfishly hoard our resources for ourselves. 
    • There is a sin nature within us.
  • The Devil Plays Upon This Sin Nature. Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). The devil doesn’t need to tempt us to do drugs or to steal or to have an extramarital affair in order to destroy us. All he needs to do is convince us to keep pursuing the American Dream—to keep up with the Joneses, borrow against our futures, enjoy more than we can afford, and indulge ourselves. By doing that, he will rob us of joy, make us slaves, and keep us from doing God’s will. Check out:
    • Matthew 4:8-10
    • Luke 8:14
    • Mark 8:36
    • 1 Timothy 6:10

The Biblical Alternative

  • We Need a Heart Change: When we accept Christ into our lives we receive a changed heart. Each morning we should get down on our knees and say, “Lord, help me to be the person you want me to be today. Take away the desires that shouldn’t be there, and help me be single-minded in my focus and my pursuit of you.” As we do this, God comes and cleanses us from the inside out, purifying our hearts.
  • We Must Allow Christ to Work in Us: Christ works in us as we seek first his kingdom and strive to do his will. As this happens we sense a higher calling—a calling to simplicity and faithfulness and generosity. We begin to find ways to make a difference with our time, talent, and resources. 
  • By pursuing good financial practices, we free ourselves from debt so that we are able to be in mission to the world. A key part of finding financial and spiritual freedom is found in simplicity and in exercising restraint.
  • With the help of God, we can: 
    • smplify our lives and silence the voices constantly telling us we need more 
    • live counter-culturally by living below, not above, our means 
    • build into our budgets the money to buy with cash instead of credit 
    • build into our budgets what we need to be able to live generously and faithfully
Queen Street

When Our Dreams Become Nightmares … thoughts on having Enough Stuff

This past week I took off for a four day retreat with a duffle bag, a bag of books, and another book bag with several journals and my computer. As we begin our sermon series centered around Adam Hamilton’s book, ENOUGH: Discovering Joy Through Simplicity and Generosity, I have a confession to make. The stuff I carried to Camp Rockfish was the same amount of stuff I lived on for eighteen months in Kenya. 500 days of living out of the same amount of stuff I “needed” for a four day domesticated adventure? Really?!? Several scripture lessons come to mind as I reflect on where I find myself today.

  • Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith, and pierced themselves with many griefs. (1 Timothy 6:10b, NIV)
  • The lover of money will not be satisfied with money; nor the lover of wealth, with gain. This also is vanity. (Ecclesiastes 5:10)
  • For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? (Matthew 16:26)

Below are the rough notes and thoughts from reading the first chapter of ENOUGH.

The American Dream

  • For most people, the American Dream has to do with a subconscious desire for achieving success and satisfying the desire for material possessions. It is the opportunity to pursue more than what we have, to gain more than what we have, and to meet success. We tend to measure our success by the stuff that we possess.
  • The love of money and the things money can buy is a primary or secondary motive behind most of what we Americans do. We want to consume, acquire, and buy our way to happiness—and we want it now.

The American Nightmare

  • Affluenza is the constant need for more and bigger and better stuff—as well as the effect that this need has on us. It is the desire to acquire, and most of us have been infected by this virus to some degree.
    • The average American home went from 1,660 square feet in 1973 to 2,400 square feet in 2004.
    • Today there is estimated to be 1.9 billion square feet of self-storage space in America.
    • Meanwhile, the average American family size has decreased … fewer people in bigger space
  • Credititis is an illness that is brought on by the opportunity to buy now and pay later, and it feeds on our desire for instant gratification. Our economy today is built on the concept of credit-itis. Unfortunately, it has exploited our lack of self-discipline and allowed us to feed our affluenza, wreaking havoc in our personal and national finances.
    • Average credit card debt in America in 1990 was around $3,000. Today it’s over $9,000.
    • The average sale is around 125 percent higher if we use a credit card than if we pay cash, because it doesn’t feel real when we use plastic instead of cash. 
    • Credit-itis is not limited to purchases made with credit cards; it extends to car loans, mortgages, and other loans. The life of the average car loan and home mortgage continues to increase, while the average American’s savings rate continues to decline.

A Deeper Problem Within

  • There Is a Spiritual Issue Beneath the Surface of Affluenza and Credit-itis. Our souls were created in the image of God, but they have been distorted. 
    • We were meant to desire God, but we have turned that desire toward possessions. 
    • We were meant to find our security in God, but we find it in amassing wealth. 
    • We were meant to love people, but instead we compete with them. 
    • We were meant to enjoy the simple pleasures of life, but we busy ourselves with pursuing money and things. 
    • We were meant to be generous and to share with those in need, but we selfishly hoard our resources for ourselves. 
    • There is a sin nature within us.
  • The Devil Plays Upon This Sin Nature. Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). The devil doesn’t need to tempt us to do drugs or to steal or to have an extramarital affair in order to destroy us. All he needs to do is convince us to keep pursuing the American Dream—to keep up with the Joneses, borrow against our futures, enjoy more than we can afford, and indulge ourselves. By doing that, he will rob us of joy, make us slaves, and keep us from doing God’s will. Check out:
    • Matthew 4:8-10
    • Luke 8:14
    • Mark 8:36
    • 1 Timothy 6:10

The Biblical Alternative

  • We Need a Heart Change: When we accept Christ into our lives we receive a changed heart. Each morning we should get down on our knees and say, “Lord, help me to be the person you want me to be today. Take away the desires that shouldn’t be there, and help me be single-minded in my focus and my pursuit of you.” As we do this, God comes and cleanses us from the inside out, purifying our hearts.
  • We Must Allow Christ to Work in Us: Christ works in us as we seek first his kingdom and strive to do his will. As this happens we sense a higher calling—a calling to simplicity and faithfulness and generosity. We begin to find ways to make a difference with our time, talent, and resources. 
  • By pursuing good financial practices, we free ourselves from debt so that we are able to be in mission to the world. A key part of finding financial and spiritual freedom is found in simplicity and in exercising restraint.
  • With the help of God, we can: 
    • smplify our lives and silence the voices constantly telling us we need more 
    • live counter-culturally by living below, not above, our means 
    • build into our budgets the money to buy with cash instead of credit 
    • build into our budgets what we need to be able to live generously and faithfully
Church, Culture, Future, Reflections

This Easter join a spiritual adventure with Gabe Lyons and the NEXT CHRISTIANS.

Gabe Lyons begins his new book, Next Christians: The Good News About the End of Christian America (2010), with the startling confession that several years ago that he was “embarrassed to call myself Christian” (3). He and Dave Kinneman described the source of this embarrassment in their groundbreaking book UnChristian: What a New Generation Thinks About Christianity (2007). Next Christians is Lyons attempt to offer a compelling vision for how the church can reform itself as it learns from the next generations of Christians. This book seeks to answer three questions that Lyons has been chewing on in subsequent years: what does mission look like in America in the twenty-first century, how should the message of the Gospel go forward, and what does it mean to be a Christian in a world disenchanted with our movement (4)?

Continue reading

Practices, Reflections

Sabbath Keeping as joy and delight, not obligation and burden. Dan Allender sets a feast!

Dan Allender’s SABBATH (Thomas Nelson, 2009) is an invitation to practices that truly brings life. He first concedes that except for a few providential moments he may not be the person to write this text. Like many, in his drive to be successful in the hectic and harried world of academia, he let Sabbath practice fall by the wayside. Those moments, encounters across the world, a family emergency, and being lost in a sabbatical led to a changed heart. The book is part of a larger work from Thomas Nelson, The Ancient Practices Series, which seeks to reintroduce and reinvigorate the traditional spiritual disciplines of the church. To that end Allender succeeds.

First, restoring Sabbath practice in a 24/7 web of connectivity seems like an endless and possibly fruitless battle. In my life I am only returning in later years to the life-giving practice of setting aside a day to rest in order to give meaning and energy to my work. Allender would commend my tentative steps and then he would introduce me to a larger Sabbath practice filled with sensuous delights, a time set-apart for God and family, a feast to be shared, and finally a day to play in God’s presence. Allender never points to the Proverbs 8:30 where Wisdom celebrates God’s unfolding creation and seems, like a young child, saying “do it again” as creation unfolds, but the wonder of Sabbath is on display throughout the book. Allender states that “Sabbath is the day that holds together the beginning of time and the end; it is the intersection of the past and the future that opens a window into eternity each week” (p. 49). The simple practice of pausing every seven days leads us to pay attention to the larger unfolding of God’s redemptive work coming to consummation in an endless Sabbath.

Then, Sabbath practice is grounded in the playful moments when division gives way to shalom, destitution surrenders to abundance, and despair yields to joy. These chapters yield a series of probing questions that will coach you as you deepen your practice. “How would you live if there were no wars, enmity, battle lines, or need to defend, explain, interpret, or influence another so see anything differently” (p. 110)? “If we were to pray today for our enemies, who do you most hope to be united with on this earth? And who do you most hope not to see in heaven” (p. 111)? “What would give you the greatest sense of the abiding goodness of the Father’s arms” (p. 112)? Allender’s chapter on despair surrendering to joy needs a moment of caution attached to it. He has obviously enjoyed a good cigar, a fine glass of wine, and wholesome beer on his journey. The onset of diabetes has limited his ability to enjoy this rituals. As a pastor I offer a caution to those whose sensitivities would see these practices as insensitive to the intent of Sabbath. I personally think Allender is right to point us to the take real delights of all of our senses.

Finally, Allender moves us embrace the biblical vision of Sabbath: a remembering of the need for Sabbath after centuries of slavery in Egypt, the deliberate pause to listen for the still small voice, and reminding ourselves of God’s justice raining down on world thirsty for restitution and redemption. Here he offers a variety of practices, thoughts about ways to allow the scriptures to breath new life into us, and reminders of the God’s provision of welcoming all to the Sabbath as a matter of justice (“remember that you were slaves in Egypt” – Deuteronomy 5:15). Somehow sitting at the Sunday buffet and enjoying a feast with others within the church while others buzz about us caring for our needs hollows out Sabbatical intent. These last chapters contain many helpful thoughts that would reduce Sabbath practice to a series of rules, something many have chafed at throughout their lives. I think spending the first two-thirds of the book helping us learn to delight and play in the presence of God, family, and community should help us answer the question: “Do we really believe that Sabbath delight is God’s heart for us? Are we willing to silence the rabble of idols and foul spirits to hear the intoxicating joy of God” (p. 193)? Buy this book, ponder its Sabbath questions, engage God’s heart on a weekly basis, take time to stop and stand between the no longer and the not yet. You will be glad to find Sabbath taking up residence in your being.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of SABBATH mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Practices, Reflections

Struggling with God’s purpose for your life? Mark Batterson’s SOULPRINT will help you find the way.

Mark Batterson states in SOULPRINT that as a former athlete “the older I get, the better I was” (59). And of course I want to laugh at him, but I know myself too well. I may not have been that high school jock, but I have those touchstones in my life where “the better I was” seems superior to “the me I am.” Batterson challenges us to face this reality head on and decide that “the better I was” and “the me that I am” are nothing compared to what God wants for me. Through the story of David, Israel’s great king and poet, he reminds each of us that “we are God’s masterpiece, created anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things God planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:10, NLT).

David’s journey is marked by moments of decision: do I wear King Saul’s armor or trust my experience with stones and a sling, do I trust that my present skills with a sling and harp for future will honor God and bless people in the future, am I marking moments of victory by carrying Goliath’s armor (all 125 pounds of it) with me wherever I go, am I becoming the person others or God wants me to be, can I use moments of crazy embarrassing dancing for God’s glory or be mired in fear, will I allow God to take my weakness and sinfulness and use it for glorious purposes, and finally, can I trust God will establish in me a legacy with plan and purpose? These questions mark the journey that Mark Batterson takes us on in SOULPRINT … along the way he sprinkles in marvelous moments of God’s grace permeating the lives of Jesus followers across the centuries.

The heart of Soulprint is found in five chapters. The first three are positive steps for discovering moments in your personal past where a God destiny was being birthed. Do not glide quickly past these chapters and pay careful attention to the creation of a life altar to mark these moments for yourself and others around you. As I continue to pay attention to appreciative moments and character strengths in myself and others I especially found Batterson’s two chapters on dealing with embarrassment and sinfulness to be gems. I remember moments when I was made the fool and now I realize how those moments also set me free from the fear of failure. Realizing how God can take my biggest moral failures, which often arose out of my greatest personal strengths, and forgive me and set me free for future work is a tremendous healing for me.

Included in SOULPRINT is a good seven session study guide and the opening chapter of PRIMAL, another great book by Mark Batterson. Find the first chapter of SOULPRINT here and a videoclip here. This book is a definite buy!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Church, Practices, Reflections

Samuel Chand’s CRACKING YOUR CHURCH’S CULTURE CODE reminds us of what we already know (and often forget) about organizations

One of my mentors encouraged me to launch my ministry in every church with a study of John’s letters to the seven churches of Asia Minor. I baulked at opening ministry with I percieved as a can of worms and then something hit me. These letters were written to the angels of the seven churches! Intuitively I knew that every organization I had worked with had a sense, an ethos, that was often hard to get a handle on and yet crucial to its function (or dysfunction!). My mentor was inviting me to pay attention to that ethos as I envisioned ministry in a new setting.

Samuel Chand’s recent book, Cracking Your Church’s Culture Code: Seven Keys to Unleashing Vision and Inspiration (Jossey-Bass, 2011), has brought greater clarity to my intuitive hunches about a church’s ethos. Chand quickly challenges the reader to understand that culture is king when it comes to leading an organization. Your leadership has less sway than the inspiring or toxic culture that you swim in within your church. The unnoticed and unexamined cultural code will rise up to challenge every change needed by the organization, so pay attention to Chand’s discerning exercises for revealing and changing the code for multiplied benefits. He uses the acronym CULTURE (control, undersanding, leadership, trust, unafraid, responsive, and execution) to help the reader think broadly about the cultural ethos of their organization.

The heart of the book centers on the chapters “Vocabulary Defines Culture” and “Change Starts with Me.” Our vocabulary shapes the environment which we lead. If we describe everything in negative terms, then we find negative results. I have learned that the opposite is true as well. Chand helped me understand that I have to examine every piece and source of communication for the words that hold an organization from realizing its potential. The culture code is strong and must be addressed on multiple fronts honest communication, deep listening, naming the unknown in “some people say,” and offering real affirmations as the church moves forward. The challenging reminder that I can only change myself is braced by a helpful section on how to leave gracefully when your gifts and strengths are not aligned with that of the organization’s cultural code. This section of the book is pure gold and I wish I had read it sooner!

Cracking Your Church’s Culture Code should be required reading for every pastor. And pastors should pass their copy on to other leaders in their congregations. Every community, business, enterprise, and organization has a “culture code” and not paying attention to the code inevitably leads to ruin.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the above book for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”