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A couple of years ago I received some audio CDs from a workshop Craig Groeschel and Andy Stanley did on the topic of momentum at Catalyst One-Day. I found the teachings they shared to be very beneficial and encouraging as a leader.

Over the next few days I will be sharing with you some of the notes I took while listening to their talks. The format will be that I write a statement they shared in their talk, then I will elaborate on each statement a little to explain it to you.

I hope you find this series of posts beneficial to you as we learn about momentum together.

Gaining and Sustaining Momentum 
Andy Stanley

Three things that trigger momentum:

  1. New
  2. Improved
  3. Improving

The basis of Andy's talk is that there are three things that trigger momentum. Something that is new, something that already exists which is improved, or something that is currently operating and is improving. All of those create momentum because we live in a society where we do not like to see things stay the same. We like to see things change, improve, and become better.

Manage toward sameness and lead toward change

Andy described this as the traditional paradox between management and leadership. Management wants to make everything the same so they can manage it, while leaders want to always change everything by leading. Andy says you need both, which I agree with.

There will always need to be things in your organization that are the "same." Things such as a staff meeting, the boss showing up to work, paychecks delivered when they should, etc. There are specific things that should be managed toward being the "same." However, there also needs to be room for leaders to lead toward change.

The job of leaders is to take what exists and what is currently going on and improve them and make them better and even create new stuff. Leaders lead toward change. And, when leaders have a good group of managers who can manage things to be the same, it allows them to do a better job of leading toward change. 

If you have momentum and you don't know why, you are only one bad decision away from losing it.

Sometimes things do go well in leadership and we find ourselves with momentum which is great. However, we need to know why and what created that momentum so we can do two things:

  1. Keep doing what created the momentum
  2. Avoid doing what will stop the momentum

Plus, when you have momentum is just takes one bad decision to lose all of it. Momentum is hard to build, but easy to lose.

It's arrogant to say, "God is just blessin it."

Andy shared this that even though God plays a role in all momentum and success, it is arrogant for people to point to God as the sole and only reason they are having success. Yes, that might be the truth, but when you say, "God is just blessin it" to other people who also work in your industry, it sends a message that "God has chosen us over you" or "God does not like you as much as us" or "God has decided that we are more holy than you." All of those are a little arrogant to say when it comes to momentum and success so when we are giving credit for the success we have we need to give credit to God, but also credit the tangible things we have been doing to create the momentum we are enjoying. 

The worse things are, the more opportunity there is for a leader.

How true this one is. When momentum is dead and there is nothing moving forward in the organization it provides a great opportunity for a great leader to step in and make change. If he is able to lead the organization out of mediocrity, financial struggles, and build up the organization's effectiveness it gives him great leverage and credibility going forward. If he is able to do those things it allows him to cast vision more effectively and helps people trust that he knows what he is doing and that he is doing what is best for the organization.

Most churches do way too much.

I agree with this one and believe it happens in nonprofit organizations as well. I think part of this happens because churches and nonprofit organizations are primarily governed by volunteers and supported by volunteers. So, when someone comes to us and shares an idea or suggests we do something, we think we need to implement it. 

One principle I often talk about in my book is that when someone does come to you with a suggestion or idea, say "yes" except put the responsibility back in their court. When they want to start something new tell them you think it is a good idea (if you really do, if you do not then say so), then ask them what their next step is to getting it going.

As leaders we are way too busy to implement everyone else's ideas so when people come to us with ideas and suggestions (even if they are good) we need to put those ideas and suggestions back into the hands of the person who brought them to us. If they idea was as good as they think it was and if they truly believe in the idea, then they will implement it.

Question: What is your experience with gaining and sustaining momentum?

The past couple of weeks have opened up a new part of the same journey that I have been on as part of my internship with Church Assistance Ministry (CAM).

Throughout my time with CAM I have been able to write and teach leadership content as well as basic teachings of the Bible. It has been a great internship which has given me many growth experiences. As part of our pastor’s summer sabbatical I have been asked to teach on one of the Sunday’s he will be gone (July 8, 2012). I feel it is a great honor to be asked to teach, and I am grateful to be chosen as someone to hold the responsibility of teaching a congregation for a Sunday.

This new part of my journey with CAM is exciting and a little scary. I have never taught to an entire church before, but I am excited. Feeling God’s call on my life to write and teach leadership to others means that this opportunity to teach at church is a step in the right direction because it gives me experience and practice in studying God’s word and teaching it to others.

This post is adapted from a section that was cut from the manuscript of my book titled, A Day of Hope.

Does everyone have the ability to lead? 

The answer is “yes” and “no.” 

Yes, because there is always going to be an area a person can lead in. A mother is going to have to lead her three children when their father is not around. A CEO is going to be able to lead because he has authority.

No, because there are also going to be areas that we don’t lead. These are areas that we shouldn’t lead in where we don’t have authority, a voice, or ability to lead.

Leadership takes some skill, but that skill can be developed and implemented. 

Question: Do you believe everyone has the ability to lead?


This post is adapted from a section that was cut from the manuscript of my book titled, A Day of Hope.

Hold On

When you are worried about your ego it says that you are more concerned with doing the work with your name attached than you are concerned with actually serving the people in need. It says that you’re worried about your ego, not about the people in need. It says that you’re worried about feeling good for what you’ve done, not for doing a good work. 

Worrying about your ego should be the last worry for a leader. Leaders exist to serve and better others. In that process, they will feel good and enjoy success, but the chief worry among a leader should be others, not self.

Because if you are truly committed to helping people, you would forfeit and partner with another organization or program to do the good work of helping people in need [this is in the context of serving families in need for Thanksgiving]. If you were truly committed to help and serve people in need, you would lay down all your self motivated ego and ambition, and you would partner with an organization already doing the same work. You would lay down your own selfish ambitions to partner with that other organization. 

Question: How do you avoid worrying about your ego when leading?

One of the things I am noticing as part of the spiritual formation classes I  have been taking at Fresno Pacific University is the depth of prayer which exists.

It has been enjoyable to learn about the many intricacies and elements of prayer. For example, Henri Nouwen writes to us in his book, Reaching Out, “Prayer is a gift of God. They say that we cannot truly pray by ourselves, but that it is God’s spirit who prays in us” (p. 124). Often while reading the Bible I can sense God in me. Reading His word helps me to feel that He is in my heart, talking to me and leading me.

Thomas Merton further explains this feeling when he reveals in Bridges to Contemplative Living, “How does one know God in the heart? By praying in the heart” (p. 41). Praying in the heart is perhaps the best way to pray. I cannot always pray in the heart because it takes a significant amount of quiet time with God, but when I do get to pray with God in my heart, it is awesome.


May 16, 2012 — Leave a comment

If it is true that “every man born on this earth is called to find and realize himself in Christ” (p. 37 of Thomas Merton's Bridges to Contemplative Living) then I have some work to do.

Henri Nouwen writes in his book, Reaching Out, how we need to empty ourselves in order to make room in our hearts and minds for others. When leading and working hard it is easy to fill my heart and mind with prejudices. Because I live in a busy world with so much information I feel that I need to create prejudices to help me “size things up” quickly and put people and situations into a box that I think I know about.

However, Nouwen tells us this is not good. Nouwen writes, “Real training for service asks for a hard and often painful process of self-emptying” (p. 108). That self-emptying is the process of getting rid of the prejudices that I have developed over my life, which are often based on real life examples and interactions I have had. However, when I have those prejudices it does not allow me to truly be hospitable to others by authentically listening to their story.

I agree with Nouwen that training for service in ministry is the process of self-emptying, and I have some of that still to do as I finish out my last couple months at FPU. 

Question: How do you empty yourself?

In the Bridges to Contemplative Living devotional I have been reading Thomas Merton warns, “We should not be too sure of having found Christ in ourselves until we have found him also in the part of humanity that is most remote from our own” (p. 31). I am not sure if I completely understand this statement, but I believe Merton is trying to tell us that when Christ is truly inside of us, we are able to recognize Christ in others even if they have different skin color, race, ethnicity, linguistics, attitude, and maybe even theology.

(When we find Christ in our self well it allows us to find Christ in others who are going through tough times but who do not know Him yet.)

When others who are going through tough times we (as Christians who truly have Christ inside of us) are able to be hospitable to them and offer healing by showing them who Christ is. Henri Nouwen explains in his book, Reaching Out that “healing means. . . . the creation of an empty but friendly space where those who suffer can tell their story to someone who can listen with real attention” (p. 95).

Question: What do you do or who do you look to in order to find yourself?

Reading Henri Nouwen's book, Reaching Out teaches us “hospitality. . . . means primarily the creation of a free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality may not change the people, but to offer them space where change can take place” (p. 71). Thinking about the ability to show hospitality reminds me that I must have balance in my life.

When I have balance in my life, I notice I am able to be hospitable and open to others with my time and attention. However, if I do not have balance and feel that I a too busy, that is when I become hostile toward others. I realize that part of my purpose here on earth is to show hospitality to non-Christians and people who do not believe in Jesus.

What better way to point others to Jesus than if we are open and hospitable to them when they are going through tough times or just want to talk about faith? Thomas Merton talks about his own purpose in Bridges to Contemplative Living, explaining, “One thing I know—that it is my destiny to be a contemplative, a Christian, and an American. I can satisfy my vocation with nothing that is partial or provincial” (p. 27).

I am realizing that part of my purpose as a Christian man is to be balanced in spiritual and work life so that I may show hospitality to others.

Question: How do you show hospitality to others?


Learning about what solitude is and is not has been enjoyable and beneficial to me.

In his book, Reaching Out, Henri Nouwen explains solitude as, “The movement from loneliness to solitude, therefore, is not a movement of a growing withdrawal from, but rather a movement toward, a deeper engagement in the burning issues of our time” (p. 61). It is interesting that Nouwen does not always define solitude as being alone. Often he defines solitude as something that can happen with others.

When Thomas Merton is talking about nonviolence in Bridges to Contemplative Living he informs us of something that can also help us experience solitude proposing, “The Christian will do his part in creating these conditions by preferring love and trust to hate and suspiciousness” (p. 21). Preferring love and trust helps to draw us closer to others. It might mean we get hurt from time to time, but that is part of the journey of being a Christian and walking with others in community.

Thinking about this topic more leads me to realize that maybe we can experience solitude while around others if we are comfortable with ourselves in our own skin. If we are comfortable with who we are based on God’s image of us, maybe that allows us to be at ease and to experience solitude while in the company of others? 

Question: What does solitude mean to you?

This week it is interesting to read about Thomas Merton (in Bridges to Contemplative Living) and Henri Nouwen (in Reaching Out) talking about loving others and solitude.

You would think that loving others and solitude are separate concepts, but Merton and Nouwen both say they are one and the same. Merton tells us “we are meant to love others” (p. 17), while Nouwen tells us solitude “does not pull us away from our fellow human beings but instead makes real fellowship possible . . . . solitude not only deepens our affection for others but also is the place where real community becomes possible” (p. 42-43).

In my spiritual life I too have experienced a deepened affection for others when I have had ample time of solitude. When I have time alone I feel refreshed and centered and ready to talk to and interact with others. That solitude helps me make sure I have my own act together and thus allows me to focus on others and have true fellowship with them when interacting.

Question: Does solitude help you to love others?