One thing I find odd about people today is that too many of them genuinely think that things are supposed to happen nice and easy, that they’re never supposed to experience any kind of pain, that there shouldn’t be any risk to what they do. Basically we have become unrealistically averse to any kind of pain or risk. An article in “Triathlete Magazine” (October 2015 p 28) written by Jene Shaw discusses the fact that if you’re going to do anything to grow, there’s going to be pain.
It really is called maturing, too many really think that they can really sit back, contribute as little as possible or nothing and expect everyone else to scurry around them. Obviously as a person and in a society, that model is not going to last too long. Only so many people can take, because there are only so many available to give. In order to grow and become stronger and be better positioned to support those in genuine need. When we all do what is necessary then it’s not just for someone else, be we do become much stronger and a lot better able to cope with life. As a part of that whole we become better.
Too many really believe that pain is bad and something is wrong when they have pain. As the picture posted by someone in the triathlon community puts so well, at the end , when the challenge is overcome, the pain is a sign that you have grown through it. Whether it’s triathlon, basketball, weights, abs, swimming, if I don’t feel some pain, muscular, a little bruising I really don’t feel I’ve gotten the whole experience. That pain in the muscles tells me, that my body will rebuild from that pain and make me stronger.
As Jene suggests in the article, you need to accept the pain, if you fight it or fear it you can’t grow into it. Believe me there have been plenty of times when I’ve stood at the start of a swim at 7am wondering what I’m doing up at this time, knowing that hitting that water is going to be a, yea, painful experience. Knowing that I’m probably going to be kicked and elbowed by other swimmers, knowing that I have to get out to bike and run, yea there is anxiety. But knowing the feeling of accomplishment, success in finishing and knowing what it will do for my physical, mental and yes spiritual growth that will follow (some call it “bragging rights”), helps me to stand up to the challenge. So realize what you love about it, what it will move you to and the heck with the pain. I’ve done 54 triathlons and dozens of other races, so yea, I think I know what I’m talking about.
Jene suggests setting some goals. How can I do the swim, bike, run faster. Isn’t that finishers medal going to look good with my other medals, how great it will be to share with the other finishers, with my family, friends, others at church? Think about the things you need to do during the race in order to finish as strong as possible.
She suggests relaxing, find some positive way; deep breaths, stretching and shaking, encouraging mental images, encouraging the other triathletes. It will work out and it will be rewarding, even if it’s only for your personal satisfaction.
Yes there is pain that is a warning sign. When you get to the point where you have overcome a lot of fear, anxiety you might think you should push through that pain. You do have to learn the difference, when you need to push through and accomplish, or when you do need to stop in order to prevent further damage. So there is pain that we need to overcome on our own in order to grow stronger, but pain when we do need someone else’s help. Can you say “medical tent, take me to the hospital”?
But in a Christian context it is the same. As disciples we need to grow and strengthen. When we do, those around us can take courage in us, we become stronger to help those who are genuinely in need, we become givers and leaders, not just takers. Yes there is a time in the Christian walk when we do need to take. Jesus has provided those times to be baptized, to be strengthened in His Body and Blood in our body and spirit, to be built up and strengthened in His preached word and in Scripture. To be a part of Christian fellowship that builds up yourself and those around you. There are times when you will feel you can’t go on. Truth is that being a Christian marks you out for attacks by the devil. The upside is that it also marks us out to be protected by the Holy Spirit, and to be strengthened and gifted to be better able to provide for yourself and for others. Certainly Jesus’ disciples started out as kind of weak and petty. Within a few short years they grew to be tigers of the Christian faith who served many others and also stood up to the fear and challenges of being disciples up to and including dying for Christ.
Too many people today make up their minds that they can’t, when it’s really they won’t. They think that they’re too weak, when they’ve never even tried to see how strong they could be. I’ve experienced this a lot: “well you are bigger and stronger, mentally and physically, you’re special so you can”. I assure you the only way I became that way is by pushing myself. There are plenty of times when I could have just rolled over and let it defeat me. There are too many people who’ve already decided they can’t do anything for themselves and let it defeat them. Ironically those will be the someones who decide that you shouldn’t be doing those things for yourself either. You have to continue to strive. Yea, don’t get me started on those people who stand there, find some way to pooh-pooh what you’re doing and give you this “hey! You think you’re better than me?” Me? I really don’t care, but apparently you seem to know deep down.
Ministry has been a very real lesson in knowing who I can rely on and who I just need to keep at arms length. Sure I serve anyone as much as I can. But, especially in an inner-city church, there are a lot out there who simply don’t want to step up and in fact want to take all that you will give them, if not more. They really see others as simply a source to provide for themselves. Again, yes, do what you can and don’t try to make excuses to avoid situations. However, know your limits and what pain is a warning sign. Do you want to beat yourself on some of those people who are hard as rocks? There are a lot of Christian brothers and sisters who do understand their own growth and growth together with others. Those are the ones that you need to pull together with.
Yes, there is pain, that’s a good thing and the sooner you accept that it will build and strengthen, the better for you and those around you. Sometimes you do need to be at that starting line wondering; “what the heck am I doing here”. But you seem to get to the finish and realize how great that was. There is team too. It is exhilarating to win a basketball game as a team, even though you’ve gotten bruised and banged and it’s kind of hard to really stand. Those painful muscles in the morning are a wonderful memory of the things you did to be stronger from the previous day. Find those who encourage and build you up and let them do the same for you. Quit sitting behind that computer looking for that kind of fellowship. It’s sad on your part and it’s just not going to happen.
Celebrate the success you’ve achieved, share it with those who know what it means to be fearful and have pain, it’s a great way to grow in brothers and sisters. Realize that even when there is suffering for Jesus, He knows what’s going on, who is and isn’t His. I’m glad I’m His, I’m glad He’s given me the challenges He has and that He’s been the one to move me through the fear, pain, anxiety and given me the thrill of victory, no matter how small the world sees that victory. Let Jesus move you to where you need to be regardless of the things you have to overcome. When I’ve reached the end of those challenges, I’ve realized that Jesus has done the things necessary in order to get me there. So feel some real pain and fear, join those who know the joy and accomplishment that makes you feel. You will be a far better person and so much of your fear and stress will disappear. Find me at the starting line of the next race, it would be great to obsess and encourage with you. !
Ah yes, worry, worry, worry. Oh believe me, I can get sucked in so easily. Then, a few hours later, can’t even remember what I was all twisted up about, but at the time, literally it was like I was feeling my stomach dissolving.
Chuck Swindoll goes so far as to call worry sin! Why? For a Christian it’s lack of faith. Is God in control or isn’t He. If He is, could He possibly be leaving you just spinning in the wind? No. Are there times when we worry because of sin we’ve committed? Oh yeah! Are we worried about the consequences? Unless you’re not paying attention, of course. But even then, God will work it out. It may not be pleasant, yes there are consequences to sin, but trust in Him and it will work out in His wisdom.
Thomas Goetz in Inc Magazine (June 2015 p 48) writes: “What I’ve learned is that sleeplessness is part of the entrepreneurial condition. There’s just no escaping the all-around anxiety that comes with running a startup, brought on not only by the tenuousness of the enterprise, but also by the sheer volume of tasks that crop up each day. Though my recent insomnia is partly a barometer of fear, it’s a measure of effort as well. After all, when i can’t do everything I need to during my waking hours, at least my brain is trying to get something accomplished in the off-hours.”
Come on Thomas. First, from a practical management point, if there’s something you really can’t get done, you hire someone, cut out something you really don’t need, time management, or let it go.
I hear you saying: “Whaddya know about being an entrepreneur?” Fair enough, I always worked in established corporations, and now I’m a church pastor. I was vetted at seminary as a “church planter” and was called to do a church “renewal”. This is intended to reestablish a long-established church. In this case, this church will be observing its 140th anniversary in October.
Now Thomas, you want to talk about tenuous? There really is no established protocol for a “renewal”, we are all trying to figure it out and in the meantime, really just flying by the seat of my pants. I’m not trying to play tit for tat. Thomas has a lot of personal money and sweat equity in his effort. By the same token, I spent a lot of money for seminary, picking my family up from our home of twenty years, the city my wife, children and I grew up in to move from the Boston area to the midwest, then get called to another brand new city. So I think that I can weigh in and with a Christian perspective.
As you might expect I refer you to Matthew 6: 25-34: “”Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear? ‘For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
Did Jesus have something to say about “worry”? Yea, I guess so. In essence, knock it off! Yea, meek and mild Jesus when He says “O you of little faith. You have enough to deal with right now, deal with that and then when we (you and the Holy Spirit) get to tomorrow, you’ll deal with it then.” Thomas is talking about waking up at 3am worrying about all his stuff. Really, is there anything that you can really do at 3am to do what you were supposed to, solve some problem? No. Basically you’re spinning your wheels. Is that good management practice? No. It’s seriously taxing your resources, in particular your physiology. You break down and what? You sure aren’t going to solve any problems being treated for a psychological breakdown. I’ve seen it personally, everything’s about your work, your stress, the stress that you’re inflicting on your family, the overall environment becomes destructive. Again, good management practice? No! What do you have to do to constructively deal with this particular issue and move on? Dwell on it at 3am? That’s not accomplishing anything and inflicting actual physical damage.
What’s God’s answer? Knock it off. Are you going to trust me or not. I’ve had times when I’ve dropped the ball, certain that civilization as we know it will now come to a violent end. I’ve seen God work out some of those situations just so incredibly, almost as if I wasn’t supposed to do what I was supposed to. Other times, it got addressed and taken care of.
Believe me, I know what Thomas is talking about. But Thomas I’ve had to deal with life and death. At least 1800 hours of underway time on Coast Guard boats. Nothing you’re doing is going to result in anyone’s death. It might make life tough, but it’s not the end of life. You talk about waking up at 3am, try getting pulled out of bed at 2am to do a search or pull someone out. As a police chaplain getting up at that time to tell someone a loved one just died, or counseling someone who has just been a victim of a serious crime. Thomas and yes too many others of you, you need to get some perspective. Your final comment is “So what keeps me up at night? Knowing that if i start sleeping like a baby, that’s when I should really start to worry”. What as “if I’m not worried, I’m not paying attention”? Come on, all you business types are supposed to be smart guys. Tell me are your resources being wisely allocated? Is your time being used efficiently? Are you setting yourself up for failure. Believe me, it’s been five years for me of 50-60 hour weeks, with very little time off. Ministry is a 24/7 job. I’ve been called the away from a day off because of death. This year, we really can’t even afford a vacation, so probably won’t be one, except a couple of days here or there. I get it, but beat yourself down about it at 2am and see how that works. I’m feeling like a crispy critter myself, but I’m just not going to get into what we called “the overhead watch” in the Coast Guard (that’s laying in bed staring at the ceiling).
Now having said that, yes there seems to be a particular time of day that I’m really vulnerable to this. I’ve been getting up around 5am since pretty much my Coast Guard days started at 17 years old. I’ve been waking up at or a little later since then, it gives me time to pray before anything else and that is when I really feel it. And I really feel it as a demonic attack, I know but seriously it’s like I’m being just dragged through. Christian or not I think that is what is being experienced by anyone who is going sleepless. Now the difference for me is this, when I’m up at that time and really feeling under siege, I take the time to lift it up in prayer. This is where I show faith. I don’t always do it great, and yea I can get really spun up, but I do also feel the Holy Spirit sitting me down, giving me some perspective, reminding me Who really is control. Rubbing His hand over my head, kicking my sorry butt out into the dark and cold to run 7k and get on course for what I need to do in the day.
As I said at the beginning, lack of faith = sin. Seems harsh, but hey, if you’re just rejecting the Holy Spirit, “it’s all up to me and no one can help me”! Another time Jesus said “oh you of little faith”? The disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee and being tossed around by a storm and in imminent danger of drowning. Jesus stepped up and calmed the storm. He then turned around and said “wow, I’m right here and couldn’t trust that I’m going to keep you safe?” How would you feel if someone close to you just rejected you like that? Yea, we’re telling the Creator of the Universe, that He’s just not sufficient to work out our problem. That problem that a week from now you won’t even remember? Yet you lost all that sleep over it. Oh yeah, that’s a smart move, Mr big deal entrepreneur, or anyone else!
Get some sleep, really help yourself. Then wake up a little earlier, spend some real time in prayer, enough for God to let you hash over your issues and what He’s going to do and to calm you down, focus you and send you out there to serve Him.
Wednesday mornings, 10am, we get together to discuss how we live our Christian life in the workplace, anywhere God puts us from Monday to Friday. We’re at the coffee shop at the corner of Beaver and W King Sts in downtown York. Park behind the church and I will buy you a cup of coffee for you first time.
Now, remember, this does not mean be stupid. Make sure you have a doctor give you a good exam, make sure the doctor knows what you’re planning on and work up. Track what you do and as your body guides you and you see by the statistics you keep then push up a little more. But the cut to the chase is this, when you are smart about it and build your exercise you will be healthier.
Exercise can create some physical issues, especially in terms of joint life, but the benefits far outweigh and there are smart ways to deal with joint issues. So no excuses, go by the numbers and get going, seriously.
Exercise has had a Goldilocks problem, with experts debating just how much exercise is too little, too much or just the right amount to improve health and longevity. Two new, impressively large-scale studies provide some clarity, suggesting that the ideal dose of exercise for a long life is a bit more than many of us currently believe we should get, but less than many of us might expect. The studies also found that prolonged or intense exercise is unlikely to be harmful and could add years to people’s lives.
No one doubts, of course, that any amount of exercise is better than none. Like medicine, exercise is known to reduce risks for many diseases and premature death.
But unlike medicine, exercise does not come with dosing instructions. The current broad guidelines from governmental and health organizations call for 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week to build and maintain health and fitness.
But whether that amount of exercise represents the least amount that someone should do — the minimum recommended dose — or the ideal amount has not been certain.
Scientists also have not known whether there is a safe upper limit on exercise, beyond which its effects become potentially dangerous; and whether some intensities of exercise are more effective than others at prolonging lives.
So the new studies, both of which were published last week in JAMA Internal Medicine, helpfully tackle those questions.
In the broader of the two studies, researchers with the National Cancer Institute, Harvard University and other institutions gathered and pooled data about people’s exercise habits from six large, ongoing health surveys, winding up with information about more than 661,000 adults, most of them middle-aged.
Using this data, the researchers stratified the adults by their weekly exercise time, from those who did not exercise at all to those who worked out for 10 times the current recommendations or more (meaning that they exercised moderately for 25 hours per week or more).
Then they compared 14 years’ worth of death records for the group.
They found that, unsurprisingly, the people who did not exercise at all were at the highest risk of early death.
But those who exercised a little, not meeting the recommendations but doing something, lowered their risk of premature death by 20 percent.
Those who met the guidelines precisely, completing 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise, enjoyed greater longevity benefits and 31 percent less risk of dying during the 14-year period compared with those who never exercised.
The sweet spot for exercise benefits, however, came among those who tripled the recommended level of exercise, working out moderately, mostly by walking, for 450 minutes per week, or a little more than an hour per day. Those people were 39 percent less likely to die prematurely than people who never exercised.
At that point, the benefits plateaued, the researchers found, but they never significantly declined. Those few individuals engaging in 10 times or more the recommended exercise dose gained about the same reduction in mortality risk as people who simply met the guidelines. They did not gain significantly more health bang for all of those additional hours spent sweating. But they also did not increase their risk of dying young.
The other new study of exercise and mortality reached a somewhat similar conclusion about intensity. While a few recent studies have intimated that frequent, strenuous exercise might contribute to early mortality, the new study found the reverse.
For this study, Australian researchers closely examined health survey data for more than 200,000 Australian adults, determining how much time each person spent exercising and how much of that exercise qualified as vigorous, such as running instead of walking, or playing competitive singles tennis versus a sociable doubles game.
Then, as with the other study, they checked death statistics. And as in the other study, they found that meeting the exercise guidelines substantially reduced the risk of early death, even if someone’s exercise was moderate, such as walking.
But if someone engaged in even occasional vigorous exercise, he or she gained a small but not unimportant additional reduction in mortality. Those who spent up to 30 percent of their weekly exercise time in vigorous activities were 9 percent less likely to die prematurely than people who exercised for the same amount of time but always moderately, while those who spent more than 30 percent of their exercise time in strenuous activities gained an extra 13 percent reduction in early mortality, compared with people who never broke much of a sweat. The researchers did not note any increase in mortality, even among those few people completing the largest amounts of intense exercise.
“Of course, these studies relied on people’s shaky recall of exercise habits and were not randomized experiments, so can’t prove that any exercise dose caused changes in mortality risk, only that exercise and death risks were associated.
Still, the associations were strong and consistent and the takeaway message seems straightforward, according to the researchers.
Anyone who is physically capable of activity should try to “reach at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week and have around 20 to 30 minutes of that be vigorous activity,” says Klaus Gebel, a senior research fellow at James Cook University in Cairns, Australia, who led the second study. And a larger dose, for those who are so inclined, does not seem to be unsafe, he said.
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I really encourage people to journal. It’s a rare sermon when I’m not encouraging the congregation to do take the sermon topic and write about it from their own perspective. “Spiritual memory is crucial in the Christian life. Do you vividly recall times when you know God spoke to you? It would be tragic if, in your haste to advance in your Christian faith, you neglected to leave spiritual markers at the key crossroads of your life.” (Henry and Richard Blackaby Experiencing God Day by Day p 174).
“Hearing God” means a lot of things. That movement in your soul, heart, head however you put it, when it’s almost impossible to resist that you know God is moving you. The Blackabys refer to spiritual markers in physical terms. God picked me up and moved me from Massachusetts to Pennsylvania, so I’m not going to see physical markers. But there are those markers I remember, I think the Holy Spirit brings them, to mind as a way to keep me on course.
We need to do a much better job of remembering the times when God moved us in our lives. That doesn’t mean the tedious evangelical testimonials, “God spoke to me because I’m special and He told me to tell you”‘ ya? No! God speaks to all of us, sure share what He says to you; Mark it down in your heart, mark it where He’s doing it, why, what’s going on around you. God moved you, He moves all His children, so for the tedious, self-absorbed types get over yourself and develop a spirit of humility and grace. I’m really tired of the big mouths that make Christians and Christianity look like buffoons.
“A spiritual marker identifies a time when you clearly knew that God had guided you.” I know exactly what Blackaby is saying. I can’t pinpoint it and I’m not unique because God did it to me, but I am loved by my Father who takes an interest in all those who He has made His children and is constantly working in their lives. We should keep track of those times. As I’ve written, I make a point of what the people in the congregation should take home and journal about. I have no doubt that God will use that to reach each person and guide them the way He wants them to go. Sit down and journal about these times in your life and use them to grow in spiritual maturity. Praise and glorify God for the things that He has done in your life and encourage others to learn from what you’re doing and apply it in their own lives. Go back on a regular basis to see what God has done in your life and raise up thanksgiving and share those with others. Not that you’re somehow spiritually superior, but to encourage them to see God working in their own lives.
We’ve been talking about vocation in many ways at our Wednesday Coffee Break Bible study. Certainly our vocation in terms of our job, profession, position. Position can mean many different things in terms of our spouse, children, parents, siblings. Our position in the community. Any responsibility we hold in the church, on and on. Positions God puts us in, in His service, but to serve others. I’m sure we recognize that God doesn’t need our service per se. Jesus has done all that is necessary, and God sustains us in every way. We are in His service for what we do for ourselves and for others.
I serve by working to better myself in every possible way nutrition, exercise, study things that are edifying. We are in His service when we serve our neighbors. Surely God puts us into situations where our service to a neighbor would be pleasing to Him. In fact I would hope that we would do works to glorify Him, that others may know that what I did was a result of what God does to me and through me. So anything I do for another is only a result of the Holy Spirit in me.
Henry and Richard Blackaby “Experiencing God Today”, p 122: “God deserves our love and He demands that we love others in the same way He does.” And yes, I will say it again God’s love is of genuine concern for what is best for another, not this phoney, empty enabling love we think of today. What is in that person’s best interests and not ours. Believe me that is hard to do but that is the goal we need to strive for. Heck, in today’s world, anyone who even approaches that is doing more than anyone expects.
The Blackabys spell this out: “We are to love our spouses, not as they deserve, but as God commands (Eph 5: 22-33). We are to treat our friends, not as they treat us, but as Christ loves us (John 13:14). We are to labor at our jobs, not in proportion to the way our employer treats us, but according to the way God treats us. God is the One we serve (Eph 6:5).”
“Mediocrity and laziness have no place in the Christian’s life. Christians must maintain integrity at home and in the workplace… Our toil then becomes an offering to God. We not only worship God at church on Sunday, but our labor throughout the week is an offering of worship and thanksgiving to the One who has given us everything we have.”
How many times have you seen someone decide that they’re just not treated fairly and they do what amounts to be stupid things to strike back? And we all know how that works out. It bites them, it brings them a bad reputation and if people know they are a Christian, it always puts Christians in a bad light. “Our” work is “our” work. We may be getting what we think is a bad deal, but doing work that doesn’t serve our neighbor and reflects poorly on Christ and Christian brothers and sisters really ends up only hurting the people who you’ve professed to be in fellowship with and the Father. Do we really want people to think we are all about shoddy, half baked service? Sure we aren’t always going to be great, but we should make our best effort to be as good as possible and never be perceived as “tanking the ball”. Someone will call us on it and we’re the one who looks bad in the end. That certainly should be our perspective in our work and no less in our family and our church.
Our efforts should even be thought of as an offering to God, not in the sense of earning anything or buying anything, but certainly in the sense of Thanksgiving.
Even when others fail us, refuse us, treat us poorly, we continue to serve because our service is always given in thanks to God. Take a break during the week, Wednesday mornings, the coffee shop at the corner of W King and Beaver Sts in downtown York, Pa. 10am, park behind the church. I will even buy you your first cup of coffee. No charge, no obligation.
I worked in corporate finance for 20 years, mostly for very large corporations and organizations. I spent 29 years in the Coast Guard always in an operational capacity and I worked in other capacities in other sectors. The common denominator with these is that the status quo is just not acceptable. Standing still, same ole/same ole, “we never did it that way before”, however, is the MO with most churches. I’m not talking creative worship or “user friendly”, any of the quasi Christian attempts to entertain or be “relevant”. (I just read recently about a woman serving on the “worship team”, who wasn’t sure she was ready to go on stage.)
When did worship become entertainment?
In terms of risk in the church, it’s not about monkeying around with age-old worship in favor of “entertaining”, people-pleasing. Worship is worship. Frankly if we got serious about it, we would begin to realize the benefits of genuine worship, plus genuinely lifting up our Creator/Sustainer/Savior up to praise, glorify and give thanksgiving to.
But yes, in other ways we need to take “risks”. Way too many churches discourage anyone they somehow consider “different”. Far too many people have a very general definition of “different”.
“Success” as a Christian, in the church, is always about Jesus and those who are truly disciples of Jesus, those who are saved. Period. Yes, numbers, money, activities are great. But that is not success. It is in the world and that’s the way it will be, but the church is about becoming and living as the Body of Christ. But does that mean just passivity or are we expected to risk, to step out and be bold for Jesus? The answer, obviously, is to be bold for Jesus.
This is probably self-evident, but Inc Magazine writes: “The INC 500 ENTREPRENEURS excel in every area identified by Gallup. But they absolutely dominate in three strengths: risk-taking, business focus and determination -compared with the national sample. Those strengths are, not coincidentally, the ones most universally associated with business starts, survival and scaling.”
These are not areas that Christians excel in. There is no risk taking, there is an excessive focus on being conservative. Nice, non-commital worship, restrictive use of the facility, nice-pleasant studies- don’t want to get into the controversial. One area that’s especially showing up in the church is; that Jesus isn’t the only way. Too much accommodating the individual and less and less faithfulness to true worship and what we do to serve the Lord. It is risky to tell someone that they have to be a member of the church in order to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus. Too many encourage you to follow the easy path and worry more about the person than the Lord.
It’s easy to turn people away from using the church facility. One thing that bugs me is that with few exceptions, the church sanctuary is used once a week. There should be more worship during the week, not to use the sanctuary for other things, but to increase worship opportunities, making worship more accessible and meaningful. The rest of the facility should be in regular use for small groups, groups that serve the community. Too often it’s easier to just say no, or only accept the “safest” groups or situations.
I’m not saying that churches, for the most part, do this with mean-spirited. I’m sure most people feel a genuine duty to protect what is there, especially when there’s been a long familial relationship with a particular church. You certainly don’t want to tear up Great-Great-Aunt Tilly’s whatever. It may have nothing to do with church or worship or be obsolete or beyond repair, but who wants to be the one to do the deed? Having said that, tough decisions do need to be made. Not arbitrarily, not because “well that’s so old”, but with the intent of what is going to serve best, what glorifies God and helps people in their Christian-disciple lives. To do that means stepping out in risk. The group that would like to use the facility may not be the “right” kind of people, but you need to welcome them, integrate them into the life of the congregation and help them to grow in Jesus. You disciple them, you take the risk. God put them there for a reason, for you to take the opportunity to be a good disciple of Jesus.
This can be fun, it can be exciting, it can be a rush like you’ve never known. The exhilaration of being used by the Holy Spirit to bring someone to salvation in Jesus is unforgettable and frankly even addicting. When you really do step out and take that risk, you are going to want to keep going.
“Gallup says those with a talent for risk-taking possess a highly optimistic perception of risk but are also rational decision makers who have an extraordinary ability to mitigate that risk. The assessment shows that Inc 500 founders are more likely than other entrepreneurs to take more and bigger risks. But they are also more likely to optimize their chances for good outcomes and, consequently, rapid growth.” (Leigh Buchanan Inc Magazine September 2014 p 30).
We are children of God, the Creator of all, the great sustainer. How can we not be optimistic, how can we take such a negative view when the Holy Spirit is really pressing on us to do something? How can you not be excited about the opportunity? Yea, I guess the vast majority of people in the world see risk as scary and unproductive (why try? It’s not going to work). OK. So? If we are His, it doesn’t necessarily mean we will always “succeed”, but really is their any doubt that it’s not going to be an experience that is rewarding, in terms of growth, in terms of strengthening, in terms of building relationships, on and on? We are the children of God He who will do miracles, they will usually be subtle, but when you think back, you will see the miracle. We need to start taking the risks that the world does. Our risk-taking results in eternal reward, where people in the world are so less reluctant to take risks for material gain that will just end up destroyed. Yea, I don’t want to knock down, Great-Grandfather Elwood’s desk, not lack of respect, but what is truly helping people to come to Christ and what is truly glorifying God. Within those parameters we need to take risks, everything else are lesser considerations and should never keep us from our greater calls.
And I am not saying “name it and claim it”, but it has been my experience that when you do take a risk, we Christians call it faith, that people see that and respond. Often you will get the support you need for a particular “risk” and sometimes you even get more from people who want to encourage the church to continue to step out in faith.
How do we as risk takers in the world, readily understand how that looks as a Christian and how to we live that as disciples of Jesus and part of a church? Join us on our Wednesday morning Coffee Breaks, shop at the corner of Beaver and W King Sts, 10am, park behind the church and walk about 20 yards. First timers? I will buy you a cup of coffee. God bless.
The evidence keeps rolling in, while people don’t seem to actively express the desire, more and more it seems that people want worship that is serious.
The common rap is that “liturgical” worship is “boring”, it’s not fun, it’s not entertaining. Who said that worship was suitable for any of this. No it isn’t entertainment. But when you actively participate, when you genuinely try to understand versus this odd idea that most come into worship with: “I’m an empty vessel fill me”. These same people have been going to worship for years, decades, yet two, maybe three times a month, they go to worship and say “fill me, I haven’t done anything, you need to do it for me.” OK, sure, I’m there “to do”, to lead in worship. But folks, this is the “Body of Christ”. If you come in with the attitude that it’s all about me and you need to do for me, it’s not going to work and I submit that is becoming more evident in all these “churches” that do everything but worship.
People are looking to be connected to God, we are connected to the Father, because of the Son, by the Holy Spirit. As I said, this is “the Body of Christ.” What does that mean? The head does all the work and everything else just hibernates. That’s not going to work in human biology, why would it work as a Christian. If the heart stops beating, the head isn’t going to be of much use. You can sit there with head and heart, but if nothing else works, you’re simply not going to get it. Christian worship is participatory, not passive taking in. The issue becomes who is worship for? Well yes, it is for you, it is for those around you, it is for those out in a dark, cold world. It’s not for God. He wants us to worship and through our worship He feeds us, He builds us up, but you need to genuinely be heart and soul in worship, passively sitting back doesn’t work for you, brothers and sisters in Jesus or God. The church is there to serve, to equip you in order to grow in Jesus, but my philosophy is that if there is 5, 50 or 500 it’s still the same. If 5 have shown up, I’m not going to get all bitter with the others who didn’t. Five people, plus me, showed up to worship. I have 5 faithful brothers and/or sisters (it’s only 5 it could be all guys…) Anyway, they are there for me, I am there for them, we’re all there before God, that’s all that matters.
In a Leadership Journal article Marian Liautaud likes to pat herself on the back as to how millenials have become so critical in their thinking. (Make Room for Me Fall 2014 pp 55-57)They haven’t found genuine worship in churches, so they don’t go to worship. I’d like to assure them genuine worship is very much alive, if you haven’t found it, you haven’t looked to hard. Now, I have to wonder, is this just an excuse to avoid worship or a lack of effort to truly look. My answer is “yes”. Everyone likes to pat themselves on the back as to their critical thinking and discernment, but they frankly still want to sit back and just be an empty vessel. Frankly, I don’t even get the title. I assure you Marian, 100%, you show up with a genuine willingness to be a part, I will do back flips for you to be a part. But frankly in that generation I get this sort of “arms-length” attitude, they really don’t want to make an effort, they want someone to read their mind and they then still continue to dissemble.
Heather Stevens, a junior in college, writes “If you are a church leader, this data should stop you in your tracks. It should make you think, ‘What the heck am I doing wrong?'”
Wow, isn’t that just precious, her go to position is someone else is doing something wrong. I would agree to an extent, there is a lot of “wrong” “worship” out there. Seems to me Heather is more concerned about changing the places she thinks are wrong to fit her profile, versus finding the places that will meet her questions. This is another indication that people today, and frankly it’s any age group, are not very critical in their thinking. ‘Something’s wrong, so it must be someone else’s fault.” Instead of, I need to keep an open mind to the other possibilities out there, that do offer genuine worship and are eager to share that, to disciple others. I would jump through flaming hoops to have such a group together, but they won’t, they’re not really looking for answers, they’re just about airing out their lungs, letting everyone else know what their uninformed opinion is.
However, and I’ve said this before, the church has messed itself up too, The church has tried, for at least, the last three generations, to cater to this attitude that Heather expresses. So it’s not just millenials, it goes back to at least to people in the Depression Era. The church hasn’t stood up and said “this is what’s important”, it’s kind of groveled and said “tell us what you want, just try to make it in a Christian context.”
Just expressing what any contemporary American could/would say Taylor Snodgrass says: “Our generation has been advertised at our whole life and even now on social media,’… Consequently, if a church isn’t giving you the whole story, if it’s sugarcoated or they’re onstage putting on an act 20s see through this. It causes us to leave. We’re good at seeing when people are lying.” Well bless your heart Taylor, you have part of it, but it’s still a copout, an excuse. Great, if you think that, but be as honest as you claim to be. You don’t really want the truth, I feel like Jack Nicholson here, “You can’t handle the truth.” You want to avoid and you’re using someone else’s failure to drop out. Believe me, if people were genuine in these assertions, the church I pastor would be heaving at the seams, instead it’s excuse after excuse.
Ya, maybe my candor, might be a little intimidating, but that’s what all these “get real” types want, isn’t it? No, they want nice, they want sugar coated, just their way, not their parents. I’m not saying beat people, pummel them with truth, that’s not my style either. But my style is to be upfront, to challenge, to deal with the real issues. Come on, let’s deal with them together, I’d love it!
To wit, let’s look at the rest of what millennials want and a church like First St Johns has. “Visual clarity: ‘Millennials want to be able to answer the questions ‘Where am I?’ and ‘What’s expected of me?” This is according to David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group….”
“As part of Barna’s study on Millenials and church architecture, they brought two groups of 20-somethings to modern churches, and then to cathedral style churches. In the cathedrals, ‘they felt it was a space for serious activities such as prayer, coping with tragedy and communing with God. They sensed the spirituality of the place,’ says Kinnaman. ‘At the same time, they were concerned about how they would fit in – If I visit, do I need to wear dressy clothes? – and a few participants, especially unchurched people, felt intimidated by the spiritual intensity of the space.'”
Well! Welcome to First St Johns. First off, no, believe me “dressy clothes” are not a big priority. We have plenty of people who do the best they can, that’s all I can ask.
One of the biggest kicks I get being the pastor of such a church is showing people the church sanctuary. I don’t think it’s failed to happen yet, you hear them silently, reverently suck in a little air and say a quiet wow! You want a place that evinces true Christian spirituality? Look at the featured picture, and that really doesn’t do it justice. If you don’t know where you are, well you have problems that I can’t help you with.
I did find the point of bringing nature into a church an interesting one. . I’d like to see if we could do more of that. I will say Christmas the altar is covered with poinsettias and Easter with lillies. But it is an inner-city church and a place in the church that would be a place where we could have some plants and some kind of natural effects would have a huge benefit, so thanks for the suggestion. Let’s see some of these people who talk a good game show up and put it in motion, I’ll be right there with you.
“Respite” “Millenials, perhaps more than any other generation, have a deep need for peace and quiet; they long for a sanctuary. ‘Our culture is fragmented and frenetic and there are few places to take a breather to gain much-needed perspective,’ says Kinnaman. ‘Ironically, most churches offer what they think people want: more to do, more to see. Yet that’s exactly the opposite of what many young adults crave: sacred space.,’ ”
“Our churches are places of action, not places of rest; spaces to do rather than spaces to be. The activities, of course, are designed to connect people with God and each other – and some Millennials hope for that, too – but many just want an opportunity to explore spiritual life on their own terms, free to decide when to sit quietly on the edges of a sacred space and when to enter in.”
My answer, you need sacred space at two in the morning, you call me up and I will come down and open up the church. But you better be serious, don’t be there whining, be there genuinely searching. I would love it! We have action, we are an inner-city church and we often have to deal with real issues, but our priority is always spiritual health. Dr Luther describes pastors as Seel Sorgers, ‘soul healers’ that’s what I am first and foremost, but I try to do the other things.
When we first got to First St Johns, we set up a “Prayer Room”, I also had a few, very few, people want to go into the sanctuary to pray. We have prayer groups right after worship, we have a prayer breakfast once per month, we have a “Healing Service” one per month, Matins worship Thursday mornings and Sunday morning. I’d happily do some of these much more often, but frankly, not exactly overwhelmed with response as it is now.
“Give them Jesus – building relationships and learning about Jesus are two central reasons why Millennials stay connected to church. Barna’s research shows that young adults who remain involved in a local church beyond their teen years are twice as likely as those who don’t to have a close personal friendship with an older adult in their faith community (59% vs 31%).”
For a small church, we do this pretty well, we could do better, but there has to be buy-in from everyone and again I would jump through hoops to facilitate it.
So to Marian and David, Taylor and Heather, here you go. This is it right here. Genuine worship, genuine doctrine, genuine space, genuine relationships and authenticity. Let’s sit and talk, let’s really deal with our relationship with Jesus and genuinely worship and honor Him. Does He need our worship? No, but we need to worship and we need to do it with authenticity, not sit back and fill me/entertain me. Don’t expect me to just pat you on the head, sure when it’s needed, but today, we need to get real and get back to the real church and not the happy/clappy God just wants me to be happy. No, it’s joy in Christ, won’t always be pleasant, but it is true relationship. Do you want that or not?
I have decided to label the following a continuing campaign to highlight what good many Christians do in contrast to the stereotype some non-Christians like to apply that Christians are somehow cheap or provincial. The fact of the matter in reality is quite contrary and if anything much is done that no one ever knows about. If you don’t read Forbes Magazine, which you should, you would not have seen an article on B. Wayne Hughes. Hughes is a billionaire from building a chain of self storage facilities named “Public Storage”. (Katia Savchuk Forbes Magazine, Dec 2014 p 36)
He cashed out of the business world to be a cattle rancher, but decided to take it a step further. He used his “sprawling ranch in central California” to run “‘Fight Club’ a faith-based program Hughes runs for veterans with PTSD,…”
During the day, for a week “…he and a handful of veterans went zip-lining, rode horses and raced ATVs.” They would have different classes on such things as character He has hosted over 500 active duty and veterans since 2012 and expects to increase that number next year. This was prompted
Yea, I know, he can afford it and he has the time, probably. But he did it, after hearing a report that an “…an average of 22 veterans were committing suicide every day.” Unlike most everyone else who talks a good game but rarely does anything, he put up. God bless him.
The following article is from the NY Times, Nov 16, 2014. The subject has been a regular one of mine, in that I’m continually taken by the fear people have of failure. As a Christian pastor seems I deal with failure, at least in a secular sense on a regular basis, a lot more than I did in the corporate world or the military. Failure seems to be kind of built in, and if you read the Bible, you will see much failure, at least in the secular sense. While we see failure as “bad”, I really think that God kind of sees it more in terms of our faith. We see this daunting challenge that God has set in front of us, and our instinct is to just turn around and go the other way. But we can feel the Holy Spirit pressing on us to keep going. Say I’m witnessing to someone about Jesus. The Holy Spirit is pushing me to witness and the other person to hear what I’m saying and be led to Christ by the Holy Spirit. That person can refuse. Did I fail? No. I was faithful, I did what I was led to do, hopefully not only to the best of my ability but also with the Holy Spirit using me to act and speak through. All good things, I didn’t fail, I was faithful, and the take away should always be, that as much as I want someone to be saved in Christ, you can’t dray someone into the kingdom either.
The take away as a Christian is this God isn’t going to see failure the way we do. He’s led me through a lot in the world, business, military, civic, education, family, when I look back on it as a pastor, I really don’t see failure as much as I see God preparing me. Instead of getting too caught up in the world’s ideas, let’s faithfully follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, trust what He is doing and leave the results up to Him and take away the lessons and experience for ourselves. I’ve taken the discussion a little different route then what the author, Adam Davidson, probably intended, but the world knows that failure is often the route to success, we as Christians should know that we aren’t necessarily called to be successful, but we are called to be faithful. I’ve reblogged the article in total because it is a good discussion on how we should see the world:
“When you pull off Highway 101 and head into Sunnyvale, Calif., the first thing you notice is how boring innovation looks up close. This small Silicon Valley city, which abuts both Cupertino, the home of Apple, and Mountain View, the site of the Googleplex, is where Lockheed built the Poseidon nuclear missile. It’s where the forebear of NASA did some of its most important research and where a prototype for Pong debuted at a neighborhood bar. Countless ambitious start-ups — with names like Qvivr, Schoolfy, eCloset.me and PeerPal — appear in Sunnyvale every year. Aesthetically, though, the city is one enormous glass-and-stucco office park after another. Its dominant architectural feature, the five-story headquarters of Yahoo, a few minutes from Innovation Way, looks about as futuristic as a suburban hospital.
As an industry becomes more dynamic, its architecture, by necessity, often becomes less inspiring. These squat buildings have thick outer walls that allow for a minimal number of internal support beams, creating versatile open-floor plans for any kind of company — one processing silicon into solar-power arrays, say, or a start-up monitoring weed elimination in industrial agriculture. In Sunnyvale, companies generally don’t stay the same size. They expand quickly or go out of business, and then the office has to be ready for the next tenant. These buildings need to be the business equivalent of dorms: spaces designed to house important and tumultuous periods of people’s lives before being cleaned out and prepped for the next occupant.
Perhaps the best place to behold the Valley’s success as a platform for innovation is a 27,000-square-foot facility just down the block from Yahoo. This is the warehouse of Weird Stuff, a 21-person company that buys the office detritus that start-ups no longer want. One section of the space teems with hundreds of laptops and desktops; another is overloaded with C.P.U.s and orphaned cubicle partitions. “If founders are in a building that’s costing $50,000 a month, and they’ve lost their funding and have to be out by next Friday, we respond very quickly,” said Chuck Schuetz, the founder of Weird Stuff.
Weird Stuff also acquires goods from the start-ups that succeed, when they are ready to upgrade offices and need to offload their old equipment. “We get truckloads every day,” Schuetz told me. He said that he receives a lot of calls from government offices and large corporate-network operators who desperately need, for example, a 1981 Seagate ST506 hard drive in order to keep a crucial piece of equipment running. But much of his stuff is bought by new waves of start-ups in search of inexpensive keyboards or cubicle partitions. What doesn’t move is sold to scrap dealers. “This,” he said, gesturing to the giant scrap bin out back, “is where everything ends up.”
For decades, entrepreneurs and digital gurus of various repute have referred to this era, in a breathlessness bordering on proselytizing, as the age of innovation. But Weird Stuff is a reminder of another, unexpected truth about innovation: It is, by necessity, inextricably linked with failure. The path to any success is lined with disasters. Most of the products that do make it out of the lab fail spectacularly once they hit the market. Even successful products will ultimately fail when a better idea comes along. (One of Schuetz’s most remarkable finds is a portable eight-track player.) And those lucky innovations that are truly triumphant, the ones that transform markets and industries, create widespread failure among their competition.
An age of constant invention naturally begets one of constant failure. The life span of an innovation, in fact, has never been shorter. An African hand ax from 285,000 years ago, for instance, was essentially identical to those made some 250,000 years later. The Sumerians believed that the hoe was invented by a godlike figure named Enlil a few thousand years before Jesus, but a similar tool was being used a thousand years after his death. During the Middle Ages, amid major advances in agriculture, warfare and building technology, the failure loop closed to less than a century. During the Enlightenment and early Industrial Revolution, it was reduced to about a lifetime. By the 20th century, it could be measured in decades. Today, it is best measured in years and, for some products, even less. (Schuetz receives tons of smartphones that are only a season or two old.)
The closure of the failure loop has sent uncomfortable ripples through the economy. When a product or company is no longer valued in the marketplace, there are typically thousands of workers whose own market value diminishes, too. Our breakneck pace of innovation can be seen in stock-market volatility and other boardroom metrics, but it can also be measured in unemployment checks, in divorces and involuntary moves and in promising careers turned stagnant. Every derelict product that makes its way into Weird Stuff exists as part of a massive ecosystem of human lives — of engineers and manufacturers; sales people and marketing departments; logistics planners and truck drivers — that has shared in this process of failure.
Innovation is, after all, terrifying. Right now we’re going through changes that rip away the core logic of our economy. Will there be enough jobs to go around? Will they pay a living wage? Terror, however, can also be helpful. The only way to harness this new age of failure is to learn how to bounce back from disaster and create the societal institutions that help us do so. The real question is whether we’re up for the challenge.
After a tour of Weird Stuff, Schuetz mentioned a purple chair that he kept among the office furniture piled haphazardly in the back of his facility. Unbeknown to him, that chair actually provides a great way to understand the acceleration of innovation and failure that began 150 years ago. In ancient times, purple chairs were virtually priceless. Back then, all cloth dyes were made from natural products, like flower petals or crushed rocks; they either bled or faded and needed constant repair. One particular purple dye, which was culled from the glandular mucus of shellfish, was among the rarest and most prized colors. It was generally reserved for royalty. Nobody had surplus purple chairs piled up for $20 a pop.
But that all changed in 1856, with a discovery by an 18-year-old English chemist named William Henry Perkin. Tinkering in his home laboratory, Perkin was trying to synthesize an artificial form of quinine, an antimalarial agent. Although he botched his experiments, he happened to notice that one substance maintained a bright and unexpected purple color that didn’t run or fade. Perkin, it turned out, had discovered a way of making arguably the world’s most coveted color from incredibly cheap coal tar. He patented his invention — the first synthetic dye — created a company and sold shares to raise capital for a factory. Eventually his dye, and generations of dye that followed, so thoroughly democratized the color purple that it became the emblematic color of cheesy English rock bands, Prince albums and office chairs for those willing to dare a hue slightly more bold than black.
Perkin’s fortuitous failure, it’s safe to say, would have never occurred even a hundred years earlier. In pre-modern times, when starvation was common and there was little social insurance outside your clan, every individual bore the risk of any new idea. As a result, risks simply weren’t worth taking. If a clever idea for a crop rotation failed or an enhanced plow was ineffective, a farmer’s family might not get enough to eat. Children might die. Even if the innovation worked, any peasant who found himself with an abundance of crops would most likely soon find a representative of the local lord coming along to claim it. A similar process, one in which success was stolen and failure could be lethal, also ensured that carpenters, cobblers, bakers and the other skilled artisans would only innovate slowly, if at all. So most people adjusted accordingly by living near arable land, having as many children as possible (a good insurance policy) and playing it safe.
Our relationship with innovation finally began to change, however, during the Industrial Revolution. While individual inventors like James Watt and Eli Whitney tend to receive most of the credit, perhaps the most significant changes were not technological but rather legal and financial. The rise of stocks and bonds, patents and agricultural futures allowed a large number of people to broadly share the risks of possible failure and the rewards of potential success. If it weren’t for these tools, a tinkerer like Perkin would never have been messing around with an attempt at artificial quinine in the first place. And he wouldn’t have had any way to capitalize on his idea. Anyway, he probably would have been too consumed by tilling land and raising children.
Perkin’s invention may have brought cheap purple (and, later, green and red) dyes to the masses, but it helped upend whatever was left of the existing global supply chain, with its small cottage-size dye houses and its artisanal crafts people who were working with lichen and bugs. For millenniums, the economy had been built around subsistence farming, small-batch artisanal work and highly localized markets. Inventions like Perkin’s — and the steam engine, the spinning jenny, the telegraph, the Bessemer steel-production process — destroyed the last vestiges of this way of life.
The original age of innovation may have ushered in an era of unforeseen productivity, but it was, for millions of people, absolutely terrifying. Over a generation or two, however, our society responded by developing a new set of institutions to lessen the pain of this new volatility, including unions, Social Security and the single greatest risk-mitigating institution ever: the corporation. During the late 19th century, a series of experiments in organizational structure culminated, in the 1920s, with the birth of General Motors, the first modern corporation. Its basic characteristics soon became ubiquitous. Ownership, which was once a job passed from father to son, was now divided among countless shareholders. Management, too, was divided, among a large group of professionals who directed units, or “subdivisions,” within it. The corporation, in essence, acted as a giant risk-sharing machine, amassing millions of investors’ capital and spreading it among a large number of projects, then sharing the returns broadly too. The corporation managed the risk so well, in fact, that it created an innovation known as the steady job. For the first time in history, the risks of innovation were not borne by the poorest. This resulted in what economists call the Great Compression, when the gap between the income of the rich and poor rapidly fell to its lowest margin.
The secret of the corporation’s success, however, was that it generally did not focus on truly transformative innovations. Most firms found that the surest way to grow was to perfect the manufacturing of the same products, year after year. G.M., U.S. Steel, Procter & Gamble, Kellogg’s, Coca-Cola and other iconic companies achieved their breakthrough insights in the pre-corporate era and spent the next several decades refining them, perhaps introducing a new product every decade or so. During the period between 1870 and 1920, cars, planes, electricity, telephones and radios were introduced. But over the next 50 years, as cars and planes got bigger and electricity and phones became more ubiquitous, the core technologies stayed fundamentally the same. (Though some notable exceptions include the television, nuclear power and disposable diapers.)
Celebrated corporate-research departments at Bell Labs, DuPont and Xerox may have employed scores of white-coated scientists, but their impact was blunted by the thick shell of bureaucracy around them. Bell Labs conceived some radical inventions, like the transistor, the laser and many of the programming languages in use today, but its parent company, AT&T, ignored many of them to focus on its basic telephone monopoly. Xerox scientists came up with the mouse, the visual operating system, laser printers and Ethernet, but they couldn’t interest their bosses back East, who were focused on protecting the copier business.
Corporate leaders weren’t stupid. They were simply making so much money that they didn’t see any reason to risk it all on lots of new ideas. This conservatism extended through the ranks. Economic stability allowed millions more people to forgo many of the risk-mitigation strategies that had been in place for millenniums. Family size plummeted. Many people moved away from arable land (Arizona!). Many young people, most notably young women, saw new forms of economic freedom when they were no longer tied to the routine of frequent childbirth. Failure was no longer the expectation; most people could predict, with reasonable assurance, what their lives and careers would look like decades into the future. Our institutions — unions, schools, corporate career tracks, pensions and retirement accounts — were all predicated on a stable and rosy future.
We now know, of course, that this golden moment was really a benevolent blip. In reality, the failure loop was closing far faster than we ever could have realized. The American corporate era quietly began to unravel in the 1960s. David Hounshell, a scholar of the history of American innovation, told me about a key moment in 1968, when DuPont introduced Qiana, a kind of nylon with a silklike feel, whose name was selected through a computer-generated list of meaningless five-letter words. DuPont had helped to create the modern method of product development, in which managers would identify a market need and simply inform the research department that it had to produce a solution by a specific date. Over the course of decades, this process was responsible for successful materials like Freon, Lucite, Orlon, Dacron and Mylar. In Qiana, DuPont hoped that it had the next Lycra.
But not long after the company introduced Qiana to the market, it was met by a flood of cheap Japanese products made from polyester. Qiana, which only came close to breaking even during one year of sales, eventually sustained operating losses of more than $200 million. Similar shudders were felt in corporate suites across America, as new global competitors — first from Europe, then from Asia — shook up the stable order of the automotive and steel industries. Global trade narrowed the failure loop from generations to a decade or less, far shorter than most people’s careers.
For American workers, the greatest challenge would come from computers. By the 1970s, the impact of computers was greatest in lower-skilled, lower-paid jobs. Factory workers competed with computer-run machines; secretaries and bookkeepers saw their jobs eliminated by desktop software. Over the last two decades, the destabilizing forces of computers and the Internet has spread to even the highest-paid professions. Corporations “were created to coordinate and organize communication among lots of different people,” says Chris Dixon, a partner at the venture-capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. “A lot of those organizations are being replaced by computer networks.” Dixon says that start-ups like Uber and Kickstarter are harbingers of a much larger shift, in which loose groupings of individuals will perform functions that were once the domain of larger corporations. “If you had to know one thing that will explain the next 20 years, that’s the key idea: We are moving toward a period of decentralization,” Dixon says.
Were we simply enduring a one-time shift into an age of computers, the adjustment might just require us to retrain and move onward. Instead, in a time of constant change, it’s hard for us to predict the skills that we will need in the future. Whereas the corporate era created a virtuous cycle of growing companies, better-paid workers and richer consumers, we’re now suffering through a cycle of destabilization, whereby each new technology makes it ever easier and faster to create the next one, which, of course, leads to more and more failure. It’s enough to make us feel like mollusk-gland hunters.
Much as William Henry Perkin’s generation ripped apart an old way of life, the innovation era is sundering the stability of the corporate age. Industries that once seemed resistant to change are only now entering the early stages of major disruption. A large percentage of the health-care industry, for example, includes the rote work of recording, storing and accessing medical records. But many companies are currently devising ways to digitize our medical documents more efficiently. Many economists believe that peer-to-peer lending, Bitcoin and other financial innovations will soon strike at the core of banking by making it easier to receive loans or seed money outside a traditional institution. Education is facing the threat of computer-based learning posed by Khan Academy, Coursera and other upstart companies. Government is changing, too. India recently introduced a site that allows anybody to see which government workers are showing up for their jobs on time (or at all) and which are shirking. Similarly, Houston recently developed a complex database that helps managers put an end to runaway overtime costs. These changes are still new, in part because so many large businesses benefit from the old system and use their capital to impede innovation. But the changes will inevitably become greater, and the results will be drastic. Those four industries — health care, finance, education and government — represent well more than half of the U.S. economy. The lives of tens of millions of people will change.
Some professions, however, are already demonstrating ways to embrace failure. For example, there’s an uncharacteristic explosion of creativity among accountants. Yes, accountants: Groups like the Thriveal C.P.A. Network and the VeraSage Institute are leading that profession from its roots in near-total risk aversion to something approaching the opposite. Computing may have commoditized much of the industry’s everyday work, but some enterprising accountants are learning how to use some of their biggest assets — the trust of their clients and access to financial data — to provide deep insights into a company’s business. They’re identifying which activities are most profitable, which ones are wasteful and when the former become the latter. Accounting once was entirely backward-looking and, because no one would pay for an audit for fun, dependent on government regulation. It was a cost. Now real-time networked software can make it forward-looking and a source of profit. It’s worth remembering, though, that this process never ends: As soon as accountants discover a new sort of service to provide their customers, some software innovator will be seeking ways to automate it, which means those accountants will work to constantly come up with even newer ideas. The failure loop will continue to close.
Lawyers, too, are trying to transform computers from a threat into a value-adding tool. For centuries the legal profession has made a great deal of money from drawing up contracts or patent applications that inevitably sit in drawers, unexamined. Software can insert boilerplate language more cheaply now. But some computer-minded lawyers have found real value in those cabinets filled with old contracts and patent filings. They use data-sniffing programs and their own legal expertise to cull through millions of patent applications or contracts to build never-before-seen complex models of the business landscape and sell it to their clients.
The manufacturing industry is going through the early stages of its own change. Until quite recently, it cost tens of millions of dollars to build a manufacturing plant. Today, 3-D printing and cloud manufacturing, a process in which entrepreneurs pay relatively little to access other companies’ machines during downtime, have drastically lowered the barrier to entry for new companies. Many imagine this will revitalize the business of making things in America. Successful factories, like accounting firms, need to focus on special new products that no one in Asia has yet figured out how to mass produce. Something similar is happening in agriculture, where commodity grains are tended by computer-run tractors as farming entrepreneurs seek more value in heritage, organic, local and other specialty crops. This has been manifested in the stunning proliferation of apple varieties in our stores over the past couple of years.
Every other major shift in economic order has made an enormous impact on the nature of personal and family life, and this one probably will, too. Rather than undertake one career for our entire working lives, with minimal failure allowed, many of us will be forced to experiment with several careers, frequently changing course as the market demands — and not always succeeding in our new efforts. In the corporate era, most people borrowed their reputations from the large institutions they affiliated themselves with: their employers, perhaps, or their universities. Our own personal reputations will now matter more, and they will be far more self-made. As career trajectories and earnings become increasingly volatile, gender roles will fragment further, and many families will spend some time in which the mother is a primary breadwinner and the father is underemployed and at home with the children. It will be harder to explain what you do for a living to acquaintances. The advice of mentors, whose wisdom is ascribed to a passing age, will mean less and less.
To succeed in the innovation era, says Daron Acemoglu, a prominent M.I.T. economist, we will need, above all, to build a new set of institutions, something like the societal equivalent of those office parks in Sunnyvale, that help us stay flexible in the midst of turbulent lives. We’ll need modern insurance and financial products that encourage us to pursue entrepreneurial ideas or the education needed for a career change. And we’ll need incentives that encourage us to take these risks; we won’t take them if we fear paying the full cost of failure. Acemoglu says we will need a far stronger safety net, because a society that encourages risk will intrinsically be wealthier over all.
History is filled with examples of societal innovation, like the United States Constitution and the eight-hour workday, that have made many people better off. These beneficial changes tend to come, Acemoglu told me, when large swaths of the population rally together to demand them. He says it’s too early to fully understand exactly what sorts of governing innovations we need today, because the new economic system is still emerging and questions about it remain: How many people will be displaced by robots and mobile apps? How many new jobs will be created? We can’t build the right social institutions until we know the precise problem we’re solving. “I don’t think we are quite there yet,” he told me.
Generally, those with power and wealth resist any significant shift in the existing institutions. Robber barons fought many of the changes of the Progressive Era, and Wall Street fought the reforms of the 1930s. Today, the political system seems incapable of wholesale reinvention. But Acemoglu said that could change in an instant if enough people demand it. In 1900, after all, it was impossible to predict the rise of the modern corporation, labor unions, Social Security and other transformative institutions that shifted gains from the wealthy to workers.
We are a strange species, at once risk-averse and thrill-seeking, terrified of failure but eager for new adventure. If we discover ways to share those risks and those rewards, then we could conceivably arrive somewhere better. The pre-modern era was all risk and no reward. The corporate era had modest rewards and minimal risks. If we conquer our fear of failure, we can, just maybe, have both.
I really think this article in Inc Magazine is very pertinent for everyone, but should be readily understandable by managers who are Christians. We’ve all heard the phrase “tough love”, but Issie Lapowsky points out that maybe we should be aware that there should be a balance between tough and love: “…research shows that tough love can be an effective form of leadership provided one strikes the proper balance between “tough” and “love”. (Feb 2014 pp 46-47)
Lapowsky points out what we as Christians should be striving for: “The challenge is to set high demands while still being supportive. ‘When you build a relationship on trust, then the majority of people are OK with tough love,’ says Christine Porath, a professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. ‘They’ll rise to the occasion; some thrive on it.’
Frank Poore the founder of CommerceHub,… talks about how he will push his employees, but wants them to push back, he challenges them and wants them to defend their positions. But he also points out that he never makes it about them personally.
I agree, I want people to take a position, I want to find where people are. Ya, I guess it’s not playing into the kissy-kissy type of mindset that we have in society, but I think relationships grow with candor. I’m not trying to challenge, so much as I’m trying to engage, show how much I’m interested, because I’m pretty much always interested. In addition to challenging, anyone in leadership should be curious about pretty much everything. I don’t want to pry, but I do want people to feel comfortable confiding, I do want people to think that I’m someone who is interested and a good listener.
Too often I’ve seen managers/supervisors belittling a subordinate. OK, if necessary, you go back into a private space and candidly, but again not personally discuss what the problems are. If someone takes that personally, well, can’t do much with that. Frankly there are too many people who think that anything short of unqualified praise is a personal attack. Those people are going to have bigger problems than anything I’m going to be able to deal with, other than in a pastoral context. Even then too many people think of pastors as feel-good generators, sometimes you should even when they are wrong, but tough-love is as valid for pastors then anyone.
We all, ya pastors included, don’t like rudeness, respond to it poorly and are much less productive. That should be pretty obvious, but to too many people it’s not. Are we being critical because we are truly concerned, because we want to help? Or are we being critical just to benefit our ego? Jesus pushed on those around Him to strive to be best and often He had to show tough love, let’s learn from Him and try to emulate Him in the workplace and in every part of our life.
We still take some time during the workweek at the Green Bean Coffee shop corner of Beaver St and W King St Wednesday 10am, park right behind the church 140 W King. Look forward to meeting you or hearing from you. God bless.