Since You Asked

Interesting question came across my radar last week. Ashton was in a room full of worship leaders for a nationwide series of summer camps. For 8 weeks they will be leading the same songs, doing the same things, week after week. Her question:

What advice would you give to us on how to remain renewed and refreshed every week? How do we not get into a cycle? Even when it is week 4 for us and we have sung the same songs every week… how do we fight that?

It’s a valid question, and the Fuge worship leaders aren’t the only ones who face it. The truth is, everybody in spiritual leadership has the task of “handling the holy things” week in and week out. Ashton’s “holy things” may be music and microphones. Yours may be a Bible or a lesson plan. Someone else’s may be the routine schedule of meetings you attend or lead. Regardless, Christians gathered in the name of Christ for any reason have an occasion to invite and expect His presence.

Until we don’t.

Until we drift into a routine or rut – what Ashton calls a “cycle.”

Now it’s time for this. Next – that. Then back to this. Then the other.  Before long, not only can we get bored with the whole thing, we telegraph that boredom to the very people we’re supposed to be leading.  As a result, the “gospel” no longer feels like “good news” and we lose our sense of wonder and gratitude.

(If that sound a lot like your Sunday morning experience, I’m sorry. But I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to remain that way.)

My response to Ashton was one of those things that startled me with how fast it came. (That’s usually a sign that I didn’t originate the answer.)  The key to avoiding the rut:  Play, Stay, Away, and Pray. [click to continue…]

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{Disclosure:  This blog has been hacked.  This blog post and the three that follow today do not represent the thoughts, ideas, intelligence, creative perspective, sense of humor, theological viewpoints, or grammar skills of Andy Wood Ph.D. and he is hereby released from any responsibility, liability, culpability, and general other abilities related to said posts.  He did, however, sire, raise and influence all three authors –  so make what judgments you will.}

SiblingsToday’s a pretty significant day.  It’s a day that is set aside to purposefully honor fathers, or father-like figures in people’s lives.  Now, we might be a little biased, but we kind of think that we hit the jackpot when it comes to dads.  Our father is loving, creative, funny and has spent his life pointing us to Jesus.  He is an excellent communicator, a generous giver, and puts up with our family vacations to Disney World.  So it makes pretty logical sense that on this day dedicated to dads, we would want to come up with a really cool gift idea, right? Right!  Let the brainstorming begin! [click to continue…]

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There’s no question that Anthony is a leader in the making.  His dad raised him to think for himself and test everything, and fully expects Anthony to outdo him.  And Anthony has accepted the invitation, so to speak.  He’s a visionary, a solution seeker, and has a bias for action, not just talk.

That said, Anthony is young and inexperienced.  At least that’s what he’s told whenever he offers up an idea to Gary the Gatekeeper, Anthony’s boss and longtime mentor.  Anthony does have some experience, and is about to complete his degree in college.  But Gary the Gatekeeper still discredits anything Anthony offers by way of vision for the future.

“When I want to take action,” Anthony says, “I have to go to him and wait a month or more before he even looks at it.  And so I can’t get anything done!”  He adds, “Whenever I offer constructive criticism, Gary acts as though he’s under attack.”  Anthony concludes, “What can you do with a leader who won’t let you grow up?”

It’s a fair question.  How do you respond to a “leader” who spends more time blocking you than leading you?  I should start by saying that such a person is not a leader in the truest sense of the word.  The root nature of mature leadership doesn’t seek just to generate blind, thoughtless followers, but to enflame and empower a new generation of leaders.  And at some point that requires some letting go.

But what happens when the leader has his own growing up to do?  How should Anthony, or any other emerging leader, respond to an insecure control freak who is in a position of power or authority? [click to continue…]

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Writer's Prison

I make my living with words.

I decorate my house with words.

Okay, so my wife decorates our house with words.

I love to surround myself with words in my office or study.

I’ve been known to write or speak a few words.  Okay, a lot of words.

Words are fun and useful. Where would we be without them?  Not only do they communicate, but your choice of words reveals a lot about you – sometimes things you may not want someone to see or think.

Because I also work in the world of education, I see literally thousands of words every week.  Sometimes I see words from students that I have to stop and look up in the online dictionary.  For example, not long ago I had a student who loved to use the word “ken.”  For all I knew, she was using a man’s name.  Turns out, “ken” means “know” – and every single time you would have used the word “know,” she used the word “ken.”

Now I ken.  And you ken, too.

Anyway, in all the myriad of word possibilities, I have found seven words you should never use in an academic paper.

Only seven?  Far as I can tell.

All seven?  Definitely.  Use any of these and they say some things about you that you may not want to be said.

Now what’s tricky about these seven is that they’re common, ordinary words that you could use in conversation, blogs or magazine articles, fiction or popular writing, and they’re actually expected and complimented.  Use them on a research paper and someone will express their displeasure.

(Shhhh!  What’s that falling-in-a-hole sound I hear?  It’s your grade, sinking into the abyss, because you used one of the Seven Words You Can Never Say in an Academic Paper.)

Okay here they are… and if you don’t write academic papers (hey… who was that that said “hallelujah!”?), share this with somebody who does.  Or file it away for a couple of years, for when you go back to school. [click to continue…]

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Interesting question came up yesterday.  If leaders are people who are influencing others to go somewhere or move in a certain direction, where should we be leading them to go?

Paul had a simple answer to that:  “Follow me as I follow Christ,” he said (1 Corinthians 11:1).

Okay, so, my answer wasn’t so spiritual. But I think it works, both for presidents and pastors, middle managers and mentors.

Where should we be leading people?

To space.

Hey, it works for Richard Branson.

Actually I use S.P.A.C.E. as an acronym for five directions we should all be pursuing.  Tell me what you think: [click to continue…]

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Our Thai friend Gift is back. She visited us for the first time last year and has returned with her sister Goy.  It’s always a delight to spend time with our Thai friends because of their contagious joy, their delight in serving, and in the case of Gift, her husband Dui, and Goy, their deep love for Jesus Christ.

It also always leads to some interesting conversations.  Gift is many things – a deep thinker, a shrewd businesswoman and entrepreneur, a disciple in every sense of the word.  She told me that this time while she was here, every once in a while she wanted some time to ask some questions.

Fine, I said. Feel free to ask anything.

Lo and behold, she nailed me with the first one. She was looking at one of the books I had out – a book on leadership – and she asked, “Why do Americans study and read so much about leadership?”

That sound you didn’t just hear were the crickets chirping in my head.

Somebody just asked the fish to explain water.

“Well,” I said to break the awkwardly long silence and try to get that deer-in-the-headlights look off my face, “that’s the first time anybody has ever asked me that.”

Wow.  That was really helpful. [click to continue…]

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Church keep outA few years ago I was having coffee with an old friend and colleague.  I was in a pretty wounded state at the time, and felt compelled to tell him my story.  He was compassionate, listened attentively, then asked, “How can I help?”

“I was thinking about visiting your church,” I said, “and just wanted you to know.”

“Well, I’ll be honest with you,” he replied. “We’re not much of a healing place.”

Wow.  There it was.  Translation:  We’re more interested in fresh blood than spilled blood.  But to be fair, his church was and is true to its mission as they perceive it.  And at least he was kind enough to be honest.

For years I have heard the old saying, “The Christian army is the only army in the world that shoots its wounded.”  Let me say right up front, that’s not accurate.  If you really believe that, you’ve never been in a corporate “army” or a political one.  The wounded get eliminated there all the time.

But the church is supposed to be different, right?  We’re supposed to be trophies of grace, havens of love, lighthouses of hope and (make your own cliché here:  [blank] of [blank]).  So what’s up with that right foot of fellowship? [click to continue…]

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How to Stop Writing

by Andy Wood on February 1, 2013

in Since You Asked

Typewriter The EndWhen you take flying lessons, one of the first things you learn, other than to holler “Contact!” is how to land the plane.

Same goes for snow skiing.  Lesson number one:  How to stop.

A couple of years ago we joined a filled-up theater to see “No Country for Old Men.”  Somebody should have taught them how to stop.  Literally people in the theater blurted out loud, “What?”

I run into the same issue with writing.  I spend about 90% of my working life reading what somebody else has written.  Some of it is so good, I keep an ongoing collection of favorite student quotations.  I shared a few of them here recently.

That writing takes on several forms – emails from students, discussion posts, and what are supposed to be academic papers.  One of my favorite courses is a communication for leaders class (in session even as you read this) where we try out different forms of written communication.  We even tackle the Gettysburg Address and try to make it even simpler than it was in the original, while keeping the same vision and passion.

Very often when I get to the end of something written, I have the same reaction that I did whenever Tommy Lee Jones droned on about whatever he said in “No Country for Old Men.”  What? That’s IT?  It sort of has the same effect of trying to use a tree to stop that downhill run or that landing approach.

Suddenly, it’s just over. [click to continue…]

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Leaders Go First

by Andy Wood on December 1, 2012

in Leadership, Life Currency, Since You Asked

Q – Please give me one ‘nugget’ of wisdom from your own experience of authentic Christian leadership.

A – Okay, here goes.  This sounds like I’m stupidly stating the obvious, but it’s amazing how easy it is for people with leadership positions or aspirations to forget it:

Leaders go first.

They’re the first to serve.

First to see the future.

First to take action.

First to offer their lives and experience as an example. [click to continue…]

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Old friend called yesterday.  It had been a while.

“I’m calling to ask you to pray,” she began.  “I’ve just had a bombshell dropped in my lap.”

Like you would do, I’m sure, my mind started racing at the possibilities.  Family?  Finances?  Health?  It could be anything.

I won’t tell you what hers was, but it really doesn’t matter.  What matters is that she was handed some bad news she didn’t see coming.


What matters more is that she was really making some progress in some areas of her life, and this jeopardizes all that.

Kabloom again!

And what matters to you is that next time it could be you.

Have you ever noticed that when you start moving in a positive direction, life has a way of testing you out of center field with alarming or disarming stuff?  And it comes dressed in any number of ugly outfits. [click to continue…]

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