Archive for the 'People' Category

Influence =

Friday, May 22nd, 2009


“The word influence is derived from an ancient astrological term describing the power of the stars to affect the destiny of human beings.  The definition has changed over the centuries, but influence remains a mysterious force and a difficult one to measure …

We look for people whose ideas, discoveries, talent and yes, power shape and transform our world.  These are our modern stars who shape our destiny.”

TIME Magazine, May 11, 2009, page 4

I get to rub shoulders every day with people of enormous influence, people who are indeed modern stars who are shaping the destiny of our world.

None, however, were included in TIME’s recent listing of the World’s Most Influential 100 People. That’s really TIME’s problem.  Those who would make it on my list are not the visible movers and shaker that the world would recognize or honor.  They are the unseen people, often deep in the incarnational woodwork, whose lives are playing to an otherworldly audience.

On my list are those whom we will become quite familiar  when we gather for movie night in heaven and look at the video reruns of God’s heroes throughout redemptive history.   They are the people who are really making a difference and whom, as the writer of the book of Hebrews puts it in the New Testament,  ” ...the world is not worthy.”

I’ll be writing about these individuals in the weeks ahead.

The Hidden Mr. Wesley

Wednesday, June 11th, 2008

Yesterday, Patty and I were returning from a lunch with a couple in the Marylebone area of central London.

We noticed a very small, shaded urban park on Marylebone High Street and took a detour through it, discovering it to be part of an old church graveyard. And there in one corner, we came across this monument which was over the grave of Charles Wesley.

I think I was stunned by its obscurity. And awed by the thousands who pass it daily in this major shopping area who have no earthly idea of who lies six feet under.

Along with brother, John who was the organizational genius, Charles helped bring into being the Methodist movement. He was the creator of a new epoch of religious music (sometimes called “hymns of the human school”) which, through easy melodies, words and style, made worship accessible to the unlearned masses and the illiterate.

While John provided the intellectual and theological firepower for the movement, Charles provided the emotional fuel by creating music that had an irresistible appeal through such songs as: Jesus, Lover of My Soul; Hark the Herald Angels Sing; Love Divine All Loves Excelling; and Christ the Lord is Risen Today.

What a remarkable legacy and what obscurity in death.

The Smart Shepherd

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008


The February 18, 2008 issue of Newsweek includes a fascinating article about Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. It is worth a read.

What Tim Keller has done in New York is a superb study in good missiology applied to reach thoughtful, urban professionals with a gospel that is a combination of “orthodox Christianity, challenging preaching, with an emphasis on social justice and community service.” The article goes with the following description of Tim:

“Like so many New Yorkers Keller is a misfit. He’s a megachurch pastor who doesn’t like megachurches. He’s an orthodox Christian who believes in evolution. He emulates the puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards and loves a good restaurant. he’s an evangelist who relishes the power of doubt. New York is the perfect home for such an idiosyncratic Christian.”

If only stones could talk …

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

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It’s about 3:30 on a gray, cold, overcast London afternoon. I’m sitting in a very uncomfortable, rickety wooden pew at the back of the church of St. Mary Woolnoth.

I’m the only one in the building. Only a few lights are on in a magnificent bronze chandelier that occupies the center of the room. It’s musty, dank and has that old building smell. It’s actually a little spooky

However, St. Mary Wolnoth occupies one of the most prominent sites of any church in London. It stands at the junction of Lombard and King William streets, under the shadow of the Bank of England and a stone’s throw away from the historic site of the London Exchange.

A church building has been on this site since 1191 and the structure in which I am sitting is the fourth iteration. The second was built in 1438, the third by the famous Christopher Wren (architect of St. Paul’s cathedral) in 1674, and the last by Nicholas Hawksmoor in 1727. It’s a majestic example of English baroque architecture.

But what is most gripping is to imagine what happened here in centuries past. From 1779-1807, the rector was John Newton, the author of Amazing Grace. From the pulpit that rises above me, he preached vehemently against the evils of the slave trade and encouraged others such as William Wilberforce who led the battle for the abolition of slavery in the British empire. Also, Claudius Buchanan, who launched significant missionary efforts to India was inspired by Newton in this place as was Hannah Moore, the writer, social reformer and philanthropist, and others.

Newton was buried here in 1807. On my left is a marble plaque that carries the following epitaph which Newton himself wrote:

Once an infidel and libertine
A servant of slaves in Africa,
Was, by the rich mercy
of our Lord and Savour
restored, pardoned, and
appointed to preach
the Gospel which he had
long laboured to destroy.

And now this building is a musty relic. Pretty much forgotten. Thousands of people pass by its doors every day here in the heart of London’s financial district, oblivious to what momentous, world transforming convictions had their genesis within these walls.

If only stones could talk.

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John Newton and his memorial plaque at St. Mary’s

You can see it in their eyes …

Monday, July 30th, 2007

Mona Lisa
It’s hard to quantify. Hard to describe. It simply happens whenever we gather together a group of folks serving with CRM from anywhere around the world. There is a unmistakable sense of something that permeates such gatherings.

There is a kind of energy and passion about our shared calling that works as a mystical bond. Even when we may not have seen one another for months or perhaps years, there is an intensity that pervades the relationships and things quickly go deep. As one person commented this past week in Vancouver, “You can see it in their eyes …” There is a quality and contagiousness that is tangible, a commitment to the pursuit of God and his kingdom agenda. These are people with whom one is invariably drawn to do life and ministry, to love, fight, laugh and perhaps die with.

Underlying it and perhaps the real reason behind it all is simply the supernatural anointing of God. The Triune God has for reasons beyond my understanding chosen to rest his hand of blessing and his supernatural presence on these people. It’s what the old-timey saints called “divine unction.” And it is an umbrella of spiritual reality and power that has permeated this outfit since 1985.

May it never lift. May it never cease. May it only grow and deepen so that the name of God may be renowned among the nations.

A Man for All Seasons

Sunday, February 25th, 2007

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The Oscars are tonight.

Coincidentally, Patty and I watched one of my all-time favorites today ..A Man for All Seasons. It is a timeless story of conscience, integrity and intrigue as Sir Thomas More opposes Henry VIII’s decision to divorce his first wife, Catherine, in order to marry Anne Boleyn, wife #2 (out of a total of six), an opposition that eventually costs Sir Thomas his head.

The film was awarded Best Picture in 1966 and Paul Scofield, who played Sir Thomas More, won the Best Actor Oscar. The film also won Academy Awards for Best Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Costume design and Best Director. Besides Scofield, it starred Orson Wells (Bishop Wolsey) and Robert Shaw (Henry VIII).

Mel Gibson was so impressed by Paul Scofield’s performance in this film that he compared appearing alongside him in Hamlet to being “thrown into the ring with Mike Tyson.” Another huge fan of Scofield’s performance as More was John Wayne, who once called it the best performance he had ever seen.

The God of Public Space

Tuesday, February 20th, 2007

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“God is personal, but never private. Restricting God to private space was the great heresy of twentieth-century American evangelicalism.

Denying the public God is a denial of biblical faith itself, a rejection of the prophets, the apostles, and Jesus himself. Exclusively private faith degenerates into a narrow religion, excessively preoccupied with individual and sexual morality while almost oblivious to the biblical demands for public justice.

We have been buffeted by private spiritualities that have no connection to public life and a secular politics showing disdain for religion or even spiritual concerns. That leaves spirituality without social consequences and a politics with no soul.”
—Jim Wallis in God’s Politics

I was in college in the early 70s as the university world was being rolled by Vietnam protests and the great social upheavals of the 60s. On the religious scene, issues such as racism, civil rights, social justice, poverty, war and peace were pretty much owned by the left which embraced these causes with great passion but who had given up, for the most part, on the historical Jesus and his reality or relevance in the present. Despite wonderful counter-cultural expressions such as the Jesus Movement, conservative evangelicalism was essentially paralyzed and impotent. All most could do was circle the spiritual wagons and hope the storm would pass.

It was during this time of chaos that I was introduced to Sojourners and Jim Wallis. It was like a drink of cool water in a blazing hot cultural desert. I couldn’t believe that such a magazine, or a community, existed. It combined biblical fidelity with a powerful social/cultural critique that was neither morally selective like the right nor spiritually anemic like the left.

Thirty years later, that same voice has emerged with new relevance and spiritual authority. Wallis’ book—God’s Politics —is a refreshing, comprehensive primer on a holistic, biblical gospel applied to present day American society and politics. It’s one of those books that I read and wonder, “This has the ring of truth. Why are so few who name the name of Christ in the public square saying these things? And why are so few in the Church listening?”

While there are times when his objectivity can get a little carried away by his Anabaptist bias, Wallace’s book is one of the best critiques of our present political context and how followers of Jesus can and must engage.

“God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It” (Jim Wallis)

McGavran and Church Growth

Thursday, February 15th, 2007


“Church Growth” has gotten a bad rap!

Several years ago I was at a large conference in Denver sponsored by Leadership Network. In front of hundreds of leaders from around the nation, a leading evangelical figure lashed out at “church growth” and characterized it as the fountainhead of all that was wrong with the present-day Church in North America.

I approached him personally afterwards and asked him where in the writings of Donald McGavran—the “father” of the Church Growth Movement—would I find any of the the things he so aggressively castigated. And which aspect of the field of missiology, of which “church growth” theory has played an integral part, would he find anything close to what he was pummeling. He responded with a blank stare.

“Church growth” have become in recent years a grab-all punching bag for anyone who wants to take shots at the church that is, particularly the mega, number-crunching, market oriented, shallow, seeker-sensitive, institutional forms of Christianity that the Protestant movement in the Western world has deemed to be paradigms of “success.”

In reality, Church Growth—as defined and taught by Donald A. McGavran—is far from what has been popularized in North America. This school of study and practice has been one of the most important and influential missiological forces in the latter half of the 20th century, particularly in the developing world. Today, unbeknownst to most, such missiology is a major underpinning of those movements around the globe that are cutting new ground for the Christian movement in unreached people groups and among the major blocks that remain resistant to the good news of Jesus, i.e., other major world religions, the secular, and the animistic. In many ways, the emerging church in the West applies and lives out the missiological insights articulated by McGavran several generations earlier.

In his seminal works, The Bridges of God and later Understanding Church, McGavran provided groundbreaking insights and a framework to understand the redemptive purposes of God. Such understanding has stood the test of time and culture. Granted, there are refinements that that years have brought, such as a clearer differentiation between church and kingdom, but on the whole, the seminal theory that McGavran advanced—based on his 30 years of field work in India—continues to ring true today.

Eddie Gibbs, who hold the McGavran chair of Church Growth at Fuller Theological Seminary, put it this way:

“Unfortunately, as the Church Growth movement became popular in North America, it focused on technique, and we lost sight of the profound insights of Donald McGavran.

His early writing was pushing people out of their secure mission stations to build the bridges of God into the society around them and to sensitively birth faith communities within their cultural context …

My hope is that the Church Growth movement is still to come into its own. The Americanization of it corrupted it, but McGavran is still right! He was a child of his age, and he got some things wrong. He defined mission too narrowly, and he too closely identified church and kingdom. But he grasped this idea that you’ve got to be a movement, to be on the move. And he understood the need to think in terms of sociological maps, not just geographical ones.”


Friday, January 26th, 2007

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At the Edgewater Hotel in Chicago in 1923, nine of the most successful businessmen in the United States gathered for a meeting. If these nine had combined their resources and assets, they would have controlled more money than the U.S. Treasury. In the meeting were:

1 – The head of the largest monopoly in the nation.
2 – The most successful speculator on Wall Street.
3 – The president of the largest independent steel company.
4 – The president of the largest utility company.
5 – The president of the largest gas company.
6 – The greatest wheat speculator in the United States.
7 – The president of the New York Stock Exchange.
8 – The president of the Bank of International Settlements.
9 – A member of the President’s cabinet.

Twenty-five years later … Where were these men?

1 – Ivan Krueger, head of the greatest monopoly, died a suicide.
2 – Jesse Livermore, the most successful speculator on Wall Street, died a suicide.
3 – Charles Schwab, president of the largest independent steel company, died in bankruptcy and lived on borrowed money for five years before his death.
4 – Samuel Insull, the president of the greatest utility company, died a fugitive from the law and penniless in a foreign land.
5 – Howard Hopson, the president of the largest gas company, went insane.
6 – Arthur Cotton, the greatest wheat speculator, died abroad, bankrupt.
7 – Richard Whitney, the president of the New York Stock Exchange, was released from Sing Sing Penitentiary.
8 – Leon Fraser, the president of the Bank of International Settlements, died a suicide.
9 – Albert Fall, the member of the President’s cabinet, was pardoned so that he could die at home.


“Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.Matthew 6:20-21

Drucker on Education

Wednesday, January 10th, 2007

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“Our education system disqualifies people for honest work.

“When a subject becomes totally obsolete, we make it a required course.”

“The schoolmaster since time immemorial has believed that the ass is an organ of learning. The longer you sit, the more you learn.”

“Harvard, to me, combines the worst of German academic arrogance with bad American theological seminary habits.”

What Brings Change?

Friday, December 29th, 2006

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“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”

— Anthropologist Margaret Mead

Ford on Leadership

Thursday, December 28th, 2006

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“Courage is not something to be gauged in a poll or located in a focus group. No advisor can spin it. No historian can backdate it. In the age-old context between popularity and principle, only those willing to lose for their convictions are deserving of posterity’s approval.”

Prayer for Russia

Sunday, December 17th, 2006

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Our Father All-Merciful!
Don’t abandon your own long-suffering Russia
In her present daze,
In her woundedness,
And confusion of spirit.
Lord Omnipotent!
Don’t let, don’t let her be cut short,
To no longer be.
So many forthright hearts
And so many talents
You have lodged among Russians.
Do not let them perish or sink into darkness
Without having served in your name.
Ot of the depths of Calamity
Save your disordered people.

- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn


Thursday, October 5th, 2006

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Edison’s Muckers crica 1876

“In selecting what he called his ‘Muckers’, he [Thomas Edison] prized curiosity, reasoning, resilience and versatility over specialization …He was a magnet for talent from all over the world. Over time, a team of virtuosos emerged that he entrusted to deliver on his dreams and generously rewarded in return.”

“Edison was one of the boys yet still the authoritative leader. If expectations on his team were at times impossibly high, the atmosphere was informal and freewheeling. The ‘Muckers’ did not work to any rules,’ said Edison, ‘because they were trying to achieve something.’ Announcing momentous success before the solution was even in his view. He stretched his Muckers, creating an astounding esprit de corps in the process.”

God, give me a life surrounded by a growing number of “muckers!”

(Quotes are from Bill Fischer, professor of technology management at IMD, and Andy Boynton, dean of the Carroll School of Management at Boston College).

Edison the Innovator

Wednesday, October 4th, 2006

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I’m on a flight to Eastern Europe and browsing through a British magazine with a synopsis of a study on Thomas Edison, the famous American inventor. Several lines have caught my attention:

“Central to Edison’s success was his ‘invention factory’, bringing together great people, constant prototyping and a culture of innovation and enterprise … He believed that, while ‘books show the theory of things, doing a thing itself is what counts.’ He saw failure as part of the inventive process.”

I continue to be amazed at how movements can ossify and institutionalize. Organizational gravity inevitably pulls toward institutionalization. The justifications used by the bean counters, policy makers, and those who must have rules and regulation are legion: “accountability…stewardship…excellence”...can all be admirable labels for clubs that are used to beat innovation and an entrepreneurial spirit out of an organizational culture.

In my experience the only way to keep an edge and a step ahead of the maintainers is to recruit and empower a steady stream of what Edison called “muckers.” They are the trailblazers who simply need running room and someone to believe in them. That’s why recruiting such men and women in the emerging generation is one of my top priorities. I believe nothing has the capacity to bring about as much lasting, transformational change as this. It’s part of my own personal mission statement. Part of that to which God has called me is:

To challenge, recruit, sponsor and empower growing numbers of godly, high potential leaders into apostolic ministry and

To pioneer, nurture and grow apostolic structures which will multiply leadership for the Church in every nation.

Billy Graham in Twilight

Sunday, August 27th, 2006

Billy Graham

No one person in the Protestant world comes as close as Billy Graham does to being a unifying, patriarchal figure. Having personally spoken in front of more people than any other individual in history, Graham’s decades of ministry around the globe have been marked by humility, integrity, and the clear anointing of God.

Now at age 87, he is experiencing what leadership emergence theory calls “afterglow” and NEWSWEEK magazine labeled “In Twilight” in its August 14th, 2006 cover story. The article is well worth the price of the magazine or can accessed free at

There is much that can be learned from a leader, such as this, who is finishing well. Nestled in the NEWSWEEK article are many memorable quotes, among them:

“All my life I’ve been taught how to die, but no one ever taught me how to grow old…. The older I get, the more important the eternal becomes to me personally.”

The interviewer goes on to comment:
“Graham now prizes peace. He is a man of unwavering faith who refuses to be judgmental …a resolute Christian who declines to render absolute verdicts about who will get into heaven and who will not; a man concerned about traditional morality … who will not be dragged into what he calls the “hot-button issues” of the hour. Graham’s tranquil voice, though growing fainter, has rarely been more relevant.”

Lincoln on Leadership

Monday, August 14th, 2006


No figure in American public life has been studied, analyzed and dissected as much as Abraham Lincoln.

While not a new book, Donald Phillips volume, Lincoln on Leadership examines the 16th president in light of his leadership strengths and abilities. Some of the principles Phillips derives from Lincoln’s leadership are:

Advocate a vision and continually reaffirm it
Build strong alliances
Circulate among followers continuously
Search for capable, intelligent assistants
Encourage innovation
Persuade rather than coerce
Influence people through stories and illustrations
Be results oriented

“Lincoln on Leadership: Executive Strategies for Tough Times” (Donald T. Phillips)

Clinton and Leadership

Tuesday, March 28th, 2006

Clinton Jr
I met Bobby and Marilyn Clinton in 1979.

I was taking the first course that Fuller Seminary offered on Church Planting, taught by Peter Wagner, and Bobby was the teaching assistant. Having been on the mission field, he was now at Fuller and beginning his teaching career. We later connected in a course on Homogeneous Units and Church Growth where he also helped in the instruction.

When Bobby was added to the faculty in the early 80s, I had the privilege, along with a couple of others, to be part of a pilot group that Bobby pulled together to begin testing some of his “leadership emergence” concepts and resources and the next summer, enrolled in his “Implementing Change” course, the content of which I still use and refer to today. These were the first of many courses, both formal and non-formal, where I worked to get as much of Clinton as I could. I felt I had struck gold!

In 1985, Bobby assumed a seat on the CRM Board of Directors and over the next two decades, as a member of the board and with several stints as chair, he made an invaluable contribution to CRM as an apostolic movement. His influence was enormous. Over the years we have drawn deeply from his work, applying it personally as well as to our calling to empower leaders for the church around the world.

And throughout it all, Bobby and Marilyn have remained dear friends and mentors, one of those life-long relationships for which Patty and I are immensely grateful.

Bobby’s capacity for cranking out material is renowned. He is amazingly prolific in what he writes and creates. His reputation for being a leadership “guru” in the contemporary religious context is well deserved when one gets into his stuff and experiences the sagacity of his insights.

The best introduction to Clinton for many years has been The Making of a Leader (Navpress). While most of us had to learn a whole new vocabulary to wade through the book, Bobby thinks it’s actually too watered down and popularize to a fault. That perspective speaks volumes as to the depth and voluminous nature of his work.

Thanks Bobby! Your contribution to our personal lives, our ministry, and our contribution to God’s kingdom purposes around the world has been immeasurable. It is an honor to be considered a friend and a small part of your legacy.


The people who don’t fit in …

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006


The famous Scottish poet, Robert Service, penned a brief work that I believe unwittingly captures the emotional dynamic of apostolic gifting probably better then many of the theological tomes that I’ve come across. In the first two verses of, The Men Who Don’t Fit In he writes:

There’s a race of men that don’t fit in,
A race that can’t stay still;
So they break the hearts of kith and kin,
And they roam the world at will.
They range the field and they rove the flood,
And they climb the mountain’s crest;
Theirs is the curse of the gypsy blood,
And they don’t know how to rest.

If they just went straight they might go far;
They are strong and brave and true;
But they’re always tired of the things that are,
And they want the strange and new.
They say: “Could I find my proper groove,
What a deep mark I would make!
These are the ones who don’t fit in
For whom the world is too small of a place

The last two lines are my edit and addition. Regardless of the gender bias (which is understandable considering the age in which he lived), Service emotionally captures the essence of apostolic gifting …spiritual entrepreneurialship that involves action, crossing significant barriers in the going, and creating something new in a pioneering context.

Alan Hirsch Reflections

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006

Alan Hirsch recently spent an evening in our home with a handful of younger CRM staff.

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National Director of Forge in Australia, Alan – along with Michael Frost – is the author of The Shaping of Things to Come, in my view, one of the best books on the emerging church and the future of Christianity in the West. I highly recommend it.

The following are a few of the more poignant highlights from my notes during our evening of conversation …some are quotes and some are close, but all are used with his permission:

Missional effectiveness is determined by: 1) Apostolic environments, 2) Disciplemaking and 3) Organic systems (there are two others but they might be too much to explain). These are the most self-evident ones.

The West has complicated the church and made discipleship simple.
China has a simplified the church and made discipleship complicated.
Good disciples produce good leaders.

Apostolic leadership draws out the innate leadership in all of us. The management of meaning is an apostolic function.

The centralization of power institutionalizes a movement. (more…)