God Math


About a year ago my wife and I decided we needed to get back to tithing regularly. We were giving to a several different ministries but we weren’t at 10%. This wasn’t a theological compunction so much as a feeling it was what we were supposed to do.

And really it made no sense.

We had a lot on the calendar already for 2013-2014 and giving away another several hundred bucks a month seemed ridiculous. Unfortunately it also seemed obedient. We knew we’d have to rely on God Math.

I won’t go into all the details of the past year but let me provide the most recent example.

We’re trying to put together a graduation trip for Ian that includes some steep airfare costs. A week or so ago we were going over options and fretting over how to afford airfare. We had several conversations about it before I had to travel to Houston for three days at a customer site.

The trip went fine until I was headed to IAH to come home. My boss and I got notice that our connecting flight out of Austin was delayed. (We took the connection because it was cheaper.) Fortunately because he has mega world status with the airline he was able to get us both switched. He was going direct back to Denver and me direct to Colorado Springs. Or so I thought…

We got to the airport and went to the Red Carpet Club where I was told my flight was oversold…by 1…so they’d have to wait to give me a seat. Not to worry thought, several connecting flights were late so I’d be fine.

An hour before my flight I went to the gate to get a seat. I was told that my flight was oversold…by 1…not to worry though the connecting flights were still late so I’d be fine. They’d give me a seat closer to boarding.

For the next hour I watched the gate agent giddily sharing facebook photos of her new puppy with anyone who would look. I wasn’t TOO worried, after all, I’d be fine. Right? That was until our flight started showing 10 then 20 minutes delay.

Michelle, the puppy loving gate agent, had my seat confirmation though so although I began to boil inside at her canine cavorting I managed to keep it cool on the outside. When she started boarding the plane and stalled the line to show off her pooch pics I didn’t flinch. When she ignored me standing at her desk and called two people who were apparently on the stand-by list I bit my tongue. When she turned to close the door and asked if I was standing by I kept an even keel.

“Um, no actually I have a confirmed seat which we talked about a little over an hour ago.”

Recognition dawned and she furiously started typing in the information she had on my flight card right in front of her. She realized she’d blown it bad but wasn’t going to admit it. She talked to the folks on the plane twice hoping to find an empty seat but there were none.

“Mr. Fletcher I’m apologize, but I have managed to confirm you on a seat on the 5:15″ (two hours later). I was TICKED!!

“Because we involuntarily bumped you we’ll have to compensate you. You can either get the unused portion of your ticket back in cash, (probably $100) or we can issue you a coupon for a future flight valued at $500.”

Hmmm, two hours delay for $500? Yeah, I’ll take that…and just about cover what I need for the grad trip airfare.

God Math. It comes out of nowhere, shows up when we need it, and always seems to add up.

When was the last time you experienced God Math?

Relational Currency

It was one of those November nights in Denver when the rain doesn’t quite want to mature into snow, the snow wants to relive its adolescence as water and the result is a soupy, mushy mess that blankets the streets like boba tea stirred in rice pudding.

I was sitting waiting for a flight out of DIA and becoming more concerned as boarding time approached and passed without any of us moving.  It wasn’t long before the inevitable announcement sent us all scrambling in the direction of “next best options”, some to the gate of the next flight out, some to the customer service counter and me, among others, to the Red Carpet Club.

I waited patiently a line to converse with the over-stressed somewhat aloof counter agent who has just heard the same story from the previous five people. When she heard it for the sixth time and had finished typing in my name she informed me, in a tone bordering on disdain, that I was number 99 on the priority list to get on the next flight. Puzzled, I asked if my frequent flyer number was on the record. With an almost imperceptible shake of her head she informed me that it was not and collected the pertinent information. It was barely a split second after her typing in the last key stroke that her eyes widened severely and her mouth formed a perfect “o” as though she were trying her best to imitate a bowling ball. “I’m so sorry Mr. Fletcher, you’re actually number three on the list. How about if I just confirm a seat for you right now?” Suddenly…I had currency.

Relational Currency doesn’t refer to money per se but to the mechanisms by which we “keep score” in relationships. As a mere passenger I had no currency, or little currency with United. But as a Premier Executive member I had plenty. The concept of relational currency is an interesting one if only from the standpoint of how it helps us keep track of how we’re doing in relationships. To help better elucidate the concept I want to share three truths about relational currency.

Relational Currency is partially inherent

Imagine you had wanted to have lunch with Steve Jobs the former CEO of Apple (RIP Steve, you will be missed) to talk about creative design. You or I probably wouldn’t have had a chance. But if Michael Eisner, former Disney CEO, had put in that call Steve would have no doubt found the time. Because these gentlemen played at the same level they had “inherent relational currency”, a level of respect earned because of external conditions. Dog lovers have inherent currency with each other. They have less inherent currency with cat lovers but may have some as pet lovers.  Professional athletes have inherent currency above that of college athletes.  Again, it is currency based on external attributes of circumstances.

Relational Currency is partially earned

If inherent currency opens doors for lunch opportunities then earned currency keeps them open. Earned currency is based on internal attributes and how we treat and interact with people. Bill Gates would probably take a phone call from Ted Turner to discuss charitable giving. Larry Ellison, Oracle CEO, probably wouldn’t take the same call. Why not? All three gentlemen are uber wealthy CEO’s. Doesn’t that indicate they should share inherent currency? Of course they do. But where Bill and Ted, pun intended, have shared excellent adventures in the realm of charitable giving Larry is not known to be equally motivated in that area and thus Ted’s earned currency is running at a slight deficit. Which leads to the third characteristic of relational currency:

Relational Currency works like money

By that I mean that it can be inherited, earned, spent, wasted, stocked up, or frittered away. Inherent currency is your starting account balance. That balance is different with different people. For example: as a former Div II college football player I have a fair amount of inherent currency with other DIV II players but significantly less with professional players and almost none with college basketball players. And none of any of that counts a lick with musicians.

Earned currency is where you start your funds management process growing, earning, building or burning up your inherent currency. Obviously, as with real money, the more I have in the bank to start with the easier it is to build my balance. Remember our lunch invite above? If I can’t even get the meeting I can’t build my balance. If I can get it and don’t communicate clearly or come off as an odd duck I waste the little “money”I had on the table  and in the words of Lord Scrumptious from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, “Had your chance, muffed it.”

Which leads to some interesting questions:

What are the audiences of people groups with whom you have the greatest inherent currency?

Are there any unique groups, near the top of some hierarchy, with which you have inherent currency?

The are interesting questions to answer because it helps you determine where you might have some of the best and most unique opportunities to build Disciples!

When does Discipleship begin?

If you’ve been following along at home you’ll know that I hold to the opinion that every Christian is responsible for making Disciples. Not converts to Christianity, not better Christians, but Disciples.

Again, the basic premise is that Disciple Making, in a spiritual sense, is the process of following God closely enough that you go out and create Disciples of you. In the same way John the baptist had Disciples of John and Gamaliel had Disciples of Gamaliel and Jesus had Disciples of Jesus. The twist is that we’re not called to point them ultimately to ourselves but to Christ.

So if that is the case when does Discipleship begin?

Most of the churches I have been associated with have some form of Discipleship class or curriculum. And, for most of those churches, the class or curriculum is designed to start AFTER someone has committed their lives to Christ. Hmmmm…I don’t think Jesus called the twelve AFTER they all we’re completely sold out to believing who He was, do you?

It seems to me there was a process of deepening relationship that happened all along the Discipleship journey.

Many scholars today recognize the commission in Matthew 28:19 to read: “As you’re going, make disciples of all nations…” seeming to indicate that this should not only be a part of your normal daily activities but something you should actively pursue. If that is the case then we shouldn’t expect to find the people we’re supposed to “make disciples of” sitting behind us in the pews at church.

This is where the Four Levels of Agreement starts to get me jazzed a bit. Remember, we’ve been looking at themas the process by which we deepen relationships. Level 1 is that mental click that happens when someone catches my attention.  Level 2 is my completed physical response to that mental moment. Level 3 is where we enter into some contractual responsibility based on expectations and promises. Level 4 is where we cross over into a committed rapport. Since we can walk through our daily routine marking out relational process with this tool we can ALSO use it to help determine which folks we ought to be actively engaging as potential Disciples.

Simplistically then I want to find people who are ready to enter into a Level 3 relationship, and who I desire to pursue that with as well, who may only be at a Level 1 in their understanding of spiritual matters! I have to finding people to Disciple in the work place, at the soccer field and at Starbucks…not in my small group! Ok, that was probably a bit hasty for those churches that invite new attenders to join a small group before they even know their names, but you get my drift.

Go back and read the Gospel account of the calling of the twelve, particularly in Mark. Everyone seems to be going about their business as relationships start to form. Where are relationships forming around YOUR daily life with folks that are not yet spiritually fully bought in?

Which of those relationships is ripe for Discipleship?

What do you think?

Is Disciple -Making really something we’re all called to do in this way? Is it really a PRE-conversion starting point?

Disciple Making (Sprirtual Version 1.1)

So by now some of you are wondering, why all this marketing talk with only one post having anything to do with the Great Commission? Well, let’s think for a minute about how Jesus chose His Disciples.

I really don’t think any of us would believe he picked 12 guys at random. Some of us might suggest he fell back on his power as fully God and used a predestined list but that would turn into a huge debate. Let’s look at an interesting little tidbit from Luke chapter 5 (from The Message):

 1-3Once when he was standing on the shore of Lake Gennesaret, the crowd was pushing in on him to better hear the Word of God. He noticed two boats tied up. The fishermen had just left them and were out scrubbing their nets. He climbed into the boat that was Simon’s and asked him to put out a little from the shore. Sitting there, using the boat for a pulpit, he taught the crowd.

 4When he finished teaching, he said to Simon, “Push out into deep water and let your nets out for a catch.”

 5-7Simon said, “Master, we’ve been fishing hard all night and haven’t caught even a minnow. But if you say so, I’ll let out the nets.” It was no sooner said than done—a huge haul of fish, straining the nets past capacity. They waved to their partners in the other boat to come help them. They filled both boats, nearly swamping them with the catch.

 8-10Simon Peter, when he saw it, fell to his knees before Jesus. “Master, leave. I’m a sinner and can’t handle this holiness. Leave me to myself.” When they pulled in that catch of fish, awe overwhelmed Simon and everyone with him. It was the same with James and John, Zebedee’s sons, coworkers with Simon.

 10-11Jesus said to Simon, “There is nothing to fear. From now on you’ll be fishing for men and women.” They pulled their boats up on the beach, left them, nets and all, and followed him.

First lets view this from Simon’s perspective. It would be tough to convince me that Simon knew nothing about Jesus. Imagine you’ve just pulled the boats up on shore from a long nights work and some stray preacher steps into your boat and asks you to take him out a bit. The fact that Simon agrees tells me he had already experienced a Level 1 agreement.  Interestingly enough he’s minding his own business when the opportunity resents itself to move through Level 2 and 3. In fact a short term contract ensues when he agrees to let Jesus teach from the boat. What is really cool is that he runs through all three levels AGAIN while Jesus is teaching:

  • Level 1: He hears what Jesus is saying and realizes this guy is more that just a teacher
  • Level 2: He moves to action and asks Jesus to leave him alone after the miracle catch.
  • Level 3 : He agrees to follow Jesus.

Now let’s look at is from Jesus perspective. We don’t have as much specific evidence in the text, and the chronology is a little difficult to piece together from the four Gospel narratives, but we can make some educated guesses.

Prior to the episode detailed in Luke 5 Jesus appears to have met Andrew, Simon’s brother. Andrew had been a disciple of John the Baptist and when John had proclaimed that Jesus was the Son of God Andrew knew he’d found the one he was seeking. John’s Gospel,  in chapter 1 vs 40-42, seems to indicate that Simon and Jesus had met prior to the events of Luke 5:

Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard John’s witness and followed Jesus. The first thing he did after finding where Jesus lived was find his own brother, Simon, telling him, “We’ve found the Messiah” (that is, “Christ”). He immediately led him to Jesus.

   Jesus took one look up and said, “You’re John’s son, Simon? From now on your name is Cephas” (or Peter, which means “Rock”).

Have you ever met someone and immediately knew you’d be friends? I’m not talking about “love at first sight” but that moment of, “I like this person.” I’ve had that happened a number of times in life and rarely been wrong. I think that was happening when Jesus met Simon. And so it began…

  • Level 1: Jesus meets Simon and gives him a new name
  • Level 2: He takes a step and asks Simon if he can “borrow the boat”
  • Level 3: He asks Simon to follow Him

While all of that may or may not be of interest let me ask you this:

If the Great Commission is really about each of us finding people to “Disciple” who are your Disciples? 

If you’re wrestling with this one let me ask:

How would you choose who to Disciple if you agreed with that interpretation?

More on this topic later in the week.




Relationship Building – The Four Levels of Agreement – Creating Level 2

Last week we started to look at relationship building from the perspective of four levels of agreement.

Level 1, Cognitive Resonance, was that mental click that happens when something gets your attention. Level 2, Completed Response, is the move from thought to action. That thing you do in response to the mental click. So if our premise is that relationships build as you move through these four levels of agreement how do ensure that your “call to action” is something doable?

Have you ever been in a meeting where someone presents a 30 slide presentation FULL of information that is nothing more than just that, information? No application, no ask, no call to action.

Several years ago I was doing some communications consulting with a large technology company. They told us of a meeting that had been held by the Senior VP of sales in which he recounted which of their product lines they were going to focus specifically on in the coming fiscal year. Good information right? Problem was he didn’t provide any call to action and as a result:

  • The support group wanted to know when they were supposed to announce end of support for the lines that were not in focus for the coming year.
  • Development teams on the non-focus lines started updating resumes in fear they were going to be let go.
  • Marketing started working on messaging around migrating customers off of the non-focus product lines.
  • Multiple meetings were called to try to figure out the impact of dropping several of the product lines.

Finally the VP had to call yet another meeting to “announce” that they weren’t going to drop ANY product lines. They were just going to put specific focus in the coming year on the ones he had mentioned previously. Which, by the way, didn’t alleviate ALL the fears…it just extended the runway.

Contrast NO call to action with the sidewalk evangelist who approached a friend and I, when we were nine years old, leaving little league tryouts. This kid was probably in high school or college, all the same to me…I was nine, and he was really in to “sharing the gospel”. Having “grown up” in the church I was interested in what the guy had to say, not sure if my friend was, and listened politely. He came to the end of his schpiel, with a few leading questions along the way, and asked if we wanted to confess our sins and ask Jesus into our hearts. Hmmmm…call to action (for a nine year old): Admit that much of what you have done in your nine years is wrong, confess that to GOD, and give Him complete control of your life, right here, while we’re talking, on the sidewalk, after little league tryouts, without asking your parents. Yikes.

Let me share a couple characteristics to remember when sorting out your call to action, that thing you’re asking someone to do to move to a Level 2 relationship.

1. Make it Clear and Actionable – “I want you to consider supporting” is not a crystal clear action. “I want you to support” isn’t either, they’re both passive asks. Remember this is an action step. You want them to do something physically. “I want you to support this initiative by taking two actions…” Those two actions are your clear ask.

2. Make it Right Sized – The ask of the street evangelist to a nine year old is huge. How about asking the kid to attend a church service with his folks?  “Get up out of your chair and sign up for classes today.” Again, huge. There’s cost, schedule, class choice, a lot of decisions that go into that ask. “Come try a one day class for free.” Relatively easy. (By the way this is where offering freebies is a GREAT call to action: come try it.)

3. Make it Low Risk or at least Risk Appropriate. – Remember you’re early on in relationship here. Trust has to be earned. Think about the risk you’re asking someone to take. Give them an easy first step to build confidence in the relationship, then follow that with a next easy step.

The “risk free 30 day trial” is a great attempt at a clear, actionable, low risk call to action. Are you skeptical when you see that ask? Why or why not?

Can you think of a time when your call to action was either absent or too big? How Could you change that?

Relationship Building – The Four Levels of Agreement – Level 2

Last week we started to look at relationship building from the perspective of four levels of agreement.

  • Level  1Cognitive Resonance
  • Level  2Completed Response
  • Level  3Contractual Responsibility
  • Level  4Committed Rapport

We explored Cognitive Resonance: that mental “click” that happens when something stands out and makes you take notice, and talked about how to create Cognitive Resonance for your potential customers, parishioners, or clients.

So what is this Level 2 – Completed Response all about?

Imagine that you’re walking through the kitchen in your home and the TV is playing quietly in the background. A commercial comes on, it’s for a local car dealership, the LAST thing you need to do is listen but the volume has suddenly reached that epic, please-don’t-use-your-outdoor-voice-in-the-house level like all commercials do. You grimace, shake your head, plant your face firmly in the fridge, and then you hear: “Everyone who comes in and test drives today receives a free trip to Paris, France!”

You stop what you’re doing and turn quickly to face the TV. You want to be sure you heard that right. The announcer continues ranting but manages to convince you that there is no apparent catch. All you have to do is go test drive a car and get a trip. Your interest is piqued! You’ve JUST entered into a Level 1 relationship with the dealer. Now what?

Now you have a choice to make. Will you believe it enough to go test drive a car? You rational brain kicks into overdrive analysis mode.  There has to be a catch. They couldn’t afford to do that even if they marked up every car significantly AND sold one for every two test drives. “Paris, France” must be a name they’ve given to their sales office or something. It cannot be.

At the same time your heart is fighting back. What if it IS true? What if their owner also owns an airline? How big of a hero would I be if I took my wife to Paris? I’ve got nothing else going on this afternoon, I should go do it!

At this point you’re on the verge of entering into a Level 2 agreement, the Completed Response.

While Level 1, Cognitive Resonance, is a passive, almost automatic reaction Level 2, Completed Response, is a cognitive active choice that involves some form of physical action.

You observe the girl across the room, hear her talk and are intrigued by her combination of looks and intelligence…”click”…Level 1 agreement. But unless you walk over and introduce yourself OR go do some “friend research” to learn more about here, both Completed Responses, the relationship never moves forward.

You hear the car commercial offering the trip…”click”…Level 1 agreement. You internally debate. But unless you go test drive a car OR talk to someone who has tested the offer, both Completed Responses, the relationship never moves forward.

In traditional sales this is typically referred to as the “call to action”. This is the “what I want them to do” after they hear the pitch. It is important to remember that the Completed Response involves physical action. It moves the relationship from thought to action. Too often we present ideas, try to sell products, attempt to build relationships with little or no thought to this call to action. We present information to folks and HOPE they’ll make the right choice or give them an ultimatum: buy today. There is art in creating the right call to action. There is elegance is providing an easy path to a Level 2 agreement.  We’ll look at the “how to” next time.

Think about the last time you tried to recruit someone, to sell something, or even to convince someone of a new idea.

Did you present the information in a way that would inspire a Level 1 “click”?

And did you follow that up with an easily achievable and understandable call to action that made for a seamless transition from thought to Completed Response?

Relationship Building: The Four Levels of Agreement – Level 1

Last time we looked at how relationships grow through four levels of agreement. We identified the first level agreement as Cognitive Resonance, that instant where your attention is captured enough to create a connection, a first level agreement. We described Cognitive Resonance as:

It’s the brain buzz, the ‘click’, the “hey, that looks interesting”. It’s that thing that happens when the server walks by with someone else’s food and you start madly scrambling for the menu to see if you can figure out what that was because “THAT looked goooood.”

It’s that moment in a conversation with someone you’ve just met where you start to pay closer attention because you were suddenly struck with the thought, “Hey, I think there could be more to this person.”

It’s that third recommendation of a restaurant that makes you think, “Yeah, we should check that place out.”

Make sense? Good. So here’s the question of the day…

If you can identify what the moment of Cognitive Resonance feels like how do you inspire it in others?

Whether you’re trying to woo potential customers, build a congregation, or simply make friends knowing how to create that moment of Cognitive Resonance is key to getting out of the gate on the right foot. I believe there are two key operating principles you MUST  employ when you’re looking to create a moment of Cognitive Resonance for people.

Principle 1: It isn’t about you, it’s about them.

The picture at the top of this post is the first magazine ad I was ever tasked with creating. It was a half page ad in a magazine that was going to be distributed to all attendees at a large industry conference being put on by a large software company.  I looked at the ads that all of our competitors had done the previous year and they all sounded the same. “We’re the best.” “We’re the biggest.” “We have more.” ” We, We, We”  That’s why my ad emphasizes the word YOU. I wanted to start with the prospect in mind. In fact, we go so far as to tell them what they want. Pretty bold move.

This was an ad that I really thought would be more or less a throw away. We got it free as a sponsor of the event. But you would have been amazed at how many people came by our booth and mentioned it in one way or another. The change in approach that put the focus back on the customer prospect, rather than on trying to scream how good WE were louder than our competitors, actually caused people to pause. It created a moment of Cognitive Resonance.

Now I’ll admit, taking that approach you have to know pretty well what the prospect really wants. But that is exactly where marketing lives today. Traditional marketing was about screaming more loudly than the competition how good your stuff is and because it is so good, Mrs. Customer, you know you want it.

Relational marketing, or tribal marketing, or social marketing…whatever label we’re going to land on here shortly…is about understanding the customer and speaking to their need. And if you do THAT well you’ll create a moment of Cognitive Resonance.

Doing that WELL leads to principle number two.

Principle 2: Understand the customer and start where they are.

Customers, potential church attenders, soon to be friends all have needs both recognized and unrecognized. The better you can identify those needs the better you can meet them with a product, service, or relationship.

For years I sold software. People selling software always assume the customer wants to buy software. What started to bug me was that we sometimes lost the sale, to “no decision”. WHAT?!?! They bought NOTHING? The reason was that while software sales people were assuming that the customer need was for software, the customer felt they needed to solve a business problem. They HOPED software might solve it but the NEED was a solution to a business problem. In general then the bulk of the software sales people I was running across were starting in the wrong place!

We began creating presentations that said nothing about software. I had several CEO’s for whom I worked nearly go through the roof with me on that. Our presentations started talking about the business problem, in detail. Without fail we’d have a major prospect, or analyst, or board member stop us only a third of the way into our presentation and say, “You get this better than anyone else we’ve talked to. Now how do we solve it?”

By starting where the customer was, with their felt need, we were able to move very quickly to a moment of Cognitive resonance that set us apart from the competition. We also started selling more software.

Looking at your set of potential customers, or attendees, or friendships how can you start making the conversation more about them than about you?

With those folks you have in mind is there a difference between what they think they might need and what YOU think they might need? How can you start where they are and bridge the gap?



Relationship Building – The Four Levels of Agreement

Imagine for a moment that you’re trying to figure out how to build and grow a customer base. Or, if that’s not your thing, imagine you’re trying to figure out who you ought to mentor. Or, if you need something more basic, imagine you’re trying to sort out who to date. In any of these instances what you’re really trying to do is build relationships. Some of us are good at it, some of us stink at it, but all of us need to do it really to be successful in life.

Look again at those three scenarios. Beyond just building relationships what’s REALLY going on there is a desire to build ever deepening relationship and THAT takes work. It’s work that move people closer to each other, work that builds bonds.  In fact I want to suggest that people enter into deeper relationship based on increased levels of agreement.

Think about that statement for a second. You probably can’t name a single person with whom you have any depth of relationship AND with whom you completely disagree. It just doesn’t happen. (Except perhaps with some random members of your spouse’s extended family but that is a unique category.) There is always a “something” that draws us towards some people and away from others, towards one product and away from others, towards one service provider over another and that “something” is the level of agreement.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you and your close friends agree on everything, nor does it mean you like all the same things, nor does it hint at some sort of bizarre, cliquish, neo-cloned relational similitude. What it means is that the relationship itself is moving through four levels of agreement.

We’ll look at each of these in the days ahead but in overview the four levels are as follows:

  • Level  1Cognitive Resonance
  • Level  2Completed Response
  • Level  3Contractual Responsibility
  • Level  4Committed Rapport

So what in the world is Cognitive Resonance?

It’s the brain buzz, the ‘click’, the “hey, that looks interesting”. It’s that thing that happens when the server walks by with someone else’s food and you start madly scrambling for the menu to see if you can figure out what that was because “THAT looked goooood.”

It’s that moment in a conversation with someone you’ve just met where you start to pay closer attention because you were suddenly struck with the thought, “Hey, I think there could be more to this person.”

It’s that third recommendation of a restaurant that makes you think, “Yeah, we should check that place out.”

Years upon years ago I was working with a bunch of crazy Junior-high kids in San Diego and, as happened every summer, we took a bunch of them to camp. The first night of camp the guy who was serving as the “men’s dean” for the week introduced the women’s dean as the “cutest girl in camp”. Being a guy in my mid-twenties I obviously took a more than a passing interest in THAT pronouncement and thus invested a more than casual glance. While I had to objectively agree with his assessment I was, at the time, engaged to be married only a few months hence, and thus I took no other action. No, really, I promise, I didn’t do anything.  Until the next morning.

When the “cutest girl in camp” got up on stage to do her morning announcements and devotional with the kids I experienced a SIGNIFICANT moment of cognitive resonance.  (No, I did not think in those terms.)  What I did think was:

“Wow, she’s pretty sharp… and funny… and pretty good at what she does, and…man, I’m thinking that what I’m seeing here may answer a couple questions I’ve been asking… and…”

See where that’s going? Yeah, that’s where it went. We got married a year later and have been married for 21 years.  To be fair, and transparent, our relationship moved through all four levels of agreement over the course of that year but it all started with the moment of cognitive resonance.
Who are the people in your life today, probably in the category of acquaintances at the moment, with who you’ve had that twinkling of an ah-ha moment, that moment of cognitive resonance?

If you’re looking to build a customer base what are you doing to provide those moments of cognitive resonance for your prospects?

Have you had a personal experience where you can clearly identify the moment that cognitive resonance first took place?

Observations on the Church and Discipleship

The five observations that follow have been born out of ten plus years of discussions about the church. These are some of the key thoughts that have formed the foundations for a new way of thinking about discipleship:

1. The church no longer enjoys its former position of societal influence “at the head of main street”. Rather than trying to recapture that position as the place where the community comes to gather together the church must learn what it is to identify and move outward into the cultural and societal centers that have taken center stage.

2. As the church in the west continues to pray for “revival” it gathers together in an upper room and waits on the Lord. Is it not possible that the Lord wants to visit revival on the church even more passionately than the church wants it but that He is waiting for his people to go outside? I believe that the next revival will be one that moves the church out into the world rather than moving the world into the church building.

3. The church in the west has forgotten, if it ever truly knew, what discipleship is all about. It has taken the biblical command to “go and make disciples” and added the phrase “of Jesus”. This works well enough in a community where people are naturally drawn to “attend church.” I believe the verse really means that each of us should progress in our relationship with the Lord to the point where we serve as the equivalent to a Jewish Rabbi….and have disciples. (The disciples of Curtis or Scott or Anne). This calls us to a much higher responsibility in terms of our own relationship with Christ AND calls each of us to move outward. (Jesus found some of His disciples at the beach!) Discipleship today in most cases is nothing more than the process of taking someone who has prayed the sinners prayer and enrolling them in an intensive bible study that lasts somewhere between 12 weeks and a year.

4. The result of the church having taken this approach is that we have several generations of people who should be making disciples who have never themselves been mentored in that way. This in turn means that if we are to turn the tide there will be at least one to three generations of people who will be mentoring without any personal experience to draw from. Of course…this means we need to look even more closely at Jesus process of disciple making.

5. More than anything discipleship is about relationship. Using Jesus example as a model the process begins BEFORE “conversion”. That means that each of us is already in relationship with people we should be “discipling”, whether they are post-conversion, pre-conversion, or formerly converted.

Please feel free to poke holes in any of these observations. The conversation is well worth it. But even as you do so consider these questions:

Is the idea of “pre-conversion discipleship” too radical a departure from traditions you’ve been raised in to examine the possibilities?

If there are folks in your daily circle of relationships that you can identify as potential disciples what would keep you from pursuing that type of relationship?


Disciple Making (Sprirtual Version 1.0)

picture courtesy of ba1969 at sxc.hu18Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

If you’re a Christian you no doubt have some familiarity with this passage from Matthew 28 – The Great Commission.  What fascinates me most about this charge that Jesus gives the 11, Judas is gone by now, is the way we interpret it today.  Researching the possible interpretations of this passage is truly amazing. You’ll find:

  • “This is really a specific command given only to the eleven remaining disciples of Jesus”
  • “This really speaks to evangelism and the importance of baptism.”
  • “There are no disciples today, as such, so this simply means to witness.”

If I look closely at how the majority of the church, and by this I mean main stream protestant denominations and non-denominational denominations, interprets the passage, and attempts to live it out, I think it looks something like this:

The term “disciples” in the New Testament refers to the followers of Jesus, most specifically the twelve very committed ones. Thus, this passage clearly means we are commanded to go make followers of Jesus, baptize them, and provide them with access to study materials that will enhance their knowledge of scripture.

I have to confess I struggle with that interpretation. First, the word “disciple” is secular word meaning “a person who is a pupil or an adherent of the doctrines of another”. John the Baptist had disciples, Socrates had disciples, even Buddha had disciples.  Second, in the context where Jesus’ words were spoken the people he was speaking to understood that any teacher worth his salt had disciples. Third, the notion of creating disciples carried with it a level of personal responsibility on the part of the disciple maker. Fourth, I struggle with it because it seems to let ME off the hook if I can just get someone into the hands of the “professionals” by getting them to attend church.

Thus I really firmly believe that the eleven would not have heard this ‘commission’ as “go make more followers of Jesus”, rather I suggest they would have heard: “Peter, go make disciples of Peter. John, go make disciples of John. James, go make disciple of James. Not pointing them towards yourselves ultimately guys but pointing them towards your father in heaven who has given me authority. And oh, by the way, baptize them in my name AND teach them all that I have passed on to you during YOUR discipleship.”

Radical perhaps?

Stop long enough to consider what it would mean for you to have a relationship with God that was strong enough, significant enough, secure enough, and steeped enough in the truth that He would actually ask you to grab some folks and have them follow you as you followed Him. That He would ask you to live life alongside this group of folks in such a way that they were drawn to Him by your very example.

Stop a second longer to consider what a church full of disciple makers would look like.

If our purpose in life is to “make disciples” then do some of us have some studying to do? Do some of us have some house cleaning to do? Do some of us have some serious consideration that needs to be given to have we live out a faith that is based on leading others rather than on personal growth?

What do you think? Is God calling you to be a disciple maker or an assistant convert maker?