The Power of Joy

Our family rolled back into Austin about 9:15 last night after a four-day whirlwind trip to upstate New York. It was incredible to be so encouraged and blessed on a trip that we almost didn't take.

We were last-minute tag-alongs with Ed Young and his family as Ed spoke at a youth conference in Utica and then at the weekend services at Northway Church, pastored by Buddy Cremeans and his wife Debbie. Northway Church has two locations in the Albany area, one in Malta and the other in Clifton Park.

The conference in Utica was sponsored by Mt. Zion Ministries--a church in an economically challenged community led by Pastor Mike Servello and his son, Pastor Mike Jr. These people are picking 'em up and putting 'em down. Not only does this church of 1,500 offer a conference for 3,500 students, offering them teaching from Ed Young and Joyce Meyer, they have the most incredible compassion ministry I have ever seen or even heard of.

Under Mike Sr.'s leadership, they invest about $100,000 a year in a ministry that creates $5 million worth of social services for a community that has been economically devastated by a military base closure and the departure of all the industry that supported the base.

Over in Malta/Clifton Park/Saratoga Springs, Buddy Cremeans is absolutely kicking it. Northway Church is all about one thing: seeing one more person discover how much God loves him/her. In four years, they have led Nortway from 0 to over 2,000 people. Buddy and his wife Debbie and their staff put on a How-to-Host-Guests clinic, not just for us, but for visitors and tire-kickers who come through their doors every single week. They are two of my favorite people on the planet.

I will be back in Upstate NY--it's a beautiful place and the people are unbelievable.

When we asked our kids what was the biggest thing they learned on this trip, my daughter thought for a second, and said, "The power of joy." Thank you, Mt. Zion Ministries and Northway Church, for giving us that.



The iPhone delivers. It really is just that cool and incredibly functional. Here's the thing: It takes a while to get used to just how simple it is. Apple has really done the hard work of simplifying and streamlining the intuitive flow of iPhone functions.
Three days ago, I had had my iPhone for all of about two hours and was having trouble getting my voicemail off of it. My daughter--12 years old--looked at it and showed me that I was already on the page I was looking for. I just didn't have any voicemail. Because I was trying to do too much, I was needlessly complicating the whole process.
Leadership at any level demands the hard work of simplifying. Simple rarely comes easy. Most people we lead don't gravitate toward simple. But simple always works better, longer, and smarter.
• Simplicity assumes relentless authenticity. Trying to be someone I'm not is just too complicated. Life's too short and people just know when they’re being shined.
• Simplicity demands ruthless discipline. In the hands of a leader, the knife of “no” is like a scalpel in the hands of a surgeon who excises dead tissue, tumors, or failing organs.
• Simplicity requires constant evaluation. If a person, plan, or program foments distraction(s), then it will prevent any traction in the right direction.

Every time our team has hit a wall--in growth, effectiveness, leadership--going simple has always been one of the key elements in knocking the wall down. Leaders simplify and help those they serve to simplify. And that's the paradox: Simplicity isn't easy. It's incredibly difficult work. But it is so freeing and empowering, both for the leader who insists on it and for those who choose it.


Why "Spur" Leadership

A pair of spurs is a tool. Spurs are not cruel tools used to punish a horse. Used properly, spurs achieve results more quickly than kicking a horse in the ribs.
David Stoecklein, Author/Photographer

David Stoecklein's insight about one of the horseman's most basic tools echoes the biblical book of Hebrews: "Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds (Heb. 10:24)." All genuine leadership radiates from the intersection of love and good deeds.

The good deeds component of Spur Leadership is pretty obvious: Leadership facilitates results that are tangible, quantifiable, effective. But, for those of us who lead in the church, the good deeds component of leadership can present some unique challenges. How often we hear things like this whispered in hushed and hallowed tones:

It's not about the numbers. Or,
All we can do is pray and let God handle the results.

Translation: I don't want to work.

The reality is that the numbers DO matter. They represent real people and without people, there is no church. Money DOES matter. It fuels the vision God calls us to realize, to say nothing of the individual’s heart monitor that Jesus says it is.

No other entity in the world should be a better steward of people and resources than the church, and if we don't record, evaluate, and manage those gifts, we cannot be effective stewards. The church, or pastor, or Christ-follower who ignores "the numbers" creates a denial-fueled Never-neverland where navel-gazing passes for action.

But, for those who lead in the marketplace or in other bottom-line environments, the love component of Spur Leadership may seem soft or superfluous. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

The fact is that any group, team, or organization that is going to produce great results over the long haul absolutely has to invest in the personal development of the people who comprise the group. The leader who chooses or fails to fully engage relationally actually only manages.

To fully engage people relationally by no means eclipses accountability or measuring against understood goals, quotas, or numbers. In fact, really loving people demands that they are held accountable for their actions and performance—their good deeds.

The truth of Spur Leadership that governs every people-comprised entity in the world flows out of the reality of personal relationships: If you really love someone, you manifest that love in good deeds. Good deeds, by definition, require love to be truly good. Without love, they are merely self-serving or, even worse, vain and morally bankrupt.

Spur Leadership flows out of this truth.



At long last, there's another blog. Just what the world needed.

Really, we've created this space with three audiences in mind: First, the people who find themselves either by plan or providence in places of influence. Teachers, coaches, moms and dads, CEOs, “middle managers”…whoever intentionally serves and empowers someone else or a group of someone elses.

Second, because I'm a pastor, I think pastor thoughts. So, most of what I do, see, and hear I filter through the lenses of those who specifically serve and lead churches to do things that can’t be done and that no one else is trying. They comprise a very particular group of people I love and want to open up a learning channel through which to steal ideas from them.

But most of all, it’s a way to stay connected to the most incredible group of people I’ve ever been associated with—the people of Lake Hills Church in Austin. This September will mark 10 years since this wild ride left the station, and there is nowhere else I’d rather be and no one I’d rather experience it with than right here with these people.

The good thing about creating a space with these three groups in mind is that in terms of content, just about anything goes. One of the things that we’ll be able to do is bring together a wide array of insights and inputs that anyone who wants to sharpen their leadership chops will be able to strain something out of whatever happens here.

For openers, check out the Getting It Done section for people and groups/teams who are making it happen in their particular sphere of influence. If you know someone not listed who absolutely should be, let us know.

Thanks for showing up.