Thursday, November 17, 2011


by Brian Tracy

After having studied top achievers and peak performers over the past 35 years, I’ve concluded that these unique men and women, have in most cases, mastered what I call the Seven C’s of Success.
Clarity: Eighty percent of success comes from being clear on who you are, what you believe in and what you want.
Competence: You can't climb to the next rung on the ladder until you are excellent at what you do now.
Constraints: Eighty percent of all obstacles to success come from within. Find out what is constraining in you or your company and deal with it.
Concentration: The ability to focus on one thing single-mindedly and see it through until it's done takes more character than anything else.
Creativity: Flood your life with ideas from many sources. Creativity needs to be exercised like a muscle; if you don't use it you'll lose it.
Courage: Most in demand and least in supply, courage is the willingness to do the things you know are right.
Continuous learning: Read, at the very least, one book a week on business to keep you miles ahead of the competition. And just as you eat and bathe, organize your time so you spend 30 minutes a day exploring email, sending messages, going through websites, because like exercise, it's the only way you can keep on top of technology. If you get away from it, you'll lose your edge.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Megatrends that Weren't

The most recent issue of Foreign Policy is themed around its first-ever set of predictions about the future.  Articles from some of the world’s most “bleeding-edge” thinkers look at the planet in the year 2025.  
As you would imagine, most of their predictions have already been set in motion by recent events, and could, themselves, have been predicted. For example, technology will take on a life of its own; micromultinationals will run the world; everything will be too big to fail; the South China Sea will be the future of conflict; the world will be more crowded (but with old people); the shape of the global economy will fundamentally change; and problems will be increasingly global in nature, as will their solutions (you think?).

But what intrigued me the most was an article titled “Megatrends That Weren’t.” Joshua Keating writes about “yesterday’s Next Big Things” that never took place, noting that “history can be awfully unkind to pundits wielding crystal balls.” 
As his examples show, today’s “Next Big Thing can quickly become tomorrow’s “Trend That Never Was.”

Such as:

*The Japanese Superpower.  In the 1980’s and early 1990’s, as Japan’s industrial production surged by more than 50 percent, a cottage industry predicting Japan’s economic dominance was born. Instead Japan entered its “lost decade” of economic stagnation and was overtaken by China in 2010.

*The Permanent Economic Boom.  Prior to the current financial crisis there was unbridled optimism that the good times don’t have to end. Experts placed inordinate faith in the power of computerized trading, financial “innovation,” and the exploding housing market. The reality was that the Dow Jones industrial average never did get higher than its 2007 peak of 14,164.53. So much for predictions of the Dow reaching 36,000, 40,000 or even 100,000, as some predicted.

*Peak Oil.  While there is a finite amount of oil in the world and it’s going to run out sooner or later, it was predicted that global oil production would tap out in the early 1970’s. Peak-oil theorists failed to take into account both the discovery of new oil and new means of extracting difficult-to-recover reserves buried deep beneath the ocean or in tar sands in the Canadian tundra.  

*The Resource Crunch.  In 1798, English scholar Thomas Malthus predicted that global famine and disease would eventually limit human population growth. As of last month, we are now at 7 billion and growing without imminent global famine and catastrophe due to rapid population growth. There may come a time when the Earth’s population becomes unsustainable, but for now the problem isn’t lack of resources but how to distribute them to those in need.

*The Internet Fad.  Excessive skepticism can be as bad as buying into overly optimistic predictions. In 1943, IBM Chairman Thomas Watson saw a global market for “maybe five computers.” Then there’s astronomer and popular science author Clifford Stoll, who in a 1995 book and Newsweek article, ridiculed the idea that “we’ll soon buy books and newspapers straight over the Internet” and argued that “no online database will replace your daily newspaper.” And more recently British entrepreneur Alan Sugar predicted in 2005 that the iPod would be “kaput” within the year.  

In my recent book What They Didn’t Teach You In Seminary, I talk about the “Next, Next Thing,” and how our culture’s preoccupation with “next” has replaced our earlier fascination with “new.” The difference? New is what something is; next suggests a special insight.  

Christians can be captivated by “next” as much as anyone.  

I know of pastors who joke about a “migratory flow pattern” among Christians in their community who are constantly church-hopping to the “next” thing in church life. They move from one church to another, looking for the next hot singles group, the next hot church plant, the next hot speaker, the next hot youth group. Many times they end up full circle where they began, because their original church suddenly became “next.”
Church leaders can succumb to the same temptation, only in terms of church model. First it was Willow Creek.  Then Saddleback. Then came Hillsong, Northpoint and Fellowship. Or perhaps instead of doing it by church name, it was by type:  first came seeker-targeted, then purpose-driven, then postmodern, then ancient-future, then emergent, then “simple.” For some the allure of the next “next” is programmatic, moving from Alpha to KidStuff to...well, you get the picture.  

Stop and think what happened to the “megatrends” of drama in church, the meta-model of small groups, the seeker-targeted strategy of the 80’s and 90’s, and praise choruses?

In truth, many of the “next” churches we flock to - as attenders or leaders - have little of the true “next” about them. More often than not, what is behind the attention is little more than a gifted communicator, or a niche-focus, or tried-and-true contemporary approaches in a traditional context, maybe one or two twists on previously envisioned programs – coupled with a growing edge of town.  

Yet the seduction of the “next” lures us to race to their conference to find the “secret” to success.  

But racing toward the “next” is more than just deceptive – it can be dangerous. Meaning you can buy into the “next” before you know whether it was ever worth buying into in the first place.  

There have been, and will be, some truly “next” churches. But our threshold should be more than rapid growth, a charismatic leader, a niche-market, the latest beneficiary of a growing edge of town or the migratory flow of believers. Not simply because there may not be anything truly “next” about it beyond that which is cosmetic, but because our appetite for the “next” has us looking to churches that have yet to truly prove themselves, much less their ideas, through the test of time.

Leaders must realize that however exhilarating a new church model may appear, silver bullets do not exist.  Leaders must look deeper than the latest model or program, conference or style, and realize that the process inherent within a thriving church has not changed in 2,000 years:  you must evangelize the lost, then assimilate those evangelized, then disciple those assimilated, and then unleash those discipled for ministry.

That’s a megatrend that is, was, and ever will be.

James Emery White
“Megatrends That Weren’t,” Joshua E. Keating, Foreign Policy, September/October 2011, p. 92.
James Emery White, What They Didn’t Teach You In Seminary (Baker Books, 2011).

Editor’s Note
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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Formula for Success

Emil Brolick, CEO of Wendy's
Wendy’s new CEO is fed up with being known as the “third” burger chain.  If you want to pull his chain even more, talk about Wendy’s as the fallen star of the fast-food industry.

In his first interview since being named chief executive, Emil Brolick spoke candidly with a USA Today marketing reporter about his plan to once again make Wendy’s an industry innovator.

It better be a good one.  It will need to fix a company with 6,600 locations worldwide that has been, to quote USA Today, “rudderless in an ocean of competition since its iconic founder, Dave Thomas, died nearly a decade ago.”
When asked what difference he could make, Brolick said, “I’m a big believer in the importance of leadership in an organization.  My leadership can make a difference in this brand.”

He’s right.  And not just for burger chains.  The Bible talks clearly about the spiritual gift of leadership in Romans 12, and challenges those with the gift to step forward and lead.  Since the gifts were given for the building of the church, there can be little doubt that the Holy Spirit finds leadership indispensable for the church’s flourishing.

Brolick then offered a single formula for success.

“Have a vision, a strategy, define reality, give hope and execute.”
I think I like this guy, and may just buy stock in Wendy’s.  I have seldom read a more concise, direct plan for organizational success that resonates with everything I know about leadership.

Let’s unpack it in light of the church.

1.      Have a vision.  We all know that where there is no vision, the people perish.  Or more accurately, run amuck.  Vision is a clear picture of the future that paints a target on the wall.  You can’t ever hit what you don’t aim at.  Vision tells us what we’re aiming at.

What is your vision?  Has it been clearly articulated?

At Meck, our immediate vision is called our 20/20 Vision: to have 20,000 active attenders with ministry in 20 countries by the year 2020.

2.      Have a strategy.  Very few churches have a strategy.  Instead, they have tactics – meaning, things they are doing.  But there isn’t an overarching strategy that leads tactics to be chosen, much less that the tactics feed and support.
What is your strategy?  How do you plan on achieving your vision?

At Meck, our strategy to reach 20,000 attenders is to mobilize our church community to invest in those around them and then invite those very people to attend a growing number of regional campuses throughout our city.  Our strategy involves not only outreach, but assimilation, discipleship, and then unleashing individuals for ministry.

3.      Define Reality.  This is one of the most overlooked aspects of church leadership.  My friend Bill Hybels has, of late, been chanting “facts are our friends.”  He’s right.  If an area of ministry is slipping, if a staff person is not a good fit, if a strategy is not working, if an area needs work, it does no good whatsoever to continue on with a “business as usual” mentality or to gloss it over as if everything is fine.  A leader defines reality, and that helps realities change.  If something is broke, call it broke – and then fix it!  If something is dying, bury it – before it starts to stink!  A good leader won’t just tell you how good things are – they can also tell you exactly where things are weak. 

What is the reality of your church’s situation?  What’s working, and what’s not?
At Meck, we need to relocate one of our new campuses as early as January because its current location/facility is hindering growth.  Our set-up and break-down teams for our two newest campuses are in desperate need of support to prevent burn-out and break-down of volunteers.  We are grossly understaffed in areas of children’s ministry and guest services.  These are realities, and there are many more to go with them.

4.      Give Hope.  It’s been said that you can live for four months without food, four days without water, and four minutes without air - but not four seconds without hope.  It isn’t enough to cast vision, much less to define reality – a leader has to give hope that the vision can become reality; that things can change. 
Does your church feel like it can change?  That it can do what it is being called and challenged to do?

At Meck, we take the first weekend after my summer study break and lay out the God-movements in our church.  When a church has a breakthrough, when progress is being made, it should be brought front and center to the church.  Not simply so that God can be given His glory, though that is primary, but also so that the people can maintain the hope they need that we can continue to kick at the darkness until it bleeds daylight.

5.      Execute.  I recently tweeted about the importance of having a bias for action.  Too often we have a “ready, aim, aim, aim…” mentality.  Fire your dang gun!  There comes a time to pull the trigger on action and decision.
Is your church weighing whether to do something, and it’s been weighing it for a long time?  Is there a “paralysis of analysis” going on?

At Meck, in the last 12 months, we decided to build on one campus, launch two new campuses, begin a ministry to Spanish-speaking persons, add two more countries to our mission investments, and adopt a local school that has the highest poverty rate in the city. 

In truth, having a vision, a strategy, defining reality, giving hope and executing is far from simply a marketplace strategy, much less unique to a fast-food executive.
It’s part and parcel of the exercising of the gift of leadership.

And as the apostle Paul said of the gifts given for the church, “If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously.” (Romans 12:8, NLT).
It’ll flip around more than a burger chain.

James Emery White
“Wendy new CEO has big plans to flip its ranking,” Interview with Emil Brolick, conducted by Bruce Horowitz, USA Today, Tuesday, October 18, 2011, p. 1B and 2B. Read online.
Editor’s Note
To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, log-on, where you can post your comments on this blog, view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world.  Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.