Thoughts On Racism And The Murder Of George Floyd

I have been silent over the last several days as I have watched things unfold in this case. I just have not been able to articulate how I am feeling.

On Monday, May 25, George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis Police Officer. If you have not seen the video, the police officer held Floyd down with force by using his knee to press down on the neck of Floyd. You can hear Floyd say, “I can’t breathe” multiple times.

As I watched that video earlier this week, I had to gather my thoughts and it took nearly a week for me to pen down what I feel about the situation. So, here are my thoughts on racism and George Floyd.

1. America still has a ways to go

Listen, every time that I think we as a nation are beginning to put racism in the rear view mirror, something like this appears to jump on the scene.

It breaks my heart that my black brothers and sisters have to experience moments like this. It breaks my heart to know that in many ways my kids will be treated a bit different than their black friends growing up.

IT SHOULD NOT BE THAT WAY!

Racism is of the devil. Harsh? Maybe, but I am kind of angry about this. Racism and Christianity do not mix. You cannot have both at the same time.

As I survey the aftermath of this evil act, it further shows how far America has to go. When you look at the looting and protests, it shows that there is hatred on both sides. Don’t believe me, look at twitter or facebook. You will see the hatred and the racism in action.

It angers me because racism should not be a thing in this country. We have a long ways to go which breaks my heart.

2. The police officers involved in Floyd’s death should be behind bars today

The fact that this has not happened at the time of me writing this shows how far we as a nation are away from ending racism in our world.

The fact that it took months to arrest the murderers in the Ahmaud Arbery case is beyond me. One look at the video in either circumstances should be enough to arrest the individuals in both cases.

Now, I am not going to get into the legality or politics of the arrest, the rights of the murderers, etc. All I am saying is that after watching both videos, both were murders and they do not need a defense. In fact, there is nothing to defend.

3. If you were angry about looting but not the murder of Floyd, you are part of the problem

Listen, the looting was wrong and evil in and of itself. Setting a building on fire, graffiti on a wall about your dislike for the police officers, or stealing a tv is not going to bring justice in this situation.

But…People are angry and they have a right to be. You cannot fault the black community for what they have been through the last several weeks, but they need to handle this the right way and looting is not the right way to handle this.

As for us watching from a distance, I pray to God that you were way more angry about the murder of Floyd than you were the looting. If you weren’t, you may be part of the problem.

Target will be fine, but the Lloyd family will never be the same.

4. Lloyd was created in God’s image just like myself

This is where I can hardly type for the tears that are in my eyes.

I am not one bit more special, important, or loved than George Lloyd himself, and this is what makes the Gospel so beautiful.

We are all created EQUAL which means we should all be treated EQUAL.

Look, I stand by police officers, and you should as well. They put their lives on the line every single day for our protection, but if our government or law enforcement stereotypes people based on the color of their skin, that is wrong!

Our kids should not have to grow up in a world like that.

5. The church should be leading the way with all of this

Racism is evil. Racism is not of God. I get the world has race issues, because many in the world do not have Jesus which means that the place where racism should be non-existent is within the church.

We should be encouraging unity within the church. We should be encouraging racial equality within the church. We should be encouraging racial diversity within our leadership structures within the church.

Survey your church right now in your mind. What does it look like? Many of our churches are the complete opposite of what I just described which means that many of our churches are going to look much different than the church when we all get to Heaven (from every tribe and nation).

Church leader, you should be striving to create a church where black people are welcome, where Hispanic people are welcome, where white people are welcome, where everyone is welcome.

Your church should be a reflection of the community in which it lives. If there are black people in your community, there should be black people in your church. If there are white people in your community, there should be white people in your church.

I am thankful to say that I am a part of a church just like this, and I love it! I am grateful. Listen, we are not perfect, but when you come in on Sunday (skin color does not matter, because we are all family). {Insert heart emoji, ha}

6. Use your voice

Speak up if you hear racism.

Use social media to speak the truth about racism and how it must stop in our world.

The last thing that this world needs is for us to be silent about this. Now, rioting and looting is not the answer, but using your voice to speak out against racism may be.

7. To my black brothers and sisters…I love you!

I want to speak from my heart for a second…I love black people! I grew up in the country of NC in a church with no black people. We were not racist by any stretch, but my church did not have any black people and my high school only had a few. Here are a couple of things that radically changed my thinking about this:

  • One of my best friend’s in grade school was black (David) – In fact, my sister was best friends with David’s sister. They were the kindest family that I had ever met, and I love them to death to this day.
  • Funeral of a student of mine 10 years ago – When I was a student pastor, I opened up the gym at our church to high school kids to come play basketball. The majority who came were black. I had to show them up from time to time on the court (Okay, I am kidding, they destroyed me on the court to be honest). But, these guys became my friends. One of them had a death in their family, and I attended the funeral. I showed up and the place was packed (like 300 people crammed into a small country church). Here was the thing: I was the only white guy in the building. Seriously, I remember the awkwardness of that day at first, but then things changed. The student who had the death in his family saw me and invited me to sit with them. I will never forget it. I was an outsider, and this kid made me a part of his family. They welcomed me in. I will never forget the kindness that was shown to me. They did not notice me for my skin color at all, they noticed me as an individual. We need to do the same to them. Welcome them into your family.

To the black community, I am sorry for the actions of the people that I cannot control. Don’t judge all of us based on the ones that have hurt you. Please. Not all of us are like that. We love you and are behind you.

Listen, this must change. It has to change. We must treat one another equally. Let’s be a part of the change, and love one another.

Leaders: The Most Important Person You Are To Lead is…Yourself

Leaders lead others, but don’t you wish that you could control those that you lead? I mean then we could get the results we want, right? Well, maybe, but we cannot control our team as leaders.

In leadership, the only one that you have control over is yourself.

You are in charge of you.

I cannot blame others for my behavior. I cannot blame my boss, my friends, or my coworkers for my performance. I am in charge of me.

You are responsible for how disciplined you are right now.

You are responsible for the decisions that you have made over the last year.

You are responsible for your emotions and behaviors.

We tend to blame others for our lack of development. We say things like, “if my former boss had of poured into me, then I would have been further along.” That is not entirely true though if we are responsible for us.

Listen, here is the big idea about leadership: You are not ready to lead others if you have not first led yourself well.

Here are three ways that you can be a good leader of yourself right now:

1. Discipline yourself

Discipline is something that you know you should do but you really do not want to do.

Think about running and exercising. I hate running, but I know it is good for me so I have to discipline myself to run.

We all look at leaders of many and wish we could walk in their shoes, but here is the point: it is usually the small things in life that no one sees that result in the big things that everyone wants.

Being a leader of many doesn’t have overnight, it is a day to day grind of getting better personally that leads to opportunities to lead others.

So, what does leading yourself have to do with personal discipline.

Read. I have never met a good leader who is not a reader. It is that simple. So…read.

Be in community. You need friends. You need mentors. You need accountability. Only you are responsible for seeking this out so do it, because community will help you become better.

Be on time. This is a pet peeve of mine, but being late to stuff is just bad behavior. Listen, set more alarms if you have to. Go to bed earlier the night before. Give yourself some more buffer time. Just be on time.

Excercise. It is good for you. Great leaders know this and practice this. I am a better leader when I am healthier. When I run and take care of my body, I feel better, think better, and lead better.

Get up early. Great leaders make good use of their morning routine, because when the day starts, it is busy. So, get up early and make good use of your morning routine.

Work ahead. Have a calendar, and work on future projects ahead of time. Don’t procrastinate.

Do more than is required. If you are a young leader reading this, this may impress those above you more than anything else on the list. Go the extra mile. People will notice.

Be prepared. Don’t go to meetings and wing it. People notice, and people will not want to follow an unprepared leader. Spend some time prepping for your meetings.

Manage your time well. Listen, it is easy to waste time on social media or binge watching a show on netflix, but manage your time well. Have a calendar and a schedule and stick to it.

The point is discipline yourself, and only you have the capacity to do any of these simple disciplines.

2. Evaluate your “why”

Good leaders evaluate their behaviors; great leaders evaluate their motives.

Listen, if you want to lead better, have a clear understanding of why you do what you do. When you understand “why,” the “how” and the “what” makes so much more sense to your team.

Motives matter.

Craig Groeschel always says, “people will rather follow a leader who is always real than one who is always right.”

Don’t focus on having all of the answers. Focus on having pure motives and a clear understanding for why you do what you do and your organization will grow and respond much better.

3. Ask for help

Listen, although you are responsible for you, I also recognize that we grow best in the context of relationships.

We grow better together.

You need a friend to encourage you.

You need a friend to hold you accountable.

You need a friend to sharpen you.

You need a friend to mentor you.

These relationships matter, but you have to be intentional about all of these relationships. They do not happen by accident. They happen on purpose, and you control that.

Thomas Watson, former CEO of IBM said, “nothing proves a man’s ability to lead others well than what he does day by day to lead himself.”

In other words, you are not ready to lead others if you have not first led yourself well.

3 Questions That Every leader Must Answer When They Communicate

Every leader is a communicator.

Now, you may lead but not with a microphone, but all leaders communicate on a regular basis in different ways. In fact, sometimes the least important way that we communicate is with a microphone.

Leaders communicate through meetings every day.

Leaders communicate with social media every day.

Leaders communicate through emails every day.

Leaders communicate through texts and phone calls every day.

When you think of being a communicator, it is natural to immediately begin thinking of a main stage communicating opportunity. I get it, and I naturally do the same, but when I think of being an effective communicator, it goes way deeper than just the times you have a microphone.

In order to be an effective communicator, I think every time you communicate, you need to answer these three questions:

1. What do I want the audience to know?

If it is an email, what do I want the reader to know? If it is a social media post, what do I want my followers to know?

The point is that every time that you communicate, you need to know what you want the audience to know.

When the information is unclear to the communicator, the information will be unclear to the audience.

No communicator wants to leave the audience confused or bored. If you do, I highly recommend that you stop being a leader and find a new profession.

I would think of this as “the one thing.” What is the “one thing” that I want my readers/audience to know about what I am communicating? When you know what that one simple thing is, communicate it!

Too often, we try and communicate a thousand things in an email, and then our readers hear nothing. It is much easier for a reader to remember one thing rather than encouraging them to read many things.

So, always find that ONE THING and then just talk about it.

2. What do I want my audience to do with this information?

Great speeches inspire people to action. Well, that can be true of an email, social media post, or a meeting. If we want our team to leave the meeting and do something, we must enter the meeting answering this question, “What is the one thing that I am asking my audience to do?”

I have two kids, and when I leave them a list of ten things to do, they struggle to get them done, but when I give them one task at a time, they seem to be more productive.

Team members are the same way. Ask them to do one main thing and I bet you that your team becomes more productive.

The problem is that most team members leave meetings feeling like this:

  • “What was the point of that meeting?”
  • “What are the expectations of me?”
  • “Who is owning what we just talked about?”
  • “I have no idea what he was trying to say in that meeting?”

When you communicate, you have to be clear what you want the readers to do with what you are communicating.

I truly believe that understanding this question will instantly make you a better communicator. The problem is that too many leaders lead meetings/talks/social media posts/or write emails because they are supposed to write them, but they have no idea what they are asking the audience to do.

3. Can my communication be understood clearly?

This is where the proofreading comes into play.

This is where practicing your talk in front of someone else comes into play.

This is where feedback before it is sent comes into play so you can craft something that can easily be understood.

Clear communication takes much more time but you will have much better results.

So take the extra time and communicate clearly.

Be creative. Be compelling. Be transparent. Be passionate. Be brief (no one complains about short emails, but I have gotten my share of complaints about lengthy emails).

You answer these questions, and you are on your way to becoming an effective communicator.

Another Blog Post About Churches Re-opening

How many posts have been written about churches re-opening? Way too many! I mean my inbox has been flooded with posts with subjects like, “Thoughts on churches re-opening,” “things to consider when re-opening,” “when should you re-open.”

Im overwhelmed and a bit exhausted with it. I hesitated even writing about re-opening because every blogger who writes about churches has tried to tackle the subject of re-opening. But before you stop reading, stick this one out. It’s a tad different of a post about the subject that I hope encourages you.

1. Every church will re-open a bit differently and that’s ok.

Listen, not every church is going to do the exact same distancing guidelines that you plan to do, and that’s ok.

Not every church will re-open as fast or as slow as you plan to do, and that’s ok.

Differing opinions about re-opening is the beautiful thing about churches. We can be different and still be okay with one another.

By the way, neither decision of re-opening isn’t a revelation of your spirituality. In other words, if another church opens before you, that doesn’t mean that they are more spiritual than you 🙂

Be okay with the differences and support one another.

2. Don’t be a bad news headline

Look, bad press is bad press. Don’t be that church we see on the news because you refused to listen to experts or you went against the government and claimed that meeting was your rights.

Don’t ignore social distancing guidelines either. Educate yourself and protect your people.

Look, I get it. I recognize the tension, but don’t be a headline, please.

3. Recognize that you may only see 20% of your attendance show up to begin with

It could be a tad higher or a tad lower, but I’m sharing a average percentage that Tony Morgan has found in his survey of churches that have reopened.

Don’t expect your normal attendance numbers or you will be sorely dissappointed

4. Be okay with a pivot

I love what our church is doing. The campus that I serve at meets in an elementary school so we have been told that we can’t return until “possibly” July. We decided to try an outdoor service. We aren’t locking into outdoor every week. We plan to try it once, and if it goes well, we plan to do it again in two weeks.

The point is, when you go back to normal, be prepared to pivot again.

You plan to do 3 services but only fill 2, be okay with pivoting to 2 services the next week.

You set up chairs for 150, and you get 25 people to attend, consider not doing a service and go fully online again or set up a much smaller amount of chairs.

A person in the congregation tests positive for the virus, be prepared to shut it down for 2-3 weeks.

The point is..when you go back, you may not fully go back. You may have to pivot and make adjustments and that’s ok. After all, you have been making a lot of last minute adjustments over the last 10 weeks so you can do this.

5. Don’t go to the extreme to where church is uncomfortable for people

If you obeyed every CDC guideline, you may require masks, no congregational singing, limited seating that is 6 foot apart, no greeters, no community, no kids ministry, temperature checking on the way in, one way in and one way out, and sit in your car until you are escorted directly into the service.

Many of those things need to happen, but I think all of those things combined in a service is a bit much.

Don’t go to the extreme to where church is uncomfortable for people because it will hurt you in the long run.

In fact, some are waiting until they can run church the way they run church and that’s ok (possibly even best).

Everyone has opinions about re-opening and my advice to you is pray and make the wisest decision for your church that you can. Seek advice but in the end, do what’s best for your church and THATS OK.

Helping First Time Guests Return To Your Church For A Second Visit

Every church needs to have first time guests visiting their church in order to grow. It’s not rocket science, right? To grow any organization, you have to get new customers to purchase your product. In churches, you get guests to grow or you don’t grow and stay the same. It’s that simple.

Now, we can talk all day about how to get guests to visit your church. In fact this may be a blog post for another day.

But in this post, I want to talk about how to help your guests return to your church for a second visit. I mean guests are important but second time guests are probably even more important because that shows they are seriously interested in your church.

So, how do we get guests to return to your church? Here are three ways that should help…

1. Make guests feel like part of your family

Have you ever attended a party or gathering where you didn’t feel like you belonged? You attend and you feel left out. You attend and you have no idea what those around you are talking about. It’s terrible. You feel like a third wheel.

Attending and not belonging is a feeling that no one wants to experience twice.

So…think about your church on a weekend. How do people feel when they come in?

Do guests feel like they walked into a country club filled with cliques and they are on the outside looking in? They have to join the “bubble” to belong in other words.

Do guests feel out of place with the standard of dress? Nothing is worse than dressing up on casual night or dressing casual on formal night. If I show up at a church dressed oppositely from everyone else, I probably don’t return.

Do guests feel like part of your family? Think of your biological family. You are most comfortable around them. Are guests comfortable at your church? You are loved and accepted in your biological family. Are guests loved and accepted in your church? You are spoken to and cared for in your biological family. Are guests spoken to and cared for in your church?

The key is how you make guests feel when they come. That’s the difference in them returning.

2. Follow up with all guests

I think there is a balance with follow up. You can’t be too aggressive but you can’t be too passive either. Find the balance and live in the middle.

I cannot tell you the number of times someone has told me that a church never followed up with them after they visited. It happens all of the time, but don’t let it happen to your guests.

When guests attend on Sunday, they should receive some follow up. A phone call or text message.

Hand written notes should go to all guests as a way to say thank you.

In your follow up, always invite them back a second time.

If you don’t have a good follow up plan for guests, you probably don’t have many second time visits. They go hand in hand.

3. Aim to inspire your guests

I love moments where I feel inspired. You do too. We have all seen a viral video that inspired us or heard a speech that inspired us.

How do those moments make you feel?

Inspired to take a step toward something better.

Inspired to change.

Inspired to make a difference.

Inspired by the experience.

Inspired to act and try to change the world.

Let me ask you a question, does anyone leave your church feeling inspired to do any of those things? If not, I bet you don’t have many second time guests visit.

Much of what churches do on a weekend should be well planned out to seek to inspire people.

Look, I get the theology tension with this one. The Holy Spirit does the changing, but we are still responsible for crafting services that give the Spirit a clear path to do His thing. We are responsible for crafting helpful messages that engage audiences to live a life that reflects the truths of the Bible. Now it’s between them and the Holy Sprit whether or not they apply the truths, but we can be instrumental in making the pathway easier for them.

So start being creative in your weekend service.

Plan your music in ways that can inspire them. Sing to inspire your audience. Inspire them with the way you give announcements or in the way you celebrate.

Motivate your audience to change. Dream with your audience about what it would look like in their life if they applied what Jesus says about your topic for that weekend.

Create meaningful prayer times in your service.

People are searching for moments, and church should be one of the best moments of their week.

The problem is most churches put little thought into their weekend experience. It becomes routine.

When the weekend becomes “just routine” to your staff, it becomes “boring” to your audience.

So, every week, seek to inspire.

So to review, if you want guests to return for a second visit, these three things are super important to make that happen: 1) Make them feel like part of your family 2) Follow up with all guests 3) Aim to inspire your guests

You do these three things, and I bet in 3-4 months, you see several guests return for a second visit which will then lead to GROWTH in your church which is what we all want to see!

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