Outside the Box or Lateral Thinking

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Then He called a child to Him and had him stand among them.

“I assure you,” He said, “unless you are converted and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child—this one is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Some would call Jesus’ illustration in this passage, out of the box thinking. I refer to it as lateral thinking. No one in the crowd was thinking of children or of being childlike as being the greatest of anything. The question was, “Who is the greatest in heaven?” Most thoughts would have been on being good, doing the righteous deeds, obeying Jewish law. The people around Jesus on this day would have been thinking surely one or all three of these will be included in Jesus’ answer.

Instead, Jesus calls a child over and has the child stand in the midst of the group. Then He said, “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Notice, He doesn’t address who is the greatest. He is saying, your thinking is all wrong. You are not focused on what the kingdom is about. It appears His questioners were concerned about social status in heaven. With this simple and plain metaphoric illustration, Jesus causes each one to abandon their original thinking.

Parents to pastors to CEOs can use lateral thinking. We all lead in some capacity. Learning to practice lateral thinking and deploying lateral thinking to those whom we lead is of great value and will bring success in family as well as business and ministry.

Lateral thinking requires metaphorically using a similar pattern of thought to convey one’s message. More than a simple metaphor, lateral thinking requires each listener to engage the higher order thought processes of the mind. This engagement will configure the illustration (metaphor) to the subject at hand.

Placing this child center stage and making His statement, Jesus literally obliterated the normal thinking of His day. In His day and culture, women, much less children, were not considered in levels of greatness or leadership. Until this very moment, this was not a conceivable concept. Yet, because this master teacher, Jesus, so simplistically laid it out, the mind of every person present began to construct the concept, what it meant, and what the kingdom of God looked like.

Jesus did not say you must become children. He said, unless you change and become like children. Like is the key word upon which the thinking now shifts. What is a child like? How are they different than adults? What about a child would gain him entrance to heaven and not me? Every person in earshot is now  thinking along these lines.

This brilliant use of lateral thinking by Jesus not only changed their thinking processes, it would have brought humility to those who thought through the idea. Once you realize the needed change Jesus is referring to, humility would certainly come into play realizing as adults we have abandoned the practices of children to which Jesus is referring.

Learning to use lateral thinking to create a new, more operative mindset, will always lead to more effective productivity and a growing disciple. Thinking outside the box is good. Taking it a step further to using lateral thinking will build stronger, growing disciples.

George Yates is a Church Health Strategist assisting churches, organizations, Pastors and individuals to reach their full God-given potential.

Metaphor = a word or phrase denoting one kind of object or idea used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them.

We Need More Stick To It!

There are no overnight successes, with fruit trees, or in ministry.

In reading several articles this past weekend, I came across a statement that I find so prevalent for ministry today. Why is it that so many ministry leaders have such a difficult time staying on course? Perhaps it is the very reason the majority of churches in North America are plateaued and declining. Is it the excitement and intrigue of finding the next best thing, the latest, greatest ministry concept or program? Perhaps it is boredom with what we’ve been trying for the past six months. Or, could it be that we have a generation of ADHD ministry leaders?

There is a lot of good processes and resources available for ministry today. Granted, there are some not so good as well – at least not for every situation. A program or ministry that worked well in one location, may not be right for another church in a different setting. The programs and processes used to reach people living in the inner city may not be as effective in rural or suburban America. When we learn of something that “worked” for another church, we need not try to copy it. A copy is never as good as the original. Instead, we need to capture the principle. Principles cross all timelines, cultural, and racial barriers. Bring the principles of success to your ministry. Then apply those principles to your ministry endeavors. Do not copy models, capture principles. This is where true success is found, Godly, biblical principles.

While I truly believe the effectiveness of any church has as its foundation these Godly, biblical based principles, this is not the key to which I am driven to write about today. The sentence I read which produced my thought process and spurring of writing this post is; “All of the senior leaders must stay involved.” This is so vital for church leaders. And yet it is lacking in so many of our churches. Even when we find a “good thing” and begin to work it, it is not long before we are ready to move on to something newer, bigger, promising better results. As church leaders we need a better stick to it mentality.

I planted two apple trees on my property several years ago. I did not expect to reap a harvest the first few years. But that did not stop me from watering, spraying, pruning, and fertilizing those trees. Three years went by, four, then five. Those trees are now producing fruit. But it took time and patience. If I had treated those trees like we treat ministry processes in the church, I would have cut them down after the first year and planted peach trees expecting peaches in one year.

There are no overnight successes, with fruit trees, or in ministry. The leadership of the church must prayerfully decide which processes to pursue. Then like the fruit trees, we must patiently care for and nurture those processes, even when we see no fruit in sight. It takes three to five years for a fruit tree to bear fruit (some longer). It also takes three to five years to change the culture of a church or other organization (sometimes longer). When you start something and you have not given it three to five years before moving on to try some newer, “better” idea, your biggest accomplishment is informing your members that we do not stick to anything around here.

Capture the principles, find the right process for your ministry environment. Then stick with it. When you tire of it, thinking you’ve seen read, and heard it enough, your people are just getting it. Press on. Stay the course and stay involved.

George Yates is a church health strategist assisting churches, leaders, and individuals across North America in understanding and fulfilling their God-given purpose.

Doing the Right Thing

Matthew 8:1-4

When He came down from the mountain, large crowds followed Him. Right away a man with a serious skin disease came up and knelt before Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”

Reaching out His hand He touched him, saying, “I am willing; be made clean.” Immediately his disease was healed. Then Jesus told him, “See that you don’t tell anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses prescribed, as a testimony to them.”

Jesus was willing to touch the leper, an untouchable. Not only touch him, Jesus healed this man of his skin disease, because it was the right thing to do. Leprosy was a disease that would literally rot away the skin of a person. In Jesus day it was believed to be highly contagious. Lepers were not allowed to live or travel in “normal” healthy civilization. Those infected formed leper colonies and lived in communal groups within a mile or two of larger cities. A leper was forbidden to come within a certain safe distance from persons without this dreaded skin disease. Lepers were outcasts from society.

For a healthy member of society to even rub against the hem of a leper’s garment made the healthy unclean. Any unclean person then had to be subjected to ostracism for a period of days to insure he had not contracted the disease. For someone to reach out and touch the skin of an infected leper, an untouchable, was inviting banishment and exclusion from the city and society.

Jesus having grown up in Jewish society, knew all of these ramifications. Yet, He never hesitated in reaching out to touch the leper in order to heal him. A true leader is always ready and willing to do what is right (righteous) to get the objective accomplished, even when it goes against conventional practices.

Are you practicing like Jesus, willing to go against conventional thought to do the right thing? Or do you live in safety, not wanting someone to think ill of you? We talk a good game, and maybe act from a distance, making a donation, saying a prayer. Yet our actions seldom have us touching the untouchables.

What situations in your life – at work, home, church, sports – do you need to adjust your actions to do the right thing, regardless of what others think or say? Are you willing to touch the untouchable?

George Yates is a Church Health Strategist, assisting churches, Pastors, and individuals to reach for their full God-given potential.

The Key to a Well Attended Event

Over the years, working behind the scenes I have been asked, “How do you get such higher attendance at your events than others can?” (At the end of this post you’ll read one example) I suppose there are three “P’s” I could refer to: Prayer, Pulling together a good team, and Promotion. You’ve probably got a fairly decent handle on the first two so let me focus on the third one. I believe this is truly the one biggest breakdown for many events and the key to the success of only a few. More than having a big name, well known speaker, or a fancy cutting edge title, most events are poorly attended due to weak promotion.

A couple of years ago, I was in California on a speaking tour and visiting a ministry where I had served for years. Walking through the office, I overheard the person in charge of promotions state to a newer employee, “It’s all about the seven touches!”  I smiled really big inside because that is the key I am writing about. And it was so successful while I was working with this ministry, that this lady has adopted it as the ministry’s mantra as well as her own. Hopefully, you will do the same.

The theory (or law) of Seven touches is simply this: You must put the information for any event in front of all possible attendees no less than seven times for most people to grasp it and make the commitment to attend. Now, let’s break down what that really entails. It is not seven times of the same means or wording. Your delivery must be varied. For example, today, many organizations rely on e-mail alone to promote an event. This is not good as it will connect (at the level you desire) with only about 10 percent of your audience. It is okay to use e-mail, but not e-mail alone.

Your promotion should include:

·        An event specific mailing postcard or brochure promoting nothing except the event. (One 3 months out and another 4-5 weeks out is ideal)

·        Your organization’s magazines, newsletters, or regular programs, the three issues prior to the event.

·        Promotional materials to each church to display and print in their newsletters and weekly programs

·        E-mails to not only pastors or church office inbox. Create a list of other leaders in the churches who would benefit by attending the conference. Multiple e-mails should be sent during the months leading up to the event – change the wording.

·        Social media – take advantage of all the free publicity and promotion by using social media (Facebook, Twitter, Linked-in and others). Encourage those on your “friends” list to pass the message along to their friends as well. You have just multiplied your contact base by hundreds. The more people who share it, the greater the multiplication!

·        Announce the upcoming event at all meetings two-three months prior.

·        Make personal contacts. Personally invite every pastor and church leader you see and visit with to attend the event. Set aside time and call pastors and church staff members encouraging them to attend.

If you will invest a little time and energy in promoting your event you will see results. I can assure you of this because I’ve lived it and it has proven true time and again. One ministry where I served, we created a new annual equipping event in a region where no one (not even the largest of organizations) had ever (in 20 plus years) had more than  250 people in attendance for any event. I did not know this when I set our goal at 400. Almost twice what the best attended events accomplished. While no one laughed at my expectations, they tried to break it to me gently. But God had a different idea. We not only reached 400. Our goal of 400 was blown away as 520 attended the first year and grew each year following. Prayer and promotion were the key with a good team pulling together.

Do not cut corners when promoting an event. It’s not that “they” don’t care, or don’t want to attend. It is mainly because we’re not getting the information in front of them enough – in the right manner. Make the seven touches a part of your mantra and your event planning – you will see the difference. Seven is the threshold, don’t stop at seven if you can use ten.

George Yates is a Church Health Strategist and Coach, assisting churches, pastors, and individuals reach for their full God-given potential.

Dealing With Obstacles in the Road of Life

The story is told of a very wealthy and curious king. His curiosity led the king to study the character of his subjects. One day this king had a huge boulder placed in the middle of a busy roadway. Then he hid nearby to see if anyone would try to remove the gigantic rock from the road.

Some of the wealthiest merchants in his kingdom were the first to pass by. Rather than moving the stone, each of these wealthy businessmen walked around it. Not knowing the king was close by, some loudly blamed the King for not maintaining the roads. But, not one of them tried to move the boulder.

A group of women and children came to the boulder in the road. Believing they could not move the boulder, and considering it too risky to try to go around it, they turned and retreated the same direction from which they had traveled.

Also, passing by the boulder were some of the highest educated men in the kingdom. They too, went out of their way, walking around the boulder, without trying to move it, complaining as they walked. Not one of them stopped to try to move the boulder.

Finally, a peasant came along. His arms were full of vegetables. When he got near the boulder, rather than simply walking around it as the others had, the peasant put down his load and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. It took a lot of effort but he worked at it until he was successful and the boulder was resting on the side of the roadway.

The peasant gathered up his load and was ready to go on his way when he saw a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The peasant opened the purse and found it stuffed full of gold coins and a note from the king. The king’s note said the purse’s gold was a reward for moving the boulder from the road.

The king’s actions demonstrated to the peasant what many of us never understand: every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve our condition. We all find obstacles in the road of life. What we do as we approach these obstacles always impacts what we face further down the road. We can stop, turn around, and retreat. We can maneuver around the obstacles and go on our merry way. Or we can do as the peasant; Confront the obstacle, and improve life’s condition for us and those who come behind us.

There may not be a purse of gold under your next obstacle. Still, how will you approach it? Will you face the obstacle and improve life’s condition for you and others? This is worth much more than a small bag of gold.

George Yates is a Church Health Strategist and life coach assisting churches, organizations, and individuals in reaching their greatest potential.

 

 

Inside the Golden Gift wrapped Box

Once upon a time, there was a man who worked very hard just to keep food on the table for his family. One year a few days before Christmas, he punished his little five-year-old daughter after learning that she had used up the family’s only roll of expensive gold wrapping paper.

As money was tight, he became even more upset when on Christmas Eve he saw that the child had used all the expensive gold paper to decorate one shoebox she had put under the Christmas tree. He also was concerned about where she had gotten money to buy what was in the shoebox.

Nevertheless, the next morning the little girl, filled with excitement, brought the gift box to her father and said, “This is for you, Daddy!” As he opened the box, the father was embarrassed by his earlier overreaction, now regretting how he had punished her.

But when he opened the shoebox, he found it was empty and again his anger flared. “Don’t you know, young lady,” he said harshly, “when you give someone a present, there’s supposed to be something inside the package!”

The little girl looked up at him with sad tears rolling from her eyes and whispered: “Daddy, it’s not empty. I blew kisses into it until it was all full.”

The father was crushed. He fell on his knees and put his arms around his precious little girl. He begged her to forgive him for his unnecessary anger.

It is said that an accident took the life of the child only a short time later. The father kept this little gold box by his bed for the rest of his life. Whenever he was discouraged or faced difficult problems, he would open the box, take out an imaginary kiss, and remember the love of his beautiful daughter who had given all that she had.

Each one of us has been given an invisible golden box filled with unconditional love and kisses from our children, family, friends and God. There is no more precious possession anyone could hold. This Christmas season, be sure to open and treasure this precious gift.

Unknown source

May God richly bless you this Christmas with love and kisses. Merry Christmas to you and your household!

 

Lessons from a Childhood Christmas Memory

As a child one of my earliest Christmas shopping memories was a particular shopping trip with my Dad & brothers. Our goal was to each pick out a gift for Mom. Dad would purchase the gifts, take them home, wrap them, and place them under the tree until Christmas morning.

As we walked through the perfume section of the store, I saw what I thought looked like a stage coach with perfume bottles in it. I grew up in an era where westerns were king and every boy wanted to be a cowboy. Intrigued by the “stagecoach”, I spoke up and told Dad that’s what I wanted for Mom.

To my surprise, Dad reached up and picked only one piece of the stage coach. Instead of a stage coach, what I had chosen looked more like a canoe with a bottle of perfume. My disappointment quickly faded as Dad handed it to me to place in the shopping cart. I was thrilled, looking at this small boat-like canister white and dazzling with glitter. I was extremely excited to buying (with Dad’s money) a gift so shiny and sparkling for my Mother.

In fact, as soon as I got back to my Mother, with extreme excitement in my voice I said, “Mom, let me tell you what I got you.” Dad interrupted me right away to explain that it would not be a surprise Christmas morning if I told Mom what I bought her. From that moment until Christmas morning, I could hardly contain myself. I so wanted to let it out. I was ready to burst with excited emotion, desiring to tell my Mother of this special gift.

Those are great memories of childhood Christmases. As I reflect on memories like this one, I also think of the Christ of Christmas. The reason we celebrate Christmas. If an inexpensive, plastic, canoe shaped perfume container could evoke that much excitement and exuberance, how much more deserving is the one who came to earth as a child to offer me a home in heaven? Is my excitement for Him paled in comparison to the excitement I displayed as a child over this one small gift?

Where is your excitement this Christmas season? Will it be displayed at the opening of presents? The sharing of fond memories with family? How much excitement will be displayed through your words and actions this Christmas season for the one who provides so much in your life, including an opportunity to spend eternity in a place called heaven?

Enjoy this Christmas season recalling the Christ of Christmas and all He has brought you through.

George Yates is a Church Health Strategist and life coach assisting pastors, churches, and individuals to reach their God-given potential.

No Thumb, Advantage One

The story is told of an African king who had a close friend with whom he grew up. The friend had a habit of looking at every situation that ever occurred in his life (positive or negative) and remarking, “This is good!”

One day the king and his friend were out on a hunting expedition. The friend would load and prepare the guns for the king. The friend had apparently done something wrong in preparing one of the guns, for after taking the gun from his friend, the king fired it and his thumb was blown off. Examining the situation the friend remarked as usual, “This is good!” To which the king replied, “No, this is NOT good!” and sent his friend to prison.

About a year later, the king was hunting in an area that he should have known to stay clear of. Cannibals captured him and took him to their village. They tied his hands, stacked some wood, set up a stake and bound him to the stake. As they came near to set fire to the wood, they noticed that the king was missing a thumb. Being superstitious, they never ate anyone that was less than whole. So untying the king, they sent him on his way.

As he returned home, he was reminded of the event that had taken his thumb and felt remorse for his treatment of his friend. He went immediately to the prison to speak with his friend. “You were right,” he said, “it was good that my thumb was blown off.” And he proceeded to tell the friend what happened. “And so I am very sorry for sending you to jail for so long. It was bad for me to do this.”

“No,” his friend replied, “This is good!” “What do you mean, ‘This is good’? How could it be good that I sent my friend to prison for a year?”

His friend replied, “If I had NOT been in jail, I would have been with you.”

You might need to let that last line sink in. Can you say in all situations, “This is good.”?

Life may not always seem fair. Trouble and trails come into the life of every person. Yet, when we look for some good thing in every situation, we will experience a better life. Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble.”

Why not begin today; find and possibly write down some good thing coming from every situation you find yourself in. If you will journal these, and look back over them in one year, you will have a story to tell. A story to encourage others.

George Yates is a Church Health Strategist and life coach assisting pastors, churches, and individuals to reach their God-given potential.

So Much Love

In the motion picture, Marvin’s Room, there are two sisters who have been estranged for many years. When one of them is diagnosed with cancer, the other sister arrives to help take care of her. In one of the final scenes of the movie, the two sisters are talking about their lives, and the one with cancer says, “I’m so lucky. I’m so lucky. I’ve had so much love in my life.” “Yes, yes,” the other sister agrees, barely looking at her sister while she cleans the kitchen. “You’ve always had people around you who loved you.” “Oh no,” the other sister says with a look of surprise. “I’m lucky because I’ve been able to love so many people.”

Love comes in many forms, shapes and sizes. Love is not only held between husband and wife. It extends beyond family relationships. Too often, especially in our culture today, we cheapen the act of love, using the same word for our favorite meal as our most cherished soul-mate. I love a steak dinner. I love my wife. Love is not based on a word. Love is based on action.

Love is not relegated to family members. Love is displayed through our actions. This movie scene portrays love among family, and demonstrates the greatest characteristic of love.

True love is not about what I receive from another person. The greatest characteristic of love is demonstrated in how many other people I pour myself into and the depth of my pouring. I can give to a worthy cause and talk of how good it is. But, unless I take action in upholding that cause, I am not necessarily demonstrating love.

I can give a cup of cold water to someone thirsty without love. Two organizations set up a booth side by side in the community festival. One, a church giving bottles of cold water “in Jesus name”. In the booth next to them was a group of atheist’s also handing out bottles of water. We want to believe the group who holds most closely to our beliefs is truly demonstrating love. But what of the other group? Love requires more than simply a free handout.

It is said many young people in our inner cities join gangs because the gangs are the only place in their lives where love is demonstrated. The only place where they feel a sense of acceptance and belonging. Gangs are pouring into these young lives to get their commitment. Perhaps, in some strange sense, these rough gangs have learned the true art of love better than the government, families, churches, and other organizations in our society.

What about you, who are you truly pouring love into? Can you say as the lady dying with cancer, “I’m blessed because I’ve been able to love so many people”? How are  you demonstrating this great characteristic of love and teaching others to do likewise?

George Yates is a Church Health Strategist coaching pastors, churches and individuals in reaching for their greatest God-given potential.

Champions at Heart, (Endo & Morgan)

I recently read the story of a young equestrian rider, Morgan and her horse Endo. In her teens, Morgan had been diagnosed with Lupus, a disease that attacks your own body. Morgan struggled as the disease worsened through the years. She even considered at one time taking her life with an overdose of pills. The one thing that stopped her was her thoughts of Endo, the horse her grandmother had given her as a foal when she was 13. They had grown up together. Morgan was now 28 and about to do something that three years earlier she thought would never be possible.

Three years prior, Endo lost his sight and had his eyes surgically removed. Her horse was blind. Through his blindness, Endo would teach Morgan to be a survivor. The day following his surgery, Morgan expected Endo to be clumsily or worse, in terror, thrashing around bumping into walls in his stall. When she went out to tend to him she found the opposite. Endo would turn around in his stall and maneuver his way around as if he had not a care in the world. He never bumped into a wall, feeder, or any other obstacle in his stall. Later, as she sat on the floor talking to him, he was eating straw from the pile beneath her feet.

Morgan cared for and tended her horse as usual, every day. In time, they began riding again. This required trust on both horse and rider. Endo trusted Morgan’s voice and hand guidance. Morgan had to trust Endo would not spook or balk at a jump throwing her frail body to the ground.

On this day, three years after Endo’s eye surgery, they were competing in a prestigious equestrian event in Oregon with 11 obstacles to avoid. Not only did they compete, they won first place. They have competed and performed in the US and Canada since. In 2016 they performed in the Breyerfest Carnival in the horse capitol of Lexington, KY.

Like Endo and other animals, people also are very adaptive. With proper care and love we can move on beyond our infirmities and hardships. Morgan and Endo built trust in each other. The trust they built after their afflictions was founded in the life they had lived together prior to those afflictions. Our trust in each other is based on our faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Let us pray for, care for, and trust one another in order to accomplish all that God has placed us here for.

George Yates is a Church Health Strategist and life coach assisting pastors, churches, and individuals to reach their God-given potential.