Remarkable Product

“Create remarkable products that the right people seek out.”

The above quote comes from Seth Godin’s book “Purple Cow.” So far this book is about the changes of marketing over the years. The old mindset of marketing consisted of produce the right advertisement and get it to as many people as possible. But over something shifted and the new mindset is make a great product and get it in the hands of the right people. What stands out to me most is the idea of a “remarkable product” and how this idea applies to the modern day church.

Think of it this way; most churches are stuck. They are inwardly-focused and concerned more with the people in the building than the people outside of it. Our culture has shifted though and churches are dying (and have been) although most didn’t notice. We’ve marketed the church to Christians. We have programs that Christians would enjoy. We market books, conferences, retreats and cruises that are “Christ” centered to the church goers. We have events that keep our kids safe and away from the heathen population around us. We have essentially, mass marketed ourselves to well, ourselves. We have stopped worrying about the “product” which we market; in this case Jesus Christ and have exhausted our resources. Old Christians are dying. There are few new Christians to market to and because of this our product of Christ suffers.
The church has the most marketable and remarkable product ever created; eternal salvation, heaven on earth, peace, hope, love, joy all made possible through Jesus Christ. Granted Christ isn’t a product, we didn’t create Him. The idea of Christ as a product is to illustrate an important principle; we have lost focus of the church. If we are weakening Christ and His message by being a self-focused, self-indulgent church than we don’t have the promise product that the world needs to meet.

Here is the bottom line on this train-wreck of a thought: The church mass marketed to themselves their own product which they already have and are failing to market it the right people. The church is decaying due to poor marketing of a remarkable product.

The mission of the church is simple: Love God and love others. The way we love God and live our life will reflect Christ and gives us an opportunity to market this remarkable product to the seeking soul. We cannot do this though if we are only concerned with our church and other Christians.

In the book of Jeremiah God speaks to his people, who have lost their way and says:

“There’s no use offering me sweet frankincense from Sheba. Keep your fragrant calamus imported from distant lands! I will not accept your burnt offerings. Your sacrifices have no pleasing aroma for me.” (Jeremiah 6:20, NLT)

In other words the people weren’t doing what God called them to do; they lost their way. They worried about the impending dangers that surrounded them. They turned to themselves and other nations for answers but failed to focus on God and His message. These folks had God in their corner but failed to do as He wanted. They had a product and failed to market it.

As Christians we are doing the same thing. We live in fear of change. We look toward ourselves for the answer and fail to do as Christ commanded us. Our inward focus has created a medial product. There is hope though. God didn’t leave us out to dry. He knew that we would struggle with inward mindsets and selfishness of His Son but He gave us the solution. The solution is change. Change our view, our way of worship, our way of marketing to ourselves and live a new life for Him.

“Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.” (Ephesians 5:2)

If we do this, if we change from selfish inward views and get back to the mission that Christ exemplified in the Gospels; we have hope. A life of love is concerned with others who don’t know the greatest source of love. The disciples didn’t hangout together all day; they went and spread the message of love. They died to themselves and they died horrible deaths to become a pleasing aroma to God. They took the message to the streets and marketed their remarkable product of Christ to the lost souls who needed Him. That stance, that message should be what drives our churches. It takes sacrifice. It takes difficult changes but it is what we must do to revive our product. Jesus Christ is the most amazing gift to the world; a world that is seeking something and needs to hear about Him. What are you going to do about this church? How are we going to get our remarkable “product” to the seeking souls?


Build a Battalion

“You cannot prevent a major catastrophe, but you can build an organization that is battle-ready, that has high morale, that knows how to behave, that trusts itself, and where people trust one another. In military training, the first rule is to instill soldiers with trust in their officers, because without trust they won’t fight.” -Peter Drucker

I read the above quote in Stephen M.R. Covey’s The Speed of Trust. This book comes as a required reading from our pastoral group meeting we have once a month. In this meeting we discuss things such as spiritual health, the health of our various churches and our plans to make both a success. In all the meetings that I have been apart of in this pastoral ministry this is the first time we have discussed the topic of trust. While I am not enamored with Covey he certainly makes valid points. Trust is a bonding agent that we can all use in our lives. If there is no trust than the is little to no progress, comradery and we create a pseudo-culture.

When I worked in the hospital setting we launched a campaign for the workers of the hospital to “Get on the bus.” This essentially was the companies way of saying, we have custom service issues and need to re-educate you. This campaign was a miserable failure. It was launched at the wrong time, under the wrong leadership and with little trust. It cost the hospital close to a half-million dollars by my meager estimate. Fast forward a couple years. There is a new leader at the helm, a new owner of the hospital and while trust wasn’t fully accepted, it was slowly gaining momentum. Another campaign was launched, but not one to attack the short-comings of the staff but one to build the level of trust between leadership and staff; this campaign was simply called “Town Halls.” This town hall setting gave the employees insights into the current status of the hospital, the vision of where things are heading and allowed for questions. The President of the hospital herself headed these meetings over the course of two or three days at various hours so that all staff could attend. She knew she was new and had to build trust. While still an expensive venture for the hospital this shift from attack the short-comings to challenge the future made all the difference in the world. She built trust, things were done effectively and efficiently. We made it through an extremely trying time at the hospital with Medicare changes, going paperless, new owners, and new rules. Her initiative to lead with trust pulled together the workforce and we succeeded on all levels.

Just like the Peter Drucker quote at the start of this post; trust starts with confidence in ourselves. If we develop self-confidence that trickles down into our circle of influences. Our trust moves from self to others believing in us as a leader and before we know it; the battalion is built. Whatever the cause; church, business or otherwise if there is no trust there is no forward motion. Leaders must be visible  ethical and display excellence in the small daily tasks of life. If we do those things our trust level with the individuals we lead will go up tenfold. This is true in the church world, the corporate world and even in your own home. Trust is built, given, and useful in all situations in life. Start displaying it today. “Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture” (Psalm 37:3, NIV).

Leading with a “thumbs up”

Last night I elected to trade sleep to watch the BCS game between Alabama and Notre Dame. The game was was relatively one sided and ultimately led to the Crimson Tide rolling their way to their third BCS title in four years under coach Nick Saban. The game displayed passion, leadership and a heart to win but what will leave an impression on me is a simple thumbs up.

The game had ended and Saban, who at this point was covered in Gatorade runs out onto the field surrounded by security, team members and an assortment of media. As coach Saban ran onto the field, he didn’t appear to be looking for a hug of recognition or a camera to talk into; he simply turned around giving a thumbs up to his players, staff and fan base. This is leadership. More importantly, this is leadership with humility. Nick Saban is something of legend. He will make close to 6 million dollars this year. This is his 4 over BCS title and he has clearly established the makings of a dynasty at Alabama. It would have been easy in the moment to seek attention, a camera, a hug but he turned with his thumb in the air to affirm the team around him.

Leadership knows humility. When we take the office, the courtroom, the pulpit or the stage we should carry this powerful tool of humility with us at all times. The Bible talks of humility on several occasions and God appreciates a humble leader. 

“He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.” (Psalms 25:9)

A good leader is one who places their team first. A great leader is one who leads other along the path of humility. A simple thumbs up to a team member today could be a foundation for productivity and trust tomorrow. 



“I” for an “I”:

The letter “I” is something magnificent. In Roman numerals it signifies “1.” In our culture it points to the individual (Me, Myself and I). “I” is commonly used in our language as the first letter of the prefix “in” which can be placed on several words for example: different becomes “indifferent” or the word secure can be transformed to “insecure.” This simple change creates a new meaning to the root word.

In the church world and the business world the use of “I” can be a killer of business. When “we” becomes “I” momentum shifts and feelings become numb. The interesting paradox that surrounds “I” words is that while there are five that kill business momentum there are at least three that redeem it. Those five killer “I” words are: Individualism, incrementalism, indulgence, intolerance and ignorance.

Individualism: This brings us back to our culture of the use of “I.” If it is only one person making a difference than not much difference will be made. When we take credit on an individual level and don’t promote the atmosphere of a team, we will kill the momentum that has been built. We must acknowledge the idea that no one stands alone. We are in this church, business and life together.

Incrementalism: This is the idea of thinking small. In his book “Axiom” Bill Hybels writes:

“Almost all churches have one thing in common when they first start out: sky-high idealism… People pray big prayers, they give big dollars, they donate big-time hours, and they believe God is quite capable of doing absolutely anything through them.”

When we start to think small, we shrink ourselves, our co-workers, and our vision. In the church setting when we shrink God into a something we can wrap our minds around, we cheat ourselves, our God and our churches. We serve a big God, with a big vision and we need to keep that big idea in our heads.

 Indulgence: Here I don’t want to come across as a fuddy-duddy but we live a life of indulgence in America. The american church is the richest church ever to be formed; what are we doing with the riches? Most times we are spending them on ourselves, not even within the church. We buy the new car, home, computer, phone, etc…. I am guilty of this as well, but what if we reprioritized  What if we took that money and those possessions that we have and gave them for Kingdom use? Not gave them away, just looked for avenues that God could use them in. It is no secret that we are blessed in the US but we could be a much larger blessing to the world if we weren’t so indulgent to ourselves. We need to up our giving of money, time and resources. As the old preacher says “We have all the money we need, the problem is, it is still in your wallets.”

Intolerance: This is a big one no matter what you do in life. Intolerance has come to the forefront of our world. It seems when we fail to understand something, we start to hate it. We become indifferent towards the subject and will not even allow that subject to state it’s case. The subject could be money, life-style choices, religion, control, etc… It doesn’t matter, the issue is when intolerance happens, systems breakdown and hatred wins the day. We have to keep conversations alive for progress to be made but if intolerance interferes we will be in the same place we started or perhaps even further apart. We may not always agree, but we can at least be civil in the discussions that happen. This goes for all areas in our lives regardless if it is at work, church or even in our own homes.

Ignorance: Some may argue that intolerance and ignorance are one in the same but there is a difference. Intolerance can happen even if we have complete understanding of the subject matter, we just draw a line and will not move from it. Ignorance however comes when we fail to research the topic and ignore the voices of reason. Ignorance is the idea that people just don’t care to learn about anything that is uncomfortable or uninteresting to their current views in life. Ignorance in a business will absolutely kill production and sales. If you don’t know what you are building or selling, your product will be a complete failure. If you are a church member or leader and ignore the Bible, the finances of the church or the community in which you live; the church will slowly die. The more ignorance in a setting the quicker the death of the product or church will happen. We have to be willing to read and educate ourselves and others if we are going to produce in our society.

Now that the gloom and doom “I” words have been identified there are a few that can fix these issues. This is not by any means an extensive list but certainly a starting off point to renew our environments in life.

Intention: When we are intention in our lives we will be more productive. When we intentionally focus our thoughts on our work, our Savior or our family that is when life change will occur. When we make an intentional effort to do the opposite of the above “I” words we will build momentum in our various arenas of life and create more joy in living. Intentional practices team-thinking, vision-casting, generosity  tolerance, and education will build a better world. 

Intimacy: Aside from being intentional in life, if we become intimate with life things start to change. Intimacy with your product will increase your joy for building or selling it in most cases. Intimacy with your God will build a relationship of trust with Him. Intimacy with your family will build a foundation of love. Intimacy with you church and community will create a sense of familiarity with one another that cannot be broken. When we are filled with intentional intimacy we will have an impact on where we are in life.

Integrity: Integrity is the cornerstone of trust. If we are filled with integrity it will pour out from us. People will see the moral and ethical code that God instilled in us and learn from it. Integrity is built through the ideas intention and intimacy. If we are clear that in our intent and show a deep level of intimacy toward the subject matter, then we will show our integrity. Integrity restores faith in humanity and builds up the broken in life.

This list of negatives and positives isn’t extensive but is a great place to start your thinking. As a pastor, I have seen all of these come into play at one time or another in the church. When I worked at the hospital the five demon “I’s” would rear their ugly heads but would be countered with the three “I’s” of wisdom. Regardless of who you are currently, identify the problem areas in life will allow you to make way for a new journey. Try removing a negative and adding a positive and see if this isn’t one of the best years ever.

Why fret?

My New Year’s resolution is a simple one; to read more. More specifically I would like to read at least 30 books this year. I will admit that I did cheat a little, I started reading “Soul Shift” by Steve DeNeff and David Drury, toward to end of December to get an early start on the New Year. I must have found this book to be interesting as I finished it this morning. One thing from this book stood out to me and that is the idea of needing to move away from self to see God.

I found myself inundated with thoughts about our need to just be with God and not worry about protecting ourselves or our identities. We become too concerned with who we think we are or how others perceive us. In all actually there is only One who matters. The bottom-line to this life is that if we are not living it to be with God, than we truly are not living at all. The book of Galatians speaks of this when Paul wrote:

“Obviously, I’m not trying to be a people please! No, I am trying to please God. If I were still trying to please people, I would not be Christ’s servant.” (Gal. 1:10, NLT)

My goal this year is to stay in tune with the spirit of this passage; that no matter what I do, if it isn’t for God; it doesn’t matter. As a leader there is always pressure to succumb to the nature of the organization. There is either pressure to produce or maintain. There is pressure to please others and make nice with those who have been there longer and know better than you do. This year, that all goes out the window. This year, I am shifting to listen and seeing the unseen. This year, God’s voice will be heard through my life regardless of the affect it has on others. I believe in a loving God that speaks to His people and when He speaks it will be overflowing with love. Yes, there will still be tough choices to make but if it is God leading, than God willing, we will all get along and move forward in our faith.

I believe that …

I believe that the first test of a truly great man is his humility. Really great men have a curious feeling that the greatness is not in them but through them. And they see something divine in ever other man and are endlessly, incredibly merciful. – John Ruskin

Humility is something we should always keep in mind.