Longing for Revival pt2

When I was 12 years old, I started praying for my dad’s reconversion to faith. He was a minister and left the pastorate for reasons that are beyond me. Growing up in a Pentecostal church means that we pray. And when we were done praying, we prayed some more. Prayer was a desperate cry for God to do something that we couldn’t do on our own. It wasn’t begging or pleading. It was what we call interceding. It’s the kind of prayer we make for divine intervention.

My dad had been drinking a lot after he left the ministry and things got very volatile. For reasons beyond my understanding, my dad ended up in jail 3 times (to the best recollection I have). After the 3rd time, something happened to my dad. He started talking about Jesus again. His life verse has always been John 3:16 (I like 3:17) and he began to experience that kind of love.

It took some time for him (and I) to undergo some major healing and reconciling but I’m happy to say that my dad is now preaching again and loves Jesus more than ever! He’s really a spiritual father and covering in my life.

After reading “Longing for Revival“, I was reminded of my holy discontent at a young age and praying for my dad to be transformed. I prayed for 13 years and in the 2nd year of my marriage, it happened. My dad and I had the kind of conversation that led to repentance, reconciliation, and renewal.

I share this personal story because all of us have some dry and dead areas in our lives. Relationships. Dreams. Career goals dashed to the ground. Broken marriages. Struggling children.

In those 13 years of praying, not only did my dad change….I changed.

In ch2 (From Holy Discontent to Crucified Hope), the authors (Ryan and James) start to map out their U-Shape for revival and breakthrough. There are 6 stages:

  1. Holy Discontent
  2. Untested Faith
  3. Crucified Hope
  4. Crisis of Faith
  5. Revived Hope
  6. Breakthrough faith
Longing for Revival, U-Curve, p.44

This kind of reminded me of Ronald Rolheiser’s Paschal Mystery (Life, Death, Resurrection, Ascension, Pentecost) or of other models such as orientation – disorientation – reorientation. There are also some corollaries to the grief cycle since part of revival is something dead coming to life.

But the U-Curve seems to be a great framework for helping people work through stagnation, loss of hope, or a recommitment to God’s purposes in their lives. We need more revival to be stirred in our hearts and lives as followers of Jesus. The word “awaken” has been getting flamed in my gut for myself and others who feel dormant, are living a cruise control life, or feel despondent.

The stages are much like stages of faith development. Each stage requires a response of grace that is immersed in prayer, community, and discernment. As I previously stated (Longing for Revival pt1), I heard a lot about revival when I was young and even experienced breakthroughs in my life. But what I didn’t have was a framework to understand what was happening in me.

The U-Curve helps name what someone might be experiencing in their spiritual life. Again, the word revival has the connotation of something dead being given new life. And in the spiritual life, we wrestle a lot with loss, disorientation, discontent, and death.

Pfeiffer and Choung are trying to fan into flame a passion to know the Jesus who makes all things new!

Breakthrough typically begins with dissatisfaction with the status quo. What we’ve previously accepted as unchangeable, permanent, or permissible starts to give way to longing for something better…but our dissatisfaction never feels good.”

Longing for Revival, by James Choung and Ryan Pfeiffer, ch.2, p.38

There’s one line in ch.2 that just hit me in the gut:

Let’s not be afraid of the longings that are being stirred in us. Instead, take them to God. Some of us have been disappointed before and are afraid history will repeat itself Others of us might worry that confronting our discontent will only lead to discouragement, frustration, or even anger.”

p.41

Pfeiffer goes on to say that at the stage of Untested Faith, we might have a passion and something burning within us. We are to cultivate it, nurture it, and be gracious to ourselves in the presence of God. God is on the move.

Longing for Revival pt1

Every once in a while, I read a book that provokes, incites, and inspires. It challenges my beliefs and apathy. “Longing for Revival” is one of those books.

In the first ch, author James Choung talks about his hatred for the word “revival” and shares why. I had similar feelings and experiences. Growing up in a pentecostal holiness church, we had “DISTRICT SERVICES” and youth camps where a revival type preacher would tell us that we need to be hungry for God and nothing else. For hours, we’d pray and ask God to use us for His glory. We wanted to the power of the Holy Ghost so that we could see the nations saved.

Some of it (much of it) was lots of emotionalism because most campers and service attenders just went back to life as usual (me included). But there were also sincere moments when I sensed something happening that was bigger than myself. I sensed a purity to the whole of the message: to give ourselves completely over to God and allow him to have his way in our lives. So when I began reading “Longing for Revival” and James started with his story, I immediately related.

I’ve been praying for revival in my own heart and for the City of Oceanside. While I’ve placed a pause on church planting, my heart still wants to see revival break out in our great city.

What I felt lacked in my childhood faith was how to sustain a faith that included a holistic view of scripture, the church, self-hood, and strategy. We didn’t debrief our experiences much, nor did we have deeper theological, scriptural roots. We had what the authors call “high mystery/low strategy” (p.162). And it’s true! We had access to God’s power and experienced dreams, prophetic words, and healings. But none of it translated to reach the community, be on mission, or even to see spiritual transformation in our lives (shaped into the image of Jesus). We didn’t have practical strategies to sustain God’s presence and to be mobilized for mission. This discouraged me many times and so the word revival became a hype, sensationalism-emotional experience. Nothing else.


I love the author’s definition of revival:

“A season of breakthroughs
in word, deed, and power
that ushers in a new normal
of kingdom experience and fruitfulness”

Longing for Revival, by James Choung and Ryan Pfeiffer. p.17

Like great visionaries and strategists (that in some ways feels like a company vision statement), they break down each line-phrase, unpacking their choice of words and why they each matter. It’s worth chewing on ch1 just for the vision and breakdown of it!

The definition of revival seems to have deep roots in Romans 15 where Paul says that he has “fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.” Their take is that when Paul says “fully”, it might point to more of a holistic view of the gospel which involves (as Paul says)

  • word – “what I have said”
  • deed – “what I have done”
  • power – “by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit”

These three words will continue to resonate and resound in the book!

I skipped the first part of the definition (I think I’d rather refer to it as a VISION statement) but it was a breath of fresh air that revival is a season. It doesn’t last forever. It has a rhythm to it that must be discerned and attended to. None of the weather seasons last forever. Neither does a season of breakthroughs. Many of my upbringing experiences were about holding on to those feelings of revival and I didn’t realize they were for a season SO THAT we might be sent into the world as missionary signposts and servants, learning to be a faithful witness fully proclaiming the Gospel of Christ (in word, deed, and power).

Lastly, a fully proclaimed gospel that leads to revival creates a new normal. As I think about the purpose of the Church, I need to keep remembering that we are to become more and more like the image of Christ Jesus. We are to be transformed, conformed into being “little Jesus’s”. The gospel creates a new normal in our lives. But it should also spill out into the other realms of our lives: a new normal at work, school, campus, marriage, relationships, family, music, etc!

Don’t we long for a new normal?
Don’t we finish out the year hoping for a new normal in the coming year?

It’s why we need Jesus to revive us and cause us to be empowered by the Spirit for his Kingdom sake.

This book will be one that I keep going back to this new year as I long for revival in my own life and in my ministry setting. I needed to read this book at this season of life and ministry.

Strategies for Deep Work #2

[This post is part of a book review series on Deep Work, by Cal NewPort. See post 1 for a summary.]


In Newport’s chapter titled “Rule #1: Work Deeply”, he outlines strategies and principles to help us build rituals and rhythms to do deep work that stretches our personal abilities. This first rule is about reducing and removing distractions that prohibit us from doing deep work. I outlined his first strategy (see post 1) about deciding on a Depth Philosophy. Here’s a list of the strategies (I’ll only highlight a few):

  • Decide on your Depth Philosophy
  • Ritualize
  • Make Grand Gestures
  • Don’t Work Alone
  • Execute Like a Business
  • Be Lazy

Ritualize

This strategy is about adopting rituals (actions, gestures, intentions) that help to create and maintain regular patterns of deep work. Here are some of his examples:

  • Identify where you’ll work and for how long
  • Identify how you’ll work once you start to work
  • Identify how you’ll support your work

I found this principle helpful to continue focusing on my work habits and patterns of when and where and how I like to think and create. For me, I like the morning times. It’s when my brain is the sharpest to think critically. I also don’t check emails, social media, or respond to phone calls/text messages. No tech distractions. I also like sitting in my reading chair or my patio. Both are quiet and soothing places.

“Surrounding such efforts with a complicated (and perhaps, to the outside world, quite strange) ritual accepts this reality—providing your mind with the structure and commitment it needs to slip into the state of focus where you can begin to create things that matter.”

Newport, Cal. Deep Work (p. 121). Grand Central Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Execute Like a Business

For this principle, Newport is now interested in HOW to execute strategy. What and how are two different set of questions. We may know that (what) we need to do, but not know HOW to execute it. For this, Newport refers to the book, “The 4 Disciplines of Execution” and then summarizes each discipline.

  • Discipline #1: Focus on the Wildly Important
    • identify a small number of ambitious goals (or outcomes) during deep work hours…with a tangible reward attached to it.
  • Discipline #2: Act on the Lead Measures
    • measure your success by focusing on activities that will improve behaviors that will impact your long term goals
  • Discipline #3: Keep a Compelling Scoreboard
    • have a way to publicly record and track your lead measures
  • Discipline #4: Create a Cadence of Accountability
    • review your weekly work and scoreboard to celebrate and make adjustments

Here’s one my favorite quotes from the above principle:

David Brooks endorsed this approach of letting ambitious goals drive focused behavior, explaining: “If you want to win the war for attention, don’t try to say ‘no’ to the trivial distractions you find on the information smorgasbord; try to say ‘yes’ to the subject that arouses a terrifying longing, and let the terrifying longing crowd out everything else.”

Newport, Cal. Deep Work (p. 137). Grand Central Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Bringing it Home for Me

So how does this apply to me? I have a few areas that require some deep work:

  • church planting
  • corporate chaplaincy
  • music

Using the church planting area, my work is to focus on discovering what the wildy, ambitious goals are for a new church. For me, my goal isn’t to get a lot of people to a church service. It’s not even to tell people what to do. Part of my work is to discover what the wildy important goals are. They seem to be connected to justice, healthy relationships, and caring for leaders who have big ideas on how to transform our city to reflect God’s love.

(Review of Deep Work) Rule 1 Work Deeply

Deep Work by Cal Newport is a book that has been circulating in my network for the last two years. The book is about creating rituals and rhythms to have focused time on working and focusing deeply on things that matter, while removing distractions. Reducing shallow thinking times, disconnecting from social media and online surfing for long periods of time during the day are just some examples of reducing distractions.

In part 2 of his book, he starts with Rule #1: Work Deeply. Newport addresses the need to build habits and rituals because we get so easily distracted by the superficial. Newport says,

Unfortunately, when it comes to replacing distraction with focus, matters are not so simple. To understand why this is true let’s take a closer look at one of the main obstacles to going deep: the urge to turn your attention toward something more superficial. Most people recognize that this urge can complicate efforts to concentrate on hard things, but most underestimate its regularity and strength.

Newport, Cal. Deep Work (p. 98). Grand Central Publishing. Kindle Edition.

CONFESSION: I know that when I begin to read a book or start a project, the moment I hit a tough problem, I go online or check social media sites. I go superficial real quick.

To say that we can just will ourselves past these temptations to be distracted is futile. Willpower is more like a muscle than an inherited trait. As Newport says,

“You have a finite amount of willpower that becomes depleted as you use it. Your will, in other words, is not a manifestation of your character that you can deploy without limit; it’s instead like a muscle that tires.”

Newport, Cal. Deep Work (p. 100). Grand Central Publishing. Kindle Edition.

This is good news for me. I no longer shame myself for not having the “will” to muscle through deep thinking work. I need a different way to approach deep work.

This is where Newport offers the key motivating strategy and idea for engaging in deep work:

The key to developing a deep work habit is to move beyond good intentions and add routines and rituals to your working life designed to minimize the amount of your limited willpower necessary to transition into and maintain a state of unbroken concentration...if you deployed smart routines and rituals—perhaps a set time and quiet location used for your deep tasks each afternoon—you’d require much less willpower to start and keep going. In the long run, you’d therefore succeed with these deep efforts far more often.

Newport, Cal. Deep Work (p. 100). Grand Central Publishing. Kindle Edition.

The first strategy to develop healthy habits and rituals is to have a philosophy to integrate deep work into our working lives. There are a few different depth philosophies to integrate deep thinking and focused time. For the sake of encouraging people to buy the book, I’m offering a very quick one summary of each:

  1. The Monastic Philosophy: create deep efforts by eliminating or reducing shallow obligations. Works well for people who have singular goals in mind and have the kinds of jobs that allow for this type of schedule.
  2. The Bimodal Philosophy: dedicate stretches of time without interruptions and distractions (this would ideally be a dedicated whole day of deep work).
  3. The Rhythmic Philosophy: establish a simple routine/ritual schedule that removes the need to decide IF you should do deep work. This could be a set block of start and end time (i.e. waking up at 530 am and doing deep work for 2 hours).
  4. The Journalistic Philosophy: fitting deep work into your schedule whenever you can (this presupposes an ability to switch modes and go into deep work rather quickly…it’s not for a deep work novice).

We can develop our own philosophy so long as we follow some of the general guidelines from these. In all of these frameworks, the importance is that intentionality and active engagement are implemented (do it!). This can be an experimental time at first to see what works.

For example, I like to get up at 5am and meditate. This sets the tone for the rest of the day. It’s followed up by 1.5 hours of focused deep work time. Since I have a full time job, I need the deep work time in the mornings (when I seem to be most fresh). I try not to go online when I’m getting bored or hit something hard in my deep work. That’s when I tend to get frustrated and want to be distracted.

Creating Through Bad Ideas

Play bad notes and rhythms.

Write bad blogs.

Publish poor podcasts.

Do all the creative stuff you wanna do so that you see what’s good and what isn’t.  Nothing is going to get better unless you’re working through the bad ideas as well.

Create through the bad ideas.  I’ve played drums on about 6 albums.  There are some really bad tracks and moments.  This year, I’m recording a live album.  I’m more confident recording BECAUSE of the previous bad performances.

I’ve posted over 300 blogs.  Many of them aren’t very good.  But they’re getting better and I’m weeding out bad ways of writing, bad themes to focus on, and better ways to frame ideas.

Ten Agile Axioms That Make Managers Anxious

Agile management is at odds with the basic assumptions and attitudes of traditional management
— Read on www.forbes.com/sites

The interesting thing is that when firms operate this way, they make a lot more money than companies that focus directly on making money, including the five largest and fastest growing firms on the planet (by market cap): Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft, now worth over $2 trillion. It involves a shift from a focus on inanimate things (money, products outputs) to a focus on people (human outcomes, experiences, impact)

Re-Post: Seven Toxic Bosses You Should Avoid Like the Plague

This is a re-post from an article sent to me.  It was so good that I’ve had it opened on my browser for three days!  By chance, I sat at a gathering of pastors today where the #1 issue that ministry leaders face is “feeding the monster” (i.e. focusing on administrative, financial, budgetary, organizational tasks…instead of fostering relationships and mentorship).

source (full article):  https://goo.gl/pNSvLm

Difficult bosses contaminate the workplace. Some do so obliviously, while others smugly manipulate their employees. The “bad boss” has become a comedic part of work culture, permeating movies and television, but when you actually work for one, there’s nothing funny about it.

Bad bosses cause irrevocable damage by hindering your performance and creating unnecessary stress. The stress they create is terrible for your health. Multiple studieshave found that working for a bad boss increases your chance of having a heart attack by as much as 50%.

Even more troubling is the number of bad bosses out there. Gallup research found that 60% of government workers are miserable because of bad bosses. In another study 69% of US workers compared bosses with too much power to toddlers with too much power. The comparisons don’t stop there. Significant percentages of US workers describe their bosses as self-oriented (60%), stubborn (49%), and overly demanding (43%).

Most bosses aren’t surprised by these statistics. A DDI study found that 64% of managers admit that they need to work on their management skills. When asked where they should focus their efforts, managers overwhelmingly say, “Bringing in the numbers”; yet, they are most often fired for poor people skills.

 

 

transformative leaders

We have constructed a way of leadership that is distant from others, believing that leading others is a one way street.  But transformative leaders make themselves transparent to others so that both are inspired towards growth.  

I know this leader who has snacks in her office.  Everyone goes to see Teri because they’re hungry throughout the day.  She will say, “Have something to eat, son” and after a few minutes of the employees eating, they start sharing their work and life struggles.  She just listens as they both snack and tell stories.  Teri might offer a story of her own experiences and then as they’re wrapping up, the employee will thank Teri and off they go.  Most employees describe Teri as one of the best managers to work for.  Why?  Because she cares.  Teri makes herself a vulnerable leader–who is not afraid to listen and learn from others.  I should also note that Teri’s department is constantly breaking records in her department.  

Four Company Pillars

Companies have foundational pillars that sustain them.  When one of these pillars is not functioning properly, it affects the others.  Here are some pillars:

  1. pillar of culture – values, practices, habits, stories, the felt experience, clarity vision/mission, morale
  2. pillar of leadership – who is leading, how are they influencing others, quality of leader
  3. pillar of competency – the actual skillset, qualifications to the do the work, quality of work, strengths, assets
  4. the team – employee base, morale, attitudes, work ethic

If one of these pillars is crumbling, it will be felt within the company.  But when all four are strong, the customer will feel it.  Imagine a company working to strengthen each of these pillars.  It would be an exciting place to be.  The company, employees, and customer would flourish.