Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

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Un-sexy churches, the story of Bethany North, and the God of small armies

In Bethany North,God's great love,Leadership,The Church on October 10, 2013 by scottsund Tagged: , ,

 Go to the nearest smallest church and commit yourself to being there for 6 months. If it doesn’t work out, find somewhere else. But don’t look for programs, don’t look for entertainment, and don’t look for a great preacher. A Christian congregation is not a glamorous place, not a romantic place. That’s what I always told people. If people were leaving my congregation to go to another place of work, I’d say, “The smallest church, the closest church, and stay there for 6 months.” Sometimes it doesn’t work. Some pastors are just incompetent. And some are flat out bad. So I don’t think that’s the answer to everything, but it’s a better place to start than going to the one with all the programs, the glitz, all that stuff.”

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The words above were spoken by pastor and author (of the Message fame) Eugene Peterson.  Truer words have not been spoken, “A Christian congregation is not a glamorous place.”  Often times, the local church isn’t very sexy or exciting, or if it is for a while, it quickly fades.  For Bethany North, we now are turning three years old.  And the rite of passage makes me think back on what we’ve done.  Where we’ve been.  And where we’re going.

We started here in late September 2010- with 110 people and 55 kids.  We had hoped for 30 kids so lets just say from day 1, we’ve seen an abundance of God’s provision through the joy of children.  We stayed in the Richmond Highlands gym for 6 months and found another, larger spot.  We moved into the larger digs at Spartan Gym unsure of next steps- sure of only this one.

Now as we progress, we face new challenges.  How do we remain joyful in our volunteerism?  How do we continue to spread the news that there is a church in Shoreline built on making the invisible God visible?  How do we continue to grow based on the principle that the church is a people and not a building?  How do we deliver on the promise that as we connect and serve we will make Jesus known?  How can we inspire others with the truth that as we participate in the local church and the service in our community, God can continue to transform us?  These are the questions that gnaw at me as the leader of Bethany North.  But though questions persist, make no doubt about it; God is doing wonderful things in and among us.

And the truth, church, is that our best days are ahead.  In the book of Judges, God had raised up a leader named Gideon.  Gideon was facing an enemy army, and after being convinced God was calling him, Gideon exhibited great leadership.  He convinced others.  He cast vision.   He built something powerful.  He recruited an army of thousands to lead Israel into victory over the Midianites, a rival people group threatening Israel’s survival.  The army was 22,000 strong.  It was an army up to the task of facing the Midianites in battle.

But then God did something mind-blowing- He told Gideon, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me” (Judges 7:2).  Then the army of 22,000 became 10,000.  Then God separated them further down to 300 men.  God took Gideon’s powerful group of 22,000 and made it His own powerful number of 300.

What?  God wants us to win battles- but do it with smaller armies?  Do it undermanned?  Yes- the God of the bible is a God of small armies.  For real power comes from God’s strength and provision and not merely by growing things on our own.  When we build powerful teams and do powerful things, we’re often mindful of our own accomplishments and not on the provision of God.  But when we’re amazed and surprised that God has taken our humble efforts and blessed them abundantly?  Well, we’re able to be thankful.  We’re able to be humble.  We’re able to be mindful that our strength is in the Lord, not ourselves.

This is good news to me today, and for the last few weeks.  This little nugget is giving me hope.  Often times I’m mindful of feeling overmatched and overwhelmed and I’m aware there is much to do that I’m simply not powerful enough.  And yet, I believe in a God who is more powerful than my own efforts.  So, I’m clinging to the God of Gideon, the same God who came and took flesh as Jesus Christ- who took the incarnational, small army approach to transform the people that followed Him instead setting up an earthly Kingdom or regime.  The God of Gideon, this small army God, repeatedly used broken people to profess that God was alive and well and absolutely determined on redeeming this world.

This is my prayer this week: 
“God, will take my small army and make it powerful for You?
God- we confess- there is much about the future for Bethany North
we can’t figure out.
But we know You can.
Lead us we pray.
We are a small army.
We are broken people.
And we give You thanks for all the goodness and growth
and health we’ve experienced so far.
Its clearly been from Your strength and not our own.
Thank you God- You have been so good to us.”

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Serving is Leading

In Leadership,Serve on July 22, 2012 by scottsund Tagged: ,

This summer has been a mix of running both Sund’s Lodge and Bethany North, the fishing lodge and the church.  We’re back in Canada this week running the small fishing lodge that has been in my family for almost 30 years.  The lodge sits on an island in the Inside Passage and we host fishing guests from around North America that come to British Columbia mostly to haul in trophy salmon or halibut.  This has been good work for the years I’ve been doing it, working with my hands, serving customers, and leading the small team of co-workers.

Whenever I tell people I pastor a church, the conversation instantly gets a bit interesting.  I get a strange look coupled with disbelief.  But tell them I run a fishing lodge?  For many it’s an instantaneous admission to a secret club of respect.  If baffled that I am a pastor, people are equally impressed that I have made a living by going fishing.  The reality is that both jobs are grounded in the same principles of service.  Serving others is what I attempt to do as a church leader, and serving others is what I do every day we’re operating the fishing business.  Serving others is hard work but it is the best way to operate.

I was raised on the simple notion that when you work, work hard.  This is my Norwegian lineage.  We work hard.  When in Canada I rise at 3:15 am and often work till past 10am.  This isn’t a sustainable model but there is lots of daylight and lots to do in a seasonal fishing business.  Work hard.  The harder struggle is taking time off and learning to not always work hard- but that is a different post for a different day. J

At the fishing lodge, we have a staff of 13 people.  When managing a staff of 13 up here, I try and lead by example.  My father who remains one of the hardest workers I know set that example.  Over the years we’ve learned in the hospitality business that the quality of your relationships with your coworkers often directly affects the bottom line.  The culture really is one in the same with the product.  No matter what you do, in many ways we’re all in the hospitality business.  We’re all in the people business.  As a leader in your job, be good to your people.  Treat others better than yourself.  Help out.  Lend a hand.

Not long ago I hosted a beach fire night for the employees of the Lodge.  Though we had worked for a week and everyone was fried, I decided to cook for the staff and treat them to a great night.  People were blown away when the owner of the business spent a few hours on his night off to cook for them.  I did a crab boil with potatoes and corn, Bavarian sausages and 10 huge Dungeness crab, all boiled in saltwater and beer.  We poured out the water and emptied the pot onto the picnic table and along with some beer and garlic bread, had a west coast feast.  And people talked.  And people laughed.  And good will flowed.  It was a great meal.

The next evening when one of the employees was in the midst of his own 18-hour day, I noticed him dragging in energy a bit.  I spent half an hour clearing dishes, cleaning tables, and helping with his work.  He was quiet for a while and then a question: “what kind of church do you go to?” he asked.  My service with him had built a camaraderie and a delightful conversation about faith ensued.  All because I served with him.  I cooked for him.  I cared for him.

“How about you,” I asked.  “Do you believe in God?”  And then he spoke of his upbringing, about religious upbringing devoid of real meaning, and his own break with faith at 15.  He’s now an atheist and we had a good chat about this.

My point?  The conversation doesn’t happen without the service.  Model Jesus.  Chanel Jesus.  Want to be great?  SERVE.  SUBMIT.  Make others better than yourself.  Paul talks about it here, and said these principles of service will help our marriages and our homes and the church too.  Serve…and the world will listen.  Don’t worry when you don’t get this perfect, most of us never do either.  But it is a worthy calling and one that should be aimed for.  Great leadership really is born from humble service.

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Moses and Me

In Bethany North,God's great love,Leadership on October 24, 2011 by scottsund Tagged: , ,

When things get busy, going away doesn’t naturally sound like a good idea.  But sometimes breaking away is exactly the right thing for me to do.  Last week, on a deer hunting trip to the mowed wheat and stubble fields east of Pasco, I had a chance to reconnect with God in a powerful way.

I left Seattle in a gray haze of soggy weather and metaphorical NOISE in my life.  I was frustrated with things happening at church.  I was overwhelmed with things happening with the business.  I was feeling inadequate in my studies in Greek.  In short, I was feeling low.

Ironically, I had been reading about Moses and his leadership on the nation of Israel in preparation for some teaching I was responsible with to Bethany’s pastors.  The thing that impresses me every single time I read about Moses and his interactions with God in the book of Exodus is that though God called Moses to lead Israel out of captivity, Moses didn’t feel quite adequate enough for the job.  He says “God I can’t do it!”  Twice in Exodus 5, Moses turns to God, the God of the universe, and says, “I can’t do it.”  And God’s response?   Moses, you can do it, not from your power or ability, but because of MINE.  You can, God says, because I AM.  The very character of GOD is what allows us to do His work…not our own power and significance.  Good stuff eh?  And the beauty that strikes me every time is that Moses takes his grievances to God Himself.  When Moses is angry or confused or self-conscious, he talks to God directly.  He doesn’t run.  He doesn’t hide.   He doesn’t stuff his life with unhealthy vices.  No…he is vulnerable with God.  And that picture of intimacy makes all the difference.

Walking around the wheat fields this week, I took my grievances and disappointments to God.  Walking through those fields, a 30.06 rifle slung over my shoulder, I had hours to communicate with God.  And like Moses, our great model of intimacy with God, I took my questions and complaints to Him directly.  I was feeling frustrated with things with the church and I told God about it.  “God I can’t do this!  You called me to this and sometimes I feel so alone!”  etc. etc.  It went on like that for hours, me walking through the fields crying out to God.  And though I didn’t get the benefit of a bush becoming enflamed in fire like Moses did, I did feel the peaceful presence of the Lord with me.  After two days of coming to God, I began to feel better.  It was like a small voice said, “Scott, you can, because I AM.  Your power comes not through your own strength, but through Mine.”

I am clinging to this promise right now.  Our infirmities aren’t meant to discourage us.  They are meant to turn us to God in hopeful obedience.  You can, because I AM.  Our ability is grounded in God’s character.  Which means that though struggles arise, we can confidently labor on, take our pain to God Himself, and be confident that things will work out.

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Leading or Managing?

In Leadership on September 1, 2011 by scottsund Tagged: , , ,

The hardworking staff of Sund's Lodge 2011

“There is a vast difference between management and leadership. In management you get people to do things.
In leadership you help people become someone.”

This week marks our last week at Sund’s Lodge for the 2011 season.  This is the fishing lodge where I work, and have worked for the last 29 summers.  The staff came to the property in late May and prepared the boats and property for guests.  We spent a whole day training on the art of customer service and the experience we hoped to create for our guests.  We broke into teams and did a play on Minute to Win It to create teaching opportunities on TEAMWORK.  Then on June 14, the first guests flew in, a group from Nebraska.  Since then, we’ve had over 425 guests come through at a steady rate, with the largest group at one time being 25 guests.  Our staff of 14 has mostly worked the whole summer although a few people did short shifts to cover staff that needed a break.  Through it all, I’ve been coming and going…running Sund’s Lodge at the same time as running Bethany North.  It has been a wonderful and challenging summer, full of good days and discouraging news.  In short, it has been much like real life.

On Sunday I was back at Bethany North, leading the church in one of our best services of the whole summer…powerful worship, teaching by Pastor Richard, a visit from Bethany’s Ensemble Choir, a baby dedication for a 1 year old who has spent most of his first year’s Sundays at our little church.  Sunday night we had a vision meeting with our Team Leaders, our Leaders of Leaders, who create the experience of our church.  Though parts of the meeting were my leadership, most of the meeting I simply absorbed what others had to offer as they assessed current strengths and weaknesses of our church.  One of the themes that emerged was that I have done a lot of MANAGING as a pastor at our church, and more VISION is needed.  This was dead on correct.

Steak dinner for the staff on the beach

Monday morning I was back on a floatplane to Sund’s Lodge and hosting the end of summer Staff Party for our hardworking staff.  I cooked dinner for my staff, marinated flank steak and corn on the cob on the bar-b-que and fresh boiled Dungeness crab that I cleaned an hour earlier.  We sat by the fire pit near the beach and at the conclusion of dinner, I shared words of appreciation for each and every staff person.  These are the hard workers that had created one of the most successful seasons ever and I needed them to know how much I appreciated their hard work.  In my 18+ hour days of work up here, had I been lending VISION?  Or simply MANAGING the employees?

As we prepare to shut down the lodge and return to full time church pastoring again, I want to be a great LEADER of my church and LEADER to my people.  I have a tendency to want to go at things alone and quite often it is simpler to MANAGE people and check off lists of what people should be doing.  But it is hard to ever go anywhere when your vehicle doesn’t have direction.  What is needed this fall at Bethany North is more leadership….a map of where we’re going.

Lord knows I’m painfully aware right now of my own failings and lack of leadership and I’ve got lots of resources.  This blog is a good start and I’m taking a masters level course on Christian Leadership in September so I’ll let you know if I find any nirvana moments 🙂 but I really like this quote from Stephen Covey about leadership where he used the symbol of a ladder: “Management is concerned with getting up a ladder in the most effective and most efficient manner. Leadership is making sure the ladder is on the right wall to begin with.”

I realize I have spent too much time in our first year as a church making sure we were going up and down the ladder each week.  Right now my eyes are scanning the horizon and making sure our church is on the right wall to enable real life change for people to connect with Jesus Christ.  I love the scripture from Habakkuk, which says:

“Look at the nations and watch—and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days
that you would not believe,
even if you were told.”

Now the theologians amongst you will be quick to point out that the Lord was revealing to Habakkuk the coming Babylonian captivity, but let’s do a wider view of this for a moment.  God says, “Look and be amazed for I am at work in the world.”  True- God you are at work in this world.  Real work for real change for real people.  Jesus help me watch YOU and really LEAD this year…in my home, in my church, in my world.

Its time for some leadership.  I’m ready for the task.