Archive | March 2011

Sharpen the Saw


“Using a dull ax requires great strength, so sharpen the blade. That’s the value of wisdom; it helps you succeed.” Ecclesiastes 10:10 NLT

This past Saturday, 3.12.11, I had a chance to apply Steven Covey’s 7th habit of his Best Seller Book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” (1989). But this “habit” wasn’t a new term or concept that was practiced by highly successful people.  It goes back to when one the greatest leaders in the world practiced it during his time on earth.  Jesus Christ sharpened his Spiritual Saw through the spiritual discipline, Silence and Solitude.

Right in between two of the greatest miracles, 1) the Feeding of the 5,000 and 2) Jesus Walking on Water, there is an obscure verse that fits snug in between these supernatural events, Mark 6:46, “After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray.” WHAT?!

At the height of his popularity and influence to the Jewish people, Jesus commanded his disciples to get in the boat and leave the crowd, while he escaped to a serene mountain peak to be alone and commune with his Father.  WHY?  Through the discipline (habit) of Silence and Solitude, Jesus was able to recharge and sharpen his saw — he needed to be with his Father.  Whether “guidance”, “wisdom”, “realigning”, “attuning”, or even “rejoicing”, Jesus escaped from the calamity of the crowd, critics, and even his co-laborers to refocus himself to the Vision and Mission of his life ministry through the Father’s design.

It is recommended that leaders do this twice a year – getaway for a 48 hour period to practice being comfortable in the comfort of His Maker.  “As I life my eyes up, up to the mountains; where does my help come from?” (Ps 121)

My trip to Griffith Park was an eye/heart-opening experience for myself as I needed to get away.  Initially, set for early February,this was long overdue.   I needed silence and solitude to clear open space for the Maker to make his presence known in my life.  I needed clarity and discernment of what he has in store for me as I go about my 2011 planning.  So much has been compiling, I wished that I could have peace with where he ultimately wanted me to invest on.

I recommend all of you to do this.  The great Book described how Jesus did it frequently.  Steven Covey observed how highly successful people did it.  Then why are you waiting?  Clear open space and let the Maker polish his creation, so that you can be refreshed and clear of your focus during this season.

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Notes: Covey writes in his summary of this chapter –

Sharpen the Saw means preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have–you. It means having a balanced program for self-renewal in the four areas of your life: physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual. Here are some examples of activities:
Physical: Beneficial eating, exercising, and resting
Social/Emotional: Making social and meaningful connections with others
Mental: Learning, reading, writing, and teaching
Spiritual: Spending time in nature, expanding spiritual self through meditation, music, art, prayer, or service

As you renew yourself in each of the four areas, you create growth and change in your life. Sharpen the Saw keeps you fresh so you can continue to practice the other six habits. You increase your capacity to produce and handle the challenges around you. Without this renewal, the body becomes weak, the mind mechanical, the emotions raw, the spirit insensitive, and the person selfish.

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Fit Churches

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Gary McIntosh has sent you a message.

Date: 2/24/2011

Subject: Fit Churches

I spoke to 20 pastors this last week on the topic of Healthy Churches. I suggested to the pastors that there are four, perhaps five, types of churches in a health paradigm. First, there are Hospice Churches. These churches are extremely ill, having declined in worship attendance for a decade or longer, and most likely will close. God can, of course, perform a miracle and restore hospice churches to health, but this is rare.

Second, there are Sick Churches. These churches are often populated by people who have let a root of bitterness sprout up. They may be angry, hopeless, and have declined in worship attendance for five years or more. Sometimes sick churches are plateaued in worship attendance, but this is still an unhealthy situation. Plateauing in churches is akin to hypertension in humans. You can live with hypertension for many years, but if it is left untreated, the hypertensions may result in a stroke or death. Churches that have been on a long-term plateau may be okay for decades, but the plateau will usually result in eventual decline and death if left untreated.

Third, there are Healthy Churches. Health is normally defined as an “absence of disease.” Thus, a healthy church is one that is unified, loving, and caring. Worshipers usually know their spiritual gifts and passions, and are found serving in some ministry role. The Word of God is taught with conviction, and children are raised up in the faith. Missionaries are supported, and prayers are offered for the salvation of souls around the world. It is good to be healthy, but I suggest there is another level of health, or church, that is best: a Fit Church.
I’m healthy, that is, I have no disease. However, I am not fit, that is, I could never run a six minute mile. One of my uncles, on the other hand, is both healthy and fit. He holds state and even a few national records for endurance running. We are both healthy but my he is FIT!
The same is true of churches, that is, some are healthy but not fit. Others are healthy and FIT!

Thus, a fourth type of church is a Fit Church. A fit church usually have a five percent conversation rate each year. Another way to say that is it only takes twenty people in a fit church to see one new person come to faith in Jesus Christ each year. A healthy church would need fifty people to see one person come to faith and a sick church would need around 100 people to bring one new person to faith. Hospice Churches, by definition, bring no one to faith in Christ.

Fit churches average around ten percent growth each and every year, while healthy churches may only growth between two and five percent a year, which barely holds onto their own children. Sick churches rarely grow, but may each enough new people to remain on a plateau. Hospice churches experience major decline.
Fit churches replace themselves by multiplying daughter churches. Healthy churches may start one new daughter church, but do not multiply many daughters. Sick and Hospice churches only contributed to new churches through foreign missions or by giving the proceeds from the sale of their property after they die to help plant new churches.
There are, of course, other indicators we could look at to define a fit church, but these are a few key ones. And, there may be one more type of church in the larger church health paradigm: the World Class Church.

You may be healthy and fit, but are you world class? World class athletes compete in the Olympic Games and other national and world venues. They are a step above even those who are physically fit. In a similar way there are churches that go way beyond fitness to being World Class. Instead of averaging an annual growth rate of ten percent a year, they average twenty percent or greater. In stead of starting a few daughter churches, they multiply numerous daughter churches. Instead of seeing five percent of their newcomers being new converts to Christ each year, they see ten percent or more conversion growth rate. As you might expect, World Class Churches are rare, but we can all work toward fitness. If you church is sick, strive to become healthy. If it is healthy, strive to be fit. And, if your church is fit, why not strive to be world class?
I welcome your thought. –

Your friend, Gary McIntosh

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