broken windo

The Broken Window Theory

Two years ago Chesapeake Chief of Police, Kelvin Wright, told me about the Broken Window Theory. It goes like this, “Anytime you want to reduce crime in a neighborhood one of the first and most effective things you can do is to fix the broken windows.” I have huge respect for Chief Wright but, I’ve got to tell you that seemed absurd to me. Surely there was more to it than that!

I was talking with Chief Wright because we at Western Branch Community Church had set our hearts on reaching a high crime, struggling neighborhood in our area for Christ. Huge dream right? Sure! In fact, Chief Wright is a Christ-follower, but he even said, “I’d love to see you pull that one off!”

We started by fixing broken windows. We did good deeds in order to establish good will which opened the door for us to share the Good News. Two years later crime is down, residents are joining the civic league and PTA and most importantly, people are beginning to have faith in Jesus and His church again! The neighborhood is changing and it all started with fixing a few broken windows.

You understand why the Broken Window Theory works don’t you? It works because even the biggest dreams only require small starts. Big goals don’t require big starts. They simply require that you start! Pastor Steve Furtick says, “A big dream without a small start is nothing more than a daydream.”

Now, I’m wondering about my life…and yours. In what areas are we stuck in mediocrity because we keep thinking that big changes require big, audacious, miraculous starts. We live with broken relationships; even though the journey to a vibrant one starts with a small conversation. We’re convinced we’ll never lead our children to Christ; even though a simple prayer is often the beginning of faith for them.  The dream of making a difference for Christ is something that people with big talents and big dollars does, right? Wrong! Even the biggest dream starts with a simple “yes” to God’s call.

So, how many broken windows do you have in your life?  What is God calling you to do about them? Whatever they, it’s time to start? Start small, but start! Watch big dreams grow.

The Rule of Five

This week at a luncheon seminar, I heard John Maxwell say one of the most simple and yet profound things I’ve ever heard.  He called it the “Rule of Five.”  It goes like this

If you have a tree in your yard that you want to cut down, go out and hit it with the ax five times. Then go about your day. Tomorrow, go hit it five more times. Day after day, go hit the tree with your ax five times.  In time, the tree will come down.  It is not a question of if it will fall, it will. It is only a question of when.

That may sound simplistic, but we all know, if you wait until you have a day to cut it down, the tree will still be standing ten years from now.

Mr. Maxwell went to to explain that he decided many years ago that God had called him to write books on leadership. After a couple of years of being frustrated about not getting around to it, he decided to invoke the “Rule of Five.”  Since then, John Maxwell does five things every day.  No matter what else the day holds, he does five things.  On his birthday and Christmas and Easter, he does five things.  He reads, he thinks, he files, he asks questions and he writes. Every day. No matter what else happens that day, he reads, he thinks, he files, he asks questions and he writes. Simple.

In the thirty years since then, he has traveled the world. He has taught leadership to millions of people. He’s had a successful 45 year marriage, raised children and enjoyed grandchildren. In the midst of it all, he has done five things every day. He reads, he thinks, he files, he asks questions and he writes.  Wondering about the results?  John Maxwell has published more than 50 books and sold more than 20 million copies!

Obviously everyone’s list of five things will not be the same.  It depends on what you are called and gifted to do.  But one thing is constant, if we don’t invoke the “Rule of Five,” time will pass whether we accomplish our dreams or not.

So what might your five things be?

Emotions.

Ever heard, when it rains, it pours? It’s been one of those weekends, emotionally that is. It began with the news my step-father was going into a nursing home. His health problems finally reached the level where Mom couldn’t provide the 24/7 care he requires.  A quick trip to a North Carolina nursing home. Emotions.

Today, began at breakfast with my son and his family. Emotions! They’re home for a few days because they are deploying to Hawaii for two years. Emotions. The early afternoon was hard; I preached a funeral for a 31 year old young man. Emotions. In the late afternoon, I did a wedding. Emotions!  Tomorrow morning I’ll be with the New Branch Community Church family as they celebrate their first anniversary as a church. Emotions! And it’s all taking place on the 10th Anniversary of 9-11.

What a roller coaster. There’s a certain irony in the fact that I’m planning to conclude the weekend at Bush Gardens (you guessed it) riding roller coasters!

As I sit here trying to process through all this, I’m struck by the experiences our Lord Jesus has every hour, every day. Day after day. Joy. Pain. Highs. Lows. All of the emotions of the human experience. He is touched by them all because He loves us so much. But I don’t think the deepest low He feels comes when we are grieving or lonely. I think it’s when we try to deal with our emotions (whatever they are) without including Him.

It occurs to me that I may not figure out (this side of eternity) why all these things happened on a single weekend. Truth is, it’s not really important that I do. What’s important is that I remember how much He loves me, and that I love Him back just a little more. Somehow I know, everything is going to be alright.

Reminiscing About a Hurricane

It looks like it’s going to be an exciting weekend.  If you consider hurricanes exciting that is! Phones, Facebook pages and Tweets are buzzing with questions about whether Irene will hit us and whether we will gather for worship on Sunday.  I’m thinking about the hurricane that hit us in 2003.

Damage was in the billions of dollars. Trees fell on houses, on cars and across roads. Electricity was off for days and days and days. Stores closed for lack of electricity or simply because they ran out of basic goods.

When the question of Sunday services came up in 2003, someone said, “We can’t have church. We don’t have any power.” I felt strongly the church family needed to get together if at all possible. I finally said, “We may not have electricity, but we definitely have power! Let’s trust our people to decide what’s safe for their families.” Eight years later those were among the most memorable services in our church’s history.

Eight hundred people showed up. Members of the praise team brought acoustic guitars. Kim called the words out to the songs as we sang. We shared Communion. Afterward, I shared a brief message and we broke into informal circles to share experiences and needs. Arrangements were made, chain saws gathered and the power of community ensued! When we finished at one another’s homes, we went across streets and neighborhoods helping where ever we could.

That’s power. No amplifiers. No microphones. No projectors. No electricity. Just power–the Holy Spirit empowering a family to function the way Jesus called us to.

Today, nearly a hundred community groups do hundreds of acts of kindness for each other and for their neighbors every week.  That’s the power of God operating through the people of God.

Will Irene hit us? Will we have services on Sunday? I guess that remains to be seen. This much I know. We have power–the power of the Holy Spirit unleashing hope through the lives of his people. I, for one, consider it the honor of my life to be a part of it.

Filipino girl

A Five Year Old Taught Me About Life

Life is simple in the Philippine rain forest.  Most people live in bamboo walled, thatched roof huts. There’s no electricity or clocks or cars. Life is simple. That’s where I learned a life-lesson from a five year old.

Children in those villages don’t see many Americans.  When they do, they squeal with delight, “Americano!” “Americano!” My reply, taking their delight to the next level,  would always be, “Filipinos!” “Filipinos!”

On one of my church planting trips to the region many years ago, I heard “Americano!” This time, it was lone little boy. I decided it would be fun to turn the tables on him so I said in his dialect, “No. I’m not an American. I am a Filipino. You are an American!“ He was confused at first. It didn’t take him long to rebound. “No,” he corrected, “I’m a Filipino. You are an Americano!

We went back and forth several times until this five year old genius stopped, thought for a moment, pointed to us both and said, “Ipugao.” This single, simple word, stopped me dead in my tracks;ipugao means person.

I grew up in the richest nation on Earth. He grew up in a remote corner of one of the poorest. I traveled thousands of miles by plane, bus and four wheel drive truck to get there. He had never even seen an airplane or traveled more than a mile from home. I’m Caucasian. He was Malay.  In that moment none of that mattered.  We were both simply people. People who’s lives crossed paths for only a few moments in time. People for whom Jesus gave His life.

Since that day, when I find myself with someone from a different background or who has a different value system than me; I remember that little boy. Whatever is different about us, at the end of the day, we are simply people who need Jesus.

I haven’t led everyone I’ve ever met to Jesus; not by a long shot. But by beginning from common ground I know my chances of helping them meet Him are dramatically better.  I also know, I’m the richer when I treat everyone I meet, simply as ipugao. After all, that’s what Jesus does.

Access Our Access

Last Sunday, Pastor Michael taught that as sons and daughters of God we have access to the Throne of God anytime. What great news; we have a Heavenly Father who welcomes us into His presence anytime! Then, he told us there was a catch. In order to take advantage of our access, we have to “access our access!” We actually have to talk with Him. That sounds obvious, but the truth is, we often struggle to actually talk with the people we love the most.

Kim and I are empty-nesters who have been married for more than 35 years. We clearly have access to each other. Yet, now and then we can get so busy with life we can go for days without talking. We talk, but only about the business of life, not about our love for each other.

One time, when we realized we had fallen into that pattern, we decided to go on a date. We also decided we would avoid the topics of work, home repair, bills; the everyday stuff of life. It was almost hilarious. We found ourselves saying things like, “How’s your bread?” We’d been married for three decades and couldn’t think of anything to talk about!

Finally, one of us asked, “How are you feeling about life these days?” It wasn’t long before we found ourselves talking about our dreams, hopes and plans. It was like we were going back to the days when we first fell in love.

I wonder sometimes if we squander our access to God by only talking with Him when we need something. What if we “accessed” Him just to talk about our relationship. I wonder if we find ourselves falling in love with the Lord all over again.

Kim and I have kept our marriage fresh over the years by keeping that in mind. Jesus and I have too!

Difference Makers

Difference makers don’t measure their success by the number of goals they’ve achieved or trophies they’ve been awarded. They measure it in terms of the dent they have made in the problem they are trying to solve.

Many consider Western Branch Community Church to be a successful church. By many standards it is. It’s larger than 98% of other American churches. 60% of its members were unsaved and unchurched before joining the church.

We at WBCC don’t measure our success in those terms. We measure it by scanning the horizon and seeing tens of thousands of people around us still desperate for help and hope. We celebrate what’s been done, the lives that have been changed; but we have a long way to go! We’ll rest on our laurels when they’ve all been reached for Jesus!

Did I Just Hear From God?

Is God still speaking today or is that something the Bible says ended centuries ago? Is it possible to know what God wants you to do or are you doomed to struggle through life hoping that you’re getting it right? Assuming He does still speak, when you get an idea that you think might be from God, how can you know?

The good news is, God does still speak and the Bible provides clear direction for knowing whether your idea came from Him or you just ate too much pizza last night!

“Did I Just Hear from God” (AKA The Seven Filters booklet) is a quick read that provides an overview of how to get that direction. It’s available free at the Western Branch Community Church bookstore. Check it out!