Building a Great Team

2004 Detroit Pistons
Photo by Dave Hogg

My all-time favorite sports team to watch were the 2004 Detroit Pistons. Not only did they win the NBA Championship that year, but they did it as a team. Any given night, you never knew who was going to put the most points on the board, and they dominated the LA Lakers who fielded stars like Kobe, Shaq, Karl Malone, and Gary Payton. By working hard and playing as a team, they came out on top.

We’re getting ready for a new season of ministry at HMCC, and I’m always amazed that God gives me the privilege to be part of such a great team. From our staff, coordinators, and LIFE Group leaders, to those serving on ministry teams and every member of our church, I’m reminded every week that Jesus doesn’t build his church with all-stars or celebrities – he does it with teams.

What does it take to build a great team? Here are a few things that I’m looking for in our church.

  1. Commitment to the Vision: A successful team is striving for something greater than themselves – something so big that a lack of commitment dooms it to failure. There is no room for straddling the fence or second-guessing. Everyone needs to be on board.
  2. Diversity: Teams that have diverse backgrounds, cultures, and abilities produce an environment of creativity, and are able to solve complex problems.  The body of Christ needs everyone to be involved.
  3. Ownership: A healthy team knows that we’re all “owners”. There is no “that’s not my job” or “that’s someone else’s problem” attitude. If we all own the team, we will work hard and do whatever it takes to succeed.
  4. Selflessness: Team players don’t seek the spotlight or try to assert themselves over others. They know that the team wins or loses together, and that it’s not about any individual. We follow Jesus’ example of humble servanthood.
  5. Courage: You could also call this faith. A team is assembled to face a great obstacle. If it were easy, everyone would do it. We need to courageously face the challenges that God places in front of us, and believe that He will come through for us.
  6. Flexibility: Expect the unexpected. A great team can adapt and adjust to surprises, and not get caught up in the plan that no longer fits.
  7. Positive Attitude: Being honest about problems is necessary. Complaining and discouraging others isn’t. Sometimes the biggest contribution someone can make to a team is to bring their energy and positive attitude. A defeated attitude is inevitably followed by a defeated vision.
  8. Respect: Great team players respect one another, especially in moments of tension or disagreement. If we’re on the same team, we should build each other up, rather than tearing each other down.

Are you investing in building a great team?

How I’m More Productive on an iPad Air than a MacBook Pro

iPad AirI’ve been a Mac user since 2000 when OS X came out and I bought my first iBook.  Over the years, I’ve found Apple laptops to be the most productive computing environment for me, first as a web developer, and now as a pastor.  However, after 5.5 years on my current laptop I started to think about replacing my MacBook Pro, and I had to evaluate what would be the best solution for me.

The main factors I considered were as follows:

  1. Portability
  2. Cost
  3. Cloud-only
  4. Productivity

After doing some research, I decided to try an iPad Air and see if it could meet all of my requirements.  I’ll briefly share the results I’ve seen after a few weeks of use as my primary computing platform.

At 13-inches and 5 lbs., my MacBook Pro isn’t enormous, but with the amount of traveling/commuting I do for missions, conferences, and meetings, it had definitely become a liability in my mind.  In contrast, the one pound iPad Air is extremely portable, and there’s no reason to leave it behind, no matter where I’m going.  Adding this Anker keyboard case (which, at only $30, I highly recommend) brings the total weight up to ~1.75 lbs. (16 oz iPad + 11.6 oz case), and it fits much more easily on an airplane pull-out tray than any laptop I’ve used.

Additionally, the 10+ hours of battery life means that I’ve never had to charge the iPad Air away from home.  Now I don’t have to worry about finding an outlet at a cafe, running out of juice on a plane, or lugging around a heavy power supply.  Portability is a huge strength for the iPad Air.

With a new MacBook Air or Pro starting at about $1000, and options quickly elevating that price (I probably would have spent ~$1500), the $499 I spent for a basic iPad Air is a big savings.  Refurbished options or older models can bring the price even lower.

I don’t want to risk losing everything if I lose/break a phone, tablet, or laptop.  I also don’t want to spend a lot of money for more storage on the iPad.  Therefore, I try to do pretty much everything in the cloud.  While I like Apple products, I don’t ever plan to use iCloud because it locks me into one platform.  Therefore, I use the following services to store all of my files, documents, etc. in the cloud.  This keeps me from needing a large amount of storage on the iPad, and ensures I can access my files everywhere.

  • Documents & Photos: Dropbox
  • Notes & Digital Filing Cabinet: Evernote
  • Music: Amazon MP3 and Pandora
  • Movies/TV: Netflix and Amazon Prime Video
  • Books: Amazon Kindle
  • Sermon Notes & Collaborative Documents: Google Drive
  • Bible Apps & Reference: YouVersion and Logos

This was the great unknown.  Could I actually be productive using an iPad as my primary computing device?  I was immediately surprised by how much I could do on the iPad Air, but I also found it slightly less efficient to do certain tasks, such as copying and pasting, switching between apps, or working with spreadsheets.  However, I quickly noticed an enormous benefit.  Because it’s (slightly) harder to switch between apps, and there is only one app on screen at a time, I immediately became more focused and avoided many of the distractions (ie. web browsing, checking email repeatedly, social media, etc.) that tend to kill my productivity.  The increase in focus that I’ve seen more than cancels out the effect of being slightly less efficient in smaller tasks.  For me, this was the biggest surprise, and also the most welcome benefit, of switching to the iPad Air: I get more done because I’m less distracted.

There are only a couple of real problems I’ve run into that I’m still hoping to find solutions for.

  • Drag-and-Drop: Some websites have drag-and-drop functionality that doesn’t work with a touchscreen device. Evidently there is new javascript code available to fix this, but many websites haven’t implemented it yet.
  • MailChimp: Our church uses MailChimp to manage our email list, and I’ve had trouble editing some text boxes in their web interface on the iPad. I contacted their support team, and they’re working on a fix.
  • Google Docs formatting: The Google Docs app for iPad doesn’t have very good text formatting capabilities. For instance, it’s impossible to change from double- to single-spacing, which is very irritating. Hopefully improvements will be made over time.

Other Helpful Apps
Here are a few other apps I’ve found helpful and can recommend:

  • Pages: While I don’t want to get locked into Apple’s ecosystem, Pages does a great job of creating beautiful documents, and can export to Word format.
  • Keynote: Great presentation software. I’m looking forward to learning more of its capabilities. If you have an Apple TV, you can stream your presentation directly to any HDMI device.
  • iMovie: I’m not very skilled with video editing, but iMovie can do a surprisingly good job for most purposes.
  • My favorite personal finance and budgeting software.
  • Expensify: I use Expensify to track receipts and expenses.
  • Microsoft Office: Recently released for iPad (there are many 3rd party options for editing Microsoft-formatted documents), you can open documents for free, or pay for a subscription to natively edit Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.
  • Prompt: If you need an SSH client, I’ve found this one to be a good option.
  • HootSuite: For posting and managing social media accounts.

I’m sure I’ll always have a desktop machine at home for more intensive work or specialized tasks (my old laptop is currently serving this purpose, and I’ll probably get a Mac Mini in the future), but the iPad Air has already proven to be a great fit for my needs, and the experience should only get better as software improves.

What about you?  Are you considering trying a tablet as your primary device, or have you already made the switch?  What have you learned?

5 Tips for College Graduates

UM GraduationOne of the joys we have at HMCC is being able to invest in college students.  They will be the next generation of world leaders, and we get to see many of their lives transformed during their time on a college campus.

At the same time, I’ve watched as a lot of students graduate from college and struggle with the transition to single adult life.  This is a hard transition for anyone, but perhaps even more so when someone has been part of an immersive spiritual community during their college years.

Knowing how difficult these changes can be, I have a few tips to share with you to help navigate the struggle.

  1. Own your spiritual health.  One of the blessings of our college ministry is that there is a lot of structure and accountability to help undergrad students grow spiritually.  This is very beneficial, and I’ve previously likened it to going through boot camp.  The thing is, at some point you have to move on.  You won’t always have someone there to make sure you’re reading the Bible or spending time in prayer.  You won’t always be able to hang out with your LIFE Group every day of the week.  You’ll need to take ownership of your spiritual health, because nobody else will.
  2. Focus on what’s ahead.  Reflecting on your days in college is great, and you’ll probably be reminiscing about it for the rest of your life.  But if you don’t focus on what’s ahead, you can easily sink into an unhealthy nostalgia that actually hinders your future growth.  Complaining about how you can’t hang out til 2AM anymore, or how it’s harder to connect with people when you aren’t stacked on top of each other in apartments won’t do anything to help you move forward in life.  Acknowledge that your college years are behind you, thank God for what He did during that time, and look ahead to the new lessons and experiences He has planned for your future.
  3. Dive into a new community.  One aspect of looking ahead is realizing that you’ll need to develop new friendships.  Your college friends will end up all over the world, and wherever you find yourself, you’ll need to immerse yourself in a new spiritual community to help you grow and invest yourself in.  You don’t need to ditch the close friends you made in college, but holding out on building a new community won’t help you or anyone else.
  4. Context is flexible.  Purpose is constant.  Recognize that what you experienced during your college years was a very specific, isolated context which you will likely never find anywhere else.  You don’t want to end up like Will Ferrell in Old School, thinking that real life is only found by returning to campus.  Context changes, so hold it loosely.  But your purpose should remain the same.  Whatever new context God places you in, you can still grow spiritually, serve God, share your faith, and be part of transforming the world.  Don’t let your sense of purpose be dictated by where you are.  Let your purpose direct how you approach your new job, city, or neighborhood, and God will show you that He has decades of testimonies waiting for you to discover them.
  5. Enjoy yourself.  Personally, I loved starting working life.  If you are resolved to enjoy the new opportunities and relationships in front of you, there is a lot of fun you can discover in your post-college life.  The transition will be challenging, but sometimes facing and overcoming a new challenge can be one of the most fulfilling, enjoyable experiences of your life.

I’m excited for all of this year’s graduates.  Some of you will join our Community ministries at HMCC and continue to grow with us.  Some will move across the world and do incredible things for the Lord.  Wherever God takes you, I pray you will live out the mission you’ve been part of during your time in college.

Reflections on Passion Week 2014

20140421-153538.jpgIt’s Monday, and Christians around the world are slowly resurrecting after a Passion Week full of activity. I’m trying to grow in reflection and thought I’d share some of my thoughts on this past week.

  1. Prayer is powerful.  Our church has been praying together for this year’s Easter Celebration and for friends and family who would come for the entire season of Lent.  God hears and responds to our prayers, and this truth was obvious in how we saw Him working throughout the weekend.
  2. Preach the cross.  I had the privilege of preaching on Good Friday, and I was convicted that I needed to simply present the truth of what Jesus did on the cross without any embellishment.  In the end, the important thing is that we’re able to focus on Jesus, and I felt we were able to do that.  His death changes everything.
  3. Stories are powerful.  I was once told that “someone with a story is never at the mercy of someone with an argument”.  There are many people who argue against Christ, but after hearing 27 people’s testimonies at the baptism on Saturday, I think it’s undeniable that Jesus is working in their lives.
  4. The body of Christ is awesome.  So many people invested time, energy, and prayer into our church over this past week (and for weeks beforehand), and it was cool seeing everything come together.  Designers, dancers, musicians, greeters, teachers, intercessors, and so many more all used their gifts and talents to serve in specific ways.  And the rest of us all got to use smiles, conversations, and invitations to make an impact.  I love being part of a church where so many people are involved in ministry.
  5. There is real HOPE in Christ.  Pastor Seth Kim preached a great message for us from John 20:1-18, and I was reminded that Jesus really is our only true source of hope.   This hope isn’t just for those who already know Jesus, but for those all over the world who will believe in him through our testimony.
  6. It’s about community.  I enjoyed all of our services during Passion Week, and felt that God was working through all of it.  But at the same time, I’m reminded that life change really happens in community.  Easter Sunday can be a starting point, a celebration, or an encouragement, but the main event is when we begin to grow in community and live out our faith together in our daily lives.  I’m looking forward to many new people getting connected to our LIFE Groups so that they can see how we live with our hope in Christ.

He is risen!  I hope you had a great Passion Week!

Purposeful Transculturalism

I recently came across this video produced by The Village Church in Texas, and I was encouraged by their purposeful investment in ministering to people from diverse backgrounds. The video is entitled “Racial Reconciliation”, but it represents a lot of what we have been teaching about transculturalism at HMCC. Take a look:

Racial Reconciliation from The Village Church on Vimeo.

The problem highlighted in the video – the lack of diversity in the church – is obvious. And the fact that many times the secular world’s institutions exemplify greater diversity than the church makes this reality all the more tragic. I’m thankful to see other believers taking the call to reach the nations seriously at home, as well as abroad.

A couple specific observations about transculturalism from this video:

1) It’s hard. Breaking down barriers between different social groups is always difficult, and all the more so because the issues of diversity are so complex. Perseverance is needed to fight for what is valuable.

2) It takes time. It would be easy to watch this video and point out that there are still a relatively small number of minorities in the church. Personally, I applaud the church for making the effort, and we must acknowledge that change does not come overnight.

3) It’s more than race. One of the scenes of the video showed an ASL translator at the front of the auditorium during worship. It’s easy to think of transculturalism or diversity only in terms of race, but it is much more than that. God loves people with a variety of disabilities, socio-economic backgrounds, educational achievements, and cultures.

4) It’s uncomfortable. Anyone who has built a meaningful relationship with someone from a different culture knows that there can be some discomfort and awkwardness as we work through different perspectives, cultural practices, and values. But being uncomfortable for the sake of the gospel is worth it, and surrendering our own preferences is often the cost we must pay.

I’m praying for more churches to hear God’s call to reach the nations and love our neighbors as ourselves. When we can dwell in unity with one another, it demonstrates that we really are Jesus’ disciples (John 13:35).

The Opportunity of Limited Resources


“My number-one theory is that style is proportional to your lack of resources – the less you have, the more stylish you’re likely to be.” (Beth Ditto)

Many of us live with the desire of having more resources at our disposal.  We think, if only I had more time, money, education, property, etc., then I could reach my full potential and accomplish great things.  While having abundant resources can certainly provide opportunities, the paradoxical truth is that limited resources are much more likely to produce good fruit in our lives.

Think for a moment about those you know who have access to seemingly unlimited resources.  What have those resources done for them?  In many cases, access to such resources allows a person to become entitled, lazy, self-centered, and aimless.  That isn’t the case for all people, but that’s why David Rockefeller said, “When you have a lot of resources, the most important thing is to have had good parents and to have been brought up by people who gave one the proper values.”  In a resource-rich environment, personal growth actually goes against the grain.

Compare that to some of the great success stories of our era.  World War 2, with its accompanying austerity, produced the Greatest Generation.  Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak started Apple Computer in their garage.  Andrew Carnegie was born into poverty, and created an expansive commercial steel empire, making him one of the world’s richest men.  Albert Einstein’s father’s company went out of business.  For many people, their lack of resources became the crucible in which genius and industry were formed.

Here are just a few of the character traits fostered by limited resources:

  • Creativity: One with limited resources must learn to use them creatively to achieve their desired goals.
  • Perseverance: Without external resources, one’s internal resources of determination, conviction, and willpower are stretched
  • Focus: Tough decisions must be made, and greater focus is put on true values and priorities
  • Stewardship: Nothing is wasted when resources are scarce
  • Courage: Hardship inspires us to take risks for our desired vision

So stop thinking of your limited resources as a roadblock.  What are your limited resources making possible for you?  How can you grow as a person because of the difficult circumstances you are in?

5 Valuable Podcasts for Christian Leaders

podcastChristian leaders often find themselves in the position of giving – constantly.  If we give so much of ourselves, and never refuel, we will eventually burn out and become ineffective at what we are called by God to do.  This is why it is so valuable to always be learning.  Only learners can be leaders for the long haul.

There are many sources of learning we can take advantage of: reading books, meeting with mentors, watching videos, etc.  But one problem with all of these is accessibility.  Reading requires your eyes to be available, mentoring requires your schedules to connect, and videos require your computer to be open.  One antidote to this issue of availability is podcasting.  It doesn’t require anything extra to learn from some great teachers and apply those lessons to your leadership.

For me, this means that every time I get in the car, walk from one place to another, or have a few minutes in the bathroom, I am usually listening to some great content on my phone and reflecting on how I can grow.

Here are some of my favorite podcasts for Christian leaders.  I hope you enjoy.

  1. Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast – Andy is the lead pastor at North Point Community Church, and is an outstanding communicator and leader.  I also recommend his book, Communicating for a Change.
  2. Catalyst Podcast – Catalyst is a conference for young Christian leaders, and they have some great interviews with prominent figures in the Christian world.  The podcast hosts try too hard to seem laid back and casual (ie. wasting time), but overall it’s great content.
  3. Perry Noble Leadership Podcast – I love Perry Noble.  He is the senior pastor at NewSpring Church and he tells it like it is, no holds barred.
  4. Exponential Podcast – Exponential is a conference for church planters, and a lot of their break-out sessions get turned into podcasts, offering hundreds of sessions that we can learn from.
  5. This Is Your Life (Michael Hyatt) – Michael is the former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, and he brings a wealth of experience to his podcast devoted to intentional leadership.


In recent years, I have become increasingly aware of the effects of mental illness on people’s lives, and no less so in the church.  Christians are just as vulnerable as anyone to mental illness, but many feel ashamed to share those struggles, wondering if they will be rejected or judged by others.  Because of this, the lives of those afflicted with mental illness often remain shrouded to churchgoers, and we have no idea how to respond when people share their stories with us.

I am thankful that awareness of mental illness is growing among Christians, but it comes at a very high cost.  I have lost count of how many people have shared the pain of depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, etc. with me as a pastor, and I feel privileged to counsel and pray for these people who God loves so much.  But for many, the isolation, shame, and alienation from others is debilitating and overwhelming, and all too often results in a tragic loss.  In a world struggling to cope with the painful reality of mental illness, the church must be able to demonstrate compassion, acceptance, and understanding in a way that reflects the love of Jesus.

With millions of people in the United States affected by mental illness, it is almost certain that you know someone, or several people, who are trying to deal with it.  We have a duty to love them, and it is hard to love if we do not understand.  That’s why it encouraged me to discover this documentary on bipolar disorder entitled “Up/Down”.  Please watch it.