This week, I was honored to speak to Arise worship interns. I love inspiring young leaders toward transformissional living!  These millennials, span from age 17 to 31. They come from around the world (Australia, Canada and the United States).  They are with us at Cape Christian for eight weeks. Then, they’ll return to their varied settings to lead. So, I asked myself, what would I have wished to know from a seasoned (aka “old”) leader when I was that age? I funneled nearly four decades of leadership experience into ninety minutes. They eagerly listened and took notes.

LeadershipHere are the things I shared with these young leaders. They are in no particular order. Ten things I’ve learned about church leadership in nearly forty years:

  1. Leaders are LearnersGrowing organizations are led by growing leaders. Read books and blogs. Listen to podcasts. Attend workshops and webinars. You are never too young or too old to learn.
  1. Leaders Build Teams—Great leaders build teams that build great organizations. Train yourself to look for other leaders. Discover, develop and deploy them. The best leaders are team players. They collaborate and help others become winners. Leaders grow leaders.
  1. Leaders Determine Their Brand—You will be known for something. Your brand is what people think of you. You have a personal brand that is shaped by what you do and say, how you look, and what you post on social media. Will you determine your brand or let others determine what you are known for? The best resource I know on this topic is the book Brand Aid. It’s superb!
  1. Leaders Cultivate a Servant Heart—The best leaders are servants. They help others become successful. They have the right attitude and are accessible and approachable. The finest leaders resist an entitlement mentality.  Great leaders love to celebrate the success of their team and help others rise above them.
  1. Leaders Error on the Side of Grace—Effective leaders give others the benefit of the doubt. They gather all the facts before drawing conclusions. They postpone reaction and help team members learn from their blunders. They extend patience and grace. And when they are right, great leaders rarely point it out to their followers.
  1. Leaders Leverage Their Influence for Good—The most influential leaders inspire us without even being aware of it. They lead by example. They pick up trash and everyone else feels compelled to join them. They don’t use their leadership power to get perks and privileges. They use their influence to bless others and gain maximum impact.
  1. Leaders Know Character is Critical—I look for six C’s in leadership team members: Calling, Character, Competence, Commitment, Conflict resolution skills and Chemistry. Character is the most important of all. It will take you higher than you imagined or lower than you ever wanted to go. Excellent character is indispensible for outstanding leaders.
  1. Leaders are Big Picture Thinkers—Top leaders see what others don’t see. They paint a picture that allows team members and followers to see why, what they do, is important. Great leaders learn to fly above the immediate hill or valley and get a bird’s eye view of what is best for the organization over the long term.
  1. Leaders Must be Persistent—Great long-term results always come out of perseverance. Overnight successes usually happen through years of persistence by someone. It always looks easy after its been done. But there was nothing easy about it. Jim Collins writes about the “flywheel effect” in Good to Great. He’s exactly right. You can only live your vision with stick-to-it-ness. Persistence is mandatory.
  1. Leaders Must Keep Their Priorities in Order—As a leader in a large church, there are hundreds and hundreds of people that I try to bring with me on the journey. But the most important? My own family. My ministry won’t matter without them. My ministry won’t matter without my physical, emotional and spiritual health. I reminded the young interns to set personal boundaries and keep their lives in proper perspective and balance. I ended by sharing what I learned three decades ago from Rick Warren—divert daily, withdraw weekly and abandon annually.

These ten are for young, middle age or older leaders. All of us are learners, correct? I have more to learn as well. What would you add to this list? Please share it in the comment section below. Thanks!

 

I read a blog recently by one of my favorite authors, Patrick Lencioni. He was writing about how tired he is of hearing business leaders complain about hiring Millennials—young adults born from the early 1980’s to around 2000. I’ve heard similar. People in my calling. Pastors, church leaders. Lamenting that these “kids” growing up these days have horrible work habits and tendencies to be self-focused, isolated, lazy and incapable of working with others. There is no hope for the future, some have said.

HopeHandsI totally get it. Every generation has a few things that make them uniquely different. I’m a Baby Boomer. We are different than the Silent Generation. Different than the Gen Xers after us. And now, the 20 somethings are unique. They communicate with different devices than I did at that age. They have different expectations of employment than I did coming out of college. They didn’t do some of the hard work I did growing up on an Oregon farm. But doesn’t every generation grow up with different experiences? I certainly didn’t have some of the work experiences my 87 year old father and 95 year old father in-law had. Lencioni asks, “Why is that we seem to be fascinated with this new collection of human beings, as though they come from another planet?” I couldn’t agree more.

The longer I am in leadership in an organization that has a multi-generational staff and quite a few young interns, the more I realize how enduring some needed virtues really are. Instead of stereotyping people by their generational label, I agree with what Lencioni highlights in his new book, “The Ideal Team Player.” He says there are three simple, timeless and observable virtues that are reliable predictors of whether someone of any age will be a good team player in the work world.

1. Humility – this is the first and most important virtue. I’ve seen arrogance in every generation. I’ve seen humility at all ages. Humility is a timeless virtue. Yes, we have plenty of celebrities and cultural icons on very tall pedestals. Yet, every society yearns for humility. I know plenty of young millennials who are as tired of self-indulgence and narcissism as the rest of us are. I’ve experienced these young adults as super capable of caring for others more than for themselves. I’ve watched them truly enjoy the success of a team more than their individual achievement. Many of them possess the much-needed virtue of humility.

2. Hunger – Lencioni writes about the critical virtue of the desire to work hard, to go above and beyond what is required for something worthwhile. In most places, paper routes and lawn-mowing businesses for teens is a thing of the past. Yet, hard work and sacrifice is alive and well among some of our teens and young adults. As in all generations, a few are slackers but I’m often amazed at how dedicated and committed many in the millennial generation really are. I love working along side of them.

3. Smarts – This is Patrick Lencioni’s catch-all term for a person who has common sense about people and awareness of how one’s words and actions impact others. We can all point to plenty of millennials who rarely look beyond their smart devices and only communicate through abbreviations and emojis. But I know plenty of teens and young adults who want interpersonal connection and are capable of embracing it. They are great communicators and sensitive to the needs of others around them.

I agree with Lencioni when he challenges the older generations to recognize there are plenty of millennials among us who are humble, hungry and smart. They are the ones you want to find for your team. They will place a high priority on teamwork and they will help take you to the next level of excellence in your ministry or work place. Take some time today and let a millennial know how much you appreciate the virtues you see in their life. There is hope!

 

QUESTION: What additional virtue have you seen in the millennials around you? Share it in the comment section below.

 

 

 

I love this story from the Bible. It’s from Genesis 12 and it’s about a guy named Abraham. Abraham is 75 years old, and has lived in this particular town all his life. He’s got a nice life, nice family and he knows everyone in town. He’s comfortable!

Dennis Skydiving to Celebrate 50th Birthday

Dennis Skydiving to Celebrate 50th Birthday

So God comes to him and says, “Abraham, I want you to leave your hometown, and I want you to travel to this land that I’m going to show you.” God didn’t even reveal the end destination – He just told Abraham to get moving. The Bible says that THE NEXT DAY, Abraham loaded up and moved. As a pastor, I can’t help but share with you a principle that I see in this story, in fact, I see it all throughout the Bible.

The blessings of God always follow obedience and risk. Let me say that one more time… the blessings of God always follow obedience and risk. In other words, we obey and risk first, then we’re blessed.

Hang Gliding in Switzerland to Celebrate 60th Birthday

Hang Gliding in Switzerland for 60th Birthday

As I reflect on my past thirty-seven years as a pastor, two significant steps of risk and obedience come to mind. Leaving the comforts of a known situation and moving our family a thousand plus miles away from our nearest family to a new city to start a new church with two other couples was one of those times. It was God’s call. It took obedience. It took risk. Blessing has followed.

The other memorable call and then the step of obedience and risk was purchasing land for the new church. Three city blocks, 48 individually-owned pieces. Land-owners spread across two continents, three countries, three provinces and twenty states. Experts reminded us it had never been done and couldn’t be done. We were cautioned that someone in the center will hold out and ruin the whole project. Huge risk. Next to impossible. But obedience. Risk. A decade of persistence, perseverance and prayer. Twenty-five years later, we are enjoying our beautiful 14 acre campus that blesses the families of our entire community every day of the year.

Here’s how we normally think… “If God would give me a raise, then I would be generous.” But it doesn’t work that way. “If God would give me some financial blessings, then I would obey the Bible and do that 10% tithing thing.” That’s not how it happens.

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Cape Christian’s 14 Acre Campus

We obey God, even when it’s tough, even when it’s hard, even when it makes us uncomfortable. That’s how faith works.

Abraham went on to become the father of a great nation – the Jewish people. He was famous, blessed and important. God blessed him with a family. In fact, the Bible says that all the people on the earth would be blessed through Abraham. But none of that happened until after Abraham obeyed and risked everything to start on an unknown journey.

My life is filled with blessing because I’ve repeatedly obeyed and risked. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude at God’s faithfulness and blessing the past decades. But the exhilaration of soaring in God’s blessing has only come when I’ve been obedient and taken a risk.

 

 

QUESTION: What one thing is God is asking you to risk? If its too personal to share, please share a story of the past where you are experiencing blessing because you where obedient and took a risk. Thanks!

 

 

 

Nearly three decades ago, as a young pastor just launching a church, I read Dr. John Maxwell’s book “Be All You Can Be.” A chapter title got my attention: “Failure is Not Final.” The first paragraph was new information for me as a young leader. Dr. Maxwell said, “on the average, successful people fail two out of every five times they attempt something and unsuccessful people fail three out of five times.” That’s not a lot of difference, is it?

Award-winning “Boat on Fire” image captured by Dennis near his home. www.GingerichPhotoArt.com

My hobby is photography. I’ve been intentionally upping my game in recent years to turn my photography into a self-supporting hobby. I have a website where people purchase my images for the walls of their homes and offices. I sell a line of my naturescapes on greeting cards in three gift shops. I was recently selected as the Resident Artist for our area tourism bureau. At the end of the three-month assignment, I will be paid a stipend after the marketing department chooses at least 15 (but not more than 20) images I’ve captured. These photos will be used for their world-wide advertising to potential visitors.

I’m just a week past the half-way point of the three-month resident artist appointment. I’ve taken 2,348 photos so far. However, I’ve only selected 150 photos that I believe are good enough to submit to the tourism bureau for review. That’s just 6.4% of the total. Another way to look at it, 93.4% of my photographic efforts have failed entirely. And, if I take another 2,000 photos in the last half of the residency period, I might have 300 photos to submit. But they are going to choose only 15 or 20 at the most. That’s only .03% to maybe .045% of the images captured. Does that mean more than 99.9% of my images are failures?

Recently, I read that Kevin Kelly, co-founder of Wired, said, “95% of [all] results in creativity are failures.” He was addressing the creativity used in art as well as science and technology. So, it looks like my numbers are pretty close to normal. However, I don’t consider over 4,000 deleted images as failure. Photography is a passion, and making images brings me joy. I enjoy telling a story, trying to depict a scene in the best possible way, the science of color and light, the art of photography, and don’t forget playing with camera equipment. Every bad image teaches me something new, reminds me of something I forgot or gives me a picture of something the could be improved.

I’m reminded of an old Nike commercial featuring basketball legend Michael Jordan. In it Michael says, “I have failed over, and over, and over again in my life, and that is why I succeed.” Here’s a link to the commercial. It’s worth watching!

I’ve been told that I am talented as a photographer. I’m not sure if I believe all that much in talent. I wasn’t born as some photographic savant. It took me years and years of reading, a lot of experimentation, taking a class or two here and there, a five day workshop with a professional and countless failures to get to where I am today. And there’s a very long road ahead of me.

Here’s what I’ve been learning since back in 1987 when I first read Dr. John Maxwell’s book. Concentrate on success and not the failure. Treat failure as a friend. View failure as a moment. Change what needs changing. Successfully fail. Never quit because of failure. Keep swinging the bat. Keep shooting the ball. Failure is important. Failure is necessary. Failure is not final.

QUESTION: What additional things have you learned from failure? Our readers would love to learn from you. Share it below. Thanks!

 

 

 

 

 

Over the last 37 years, I’ve hired dozens of church staff at many different levels of responsibility. I’ve learned to filter every potential team member through the five C’s: Calling, Character, Commitment, Competency and Chemistry. If you had to pick only one of these five, which one would you say is more important than all the rest? I know, they are all important. But, especially in a church, if one of these five is lacking, which one do you guess might cause the biggest problem?

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Mountain Goats on Mount Evans, CO. More photos by Dennis at Gingerich Photo Art.

 

You likely guessed it. Character. A person with a character flaw usually crashes and burns. Sooner or later. And a flameout often does a significant amount of collateral damage. We’ve all seen the heartbreaking ripple effects that result from character meltdowns among government, business, church or family leaders. Debris is spread over the terrain of the organization, family or community.

I recently read how one leader tests candidates being interviewed for a job. Walt Bettinger, CEO of the Charles Schwab Corporation has created a system. Before every new hire, Bettinger takes candidates out for a breakfast interview. But what the potential employees don’t know is that every time, Bettinger shows up early and asks the restaurant to purposefully mess up the order in exchange for a handsome tip. After all, a person’s character is revealed during times of great pressure and distress. How do they react when they are thrown an unpleasant curveball? I’ve never tried Bettinger’s interview method of testing character but it is interesting….and a bit tempting.

A couple weeks back, it was the thirtieth anniversary of our family’s move to Cape Coral, FL to start the adventure of launching a new church. I shared three leadership learnings from the past three decades. I promised more. This one is about the importance of character, especially during adversity.

I’ve seen character carry people through great pressure and disruption of plans. The test of adversity doesn’t make character as much as it reveals it. Here are two things I’ve learned about character – how it can make or break someone in marketplace domain or in the ministry arena.

Both big things and little things matter – Character certainly is connected to the obvious things like honesty, integrity and morality. I’ve noticed that we tend to think mostly about the large breaches of character such as stealing money, lying, immoral relationships or unethical practices. Over the decades of my leadership experience, I’ve had to deal with a very minimal amount of these things (for which I’m grateful). Much more frequently are the little things of character—not keeping promises, lack of follow-through, moral boundaries that shift with circumstances or crowd, late for meetings or deadlines, saying one thing but doing another or repeatedly missing the bar of excellence. Frankly, it’s the little things that most often lead to a subtle but steady erosion of character and trust. Little things slowly morph into bigger things. We should never forget what Jim Rohn said, “Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines practiced every day.” Little things matter. Little things become big things.

Relationships are a big deal Never underestimate the importance of relationships in all areas of life. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed many team members technically competent in ministry and some exceptionally talented in their area of expertise. Yet the truth is, character is recurrently displayed through interactions with people. Adversity will increase the pressure and stress during exchanges with others. One’s emotional intelligence will become evident to all. And for certain, if a team member’s world revolves around them, they think all their successes are because of their own accomplishments and all of their failures are somebody else’s fault. That character flaw will be exposed in daily work relationships. Relationships are a big deal.

Character is tested by adversity in leadership. Many other angles of character under fire could be explored in this “leadership learnings” series. After all, I have three to four decades full of examples I could share. But character also means I don’t distribute everything tucked in between the folds of my brain. Have a blessed day!

 

QUESTION: What would you add from your leadership learnings about character, especially while under adversity? I’d love to hear it in the comment section below. Thanks!

 

 

Last month, I posted my first guest blog. The very first since I launched the blog in 2012. I invited my sister Julia to write regarding the sudden passing of her 60 year old husband, Loren, a bit over a year ago. There were so many powerful responses and shares on social media to “God, Why Can’t I ‘FEEL’ The Way I Used To.”  I had her write a second, “Shaken Faith.” Same kind of response. My stat page showed her last two blog posts to be some of the highest reader count in months.  And, now, here’s a third–authentic, raw, real and from the her life experiences as a recent widow. Here are her words…

 

You read it right. “I’M NOT AVAILABLE”.

Within days of my husband’s passing I started receiving messages on my home phone, facebook, even email. A few messages from strangers. Messages from male acquaintances of my husbands. Most certainly some of those messages were not “just condolences”.

20131207_093556I was offended at the “less than condolences” messages from acquaintances. I was angry. I felt fragile. He’s gone less than a week and I become marketable? Yes, even in my mourning I felt those feelings!! How dare they encroach on my grieving? How dare they assume Loren and my relationship was so shallow that I wouldn’t “mind having them come to my house for a private visit in honor of Loren”?

I felt I must respond to two of the emails, so I did…….see, I knew these men well enough that to not have responded might have encouraged them. I did my best to kindly make it clear that I was not interested in their suggested visitations. I purposefully stated I intended to healthily learn how to be a GODLY, SINGLE, WIDOW. Yes, I used all three of those words. Here’s why:

  • Godly because my adult kids need me to remain consistent. I was consistent as a faithful spouse for 37 years. Consistent in serving My Lord. Not only is it important to my family that I show consistency it’s important TO ME that I maintain my values.
  • Until now I had never truly lived on my own. After High School I went to college for 2 years while coming home in the summertime to live on the farm with my parents and sibs. When in college I had dorm mates. I had always shared. As a child I shared a bedroom and a bed with my sister Jean. Never alone, unless I was out in the barn with my horses enjoying the solitude or mowing. It’s about time I learn to become comfortable with the new me.
  • Because I was so distraught the day after my husband’s memorial service, that day daughter Brenna took me to my family physician Dr. Edwardson. While signing in, the form stated I was no longer “married.” I could barely breathe knowing 6 days after his passing, my status, was already changed to “widow”.   One more example of every ounce of strength being needed to move, to concentrate, to exist. But even in my sorrow I knew “widow” was just a label to identify someone’s status.

“So, God, help me navigate this path of widowhood 13 months later. I still feel married to my husband. The tie that bound us together is not easily broken and my heart is with him. Lord I’m available to You and my family and friends. I do not want to bring reproach to Your name in my actions or choices. I’m really going to need You more than ever in my life! Amen.”

P.S. btw….those acquaintances of Loren’s that sent me “I’m available for you condolences”..? Haven’t heard another word from them. Moral of the story: Head ‘em off at the pass immediately.

QUESTION: Your kind words of support and affirmation to my sister in the last two guest blog posts have been inspiring. What would you say to her in the comment section below this time? By the way, she loves to respond to each and every comment.

 

It was 30 years ago. May 7, 1986. The final leg of our move was completed. The adventure for our family of five was about to begin. We pulled our Ryder moving truck into the driveway of our rental home. Cape Coral, Florida. Excited. Nervous. Anticipating. Expecting. Fearful. Eager. Called.

1986 Move to Cape Coral

1986 Move to Cape Coral, FL

Called to start a church in a southwest Florida growing community of 48,000 people. Two other couples in our support team. Two denominational agencies–each giving one-fourth financial support. Dreaming of such an opportunity for years. Now a reality.

Fast forward three decades. So many stories that could be told. Thousands of relationships. Dozens and dozens of principles learned about leadership and life. I choose to share only three leadership learnings from the last three decades.

1. Determine Your BrandAfter surveying 200 homes in face-to-face interviews, many interactions with young families at our children’s school and rubbing shoulders with parents out on the soccer field sidelines, we envisioned the end. Helping unchurched families experience the fullness of God through a contemporary, relevant, authentic and down-to-earth church.

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Our family in 1986

Some of the finer nuances and expressions have changed over the decades, but thirty years later, Cape Christian is still known for all of the above. We become what we are intentional about. Our vision determines our mission and the practice of our mission determines our reputation or brand—what we are known for.

What is true of a church, a business or any other organization is also true of us individually. We must determine our brand. When it’s all said and everything is done, what do we want to be remembered for the most? What do we want our spouses to say about us? Our kids? Our neighbors, friends, employers, employees, co-workers? You can determine your brand from the start.

2. Persistence is MandatoryThere is no other way to say it. You won’t see good long term results without persistence. Some look at Cape Christian thirty years later and imagine an overnight success. Not at all. Persistence was mandatory. Nearly 2,000 coming to worship each weekend didn’t just happen. It started with an average of 65 the first year. 91 the second year. 126 in year three.

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Fourteen acre campus of Cape Christian includes a park for the families of the community to enjoy.

It took nearly ten years to piece together 48 individually-owned pieces of property to assemble three city blocks of property into our current 14 acre campus. Persistence. Prayer. Perseverance. Tenacity. Focus. Endurance. And not taking “no” as the final answer. It always looks easy after its been done. But there was nothing easy about it. You can only live your vision with stick-to-it-ness. Every project includes obstacles and barriers. Persistence is mandatory.

Jim Collins writes about the “flywheel effect” in Good to Great. Right on. Absolutely correct. The premise of the flywheel is simple. A flywheel is an incredibly heavy wheel that takes huge effort to push. Keep pushing and the flywheel builds momentum. Keep investing energy and eventually it starts to help turn itself and generate its own momentum–and that’s when an organization goes from good to great. Persistence is mandatory.

3. Leadership Partnerships are SeasonalMy default thinking used to imagine team members and partners working together for the long haul. I was wrong. People come and go. Leadership team members come and go. Those who join you and take you to one level, may not have the capacity or the competency to get to the next level. Or they may have experienced or learned what they needed for their next season of where God wants to use them. God has many people with many giftings and strengths. He brings some for a season. We rejoice when they partner with us. It’s rarely easy to see them go. But, I’ve learned to enjoy the seasons. I’ve seen the benefits of change and transition. Good things can result from variation and new leadership styles. Hang tight to the vision and the mission. Keep an open hand as to who God might bring to partner with you in reaching the vision. Leadership partnerships are seasonal.

Are there more than three learnings in thirty years? Yes. For sure. At least twenty-seven more. I’ll share a few of those in some future blogs. Stayed tuned.

 

Question: Which of the three learnings surprise you the most and why? Do you have a story of how one of these has played out in your life? I’d love to hear more in the comment section below.

 

 

“There is no other option.” Those five words. That’s it. Just five. That’s all he said to me. With a couple smiles inserted before and after. Five words said it all. No more. No less. Nothing else needed to be said.

I heard those five words while on a recent business trip. They were spoken by a legendary coach imagesmost American’s admire. I spotted him when I arrived at my gate at the South Bend Regional Airport. We were both early. Just a few of us in the waiting area. I was talking to my wife Linda on the phone. What a great blog I could write with a few quotes from the master of quotes. Yet I was debating with myself as I whispered to her on the phone. Leave him alone or go over and start talking to him? Grab some nuggets of gold from one of the greatest football coaches of recent history or mind my own business?

All of a sudden it was too late. Like flies on spilled honey, everyone realized his presence and gathered around Coach Lou Holtz. They were asking for their pictures to be taken with him. They had him autograph shirts, pieces of paper and more. They huddled around him. They stood in line. It was the weekend of the Notre Dame inter-squad Blue-Gold Spring football game. High school football recruits. Their coaches. Fighting Irish fans. Nearly everyone in the gate area wanted a piece of this famous coach and now ESPN analyst. After all, Notre Dame is where Coach Lou Holtz left one of his most memorable football legacies from 1986 -1996. But, at this point, I felt sorry for the 79 year old football icon.

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Coach Holtz at South Bend, IN airport

I wanted to chat with Coach Holtz because I’ve always admired his leadership, faith, and character. I’ve often quoted him. But I quickly realized that it was more about me than it was about him. I figured if it was meant to be, I might be seated next to him on our small commuter jet to Atlanta. Lou was in 2A, I was 5A. Maybe when we get off in Atlanta. But I determined I wasn’t going to be like one of “them” and pounce on him, wear him out and ask for a picture or an autograph.

Soon we were getting back off the plane. Still in South Bend. A mechanical issue, they said. Another plane was to take us to Atlanta. So I was back in line waiting to see if I could rebook to a later flight from Atlanta to Fort Myers. On my phone, checking the later flights on my Delta app, I happened to turn around. There he was in line, 30 inches behind me. The celebrity. The most sought after man in the entire airport. The legendary Coach Lou Holtz.

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Fans posing with Coach Holtz

 

He smiled. I smiled. I asked only one question in a pastoral-caring kind of way. How do you put up with the constant barrage of requests for autographs and pictures? And that’s when he responded with the five words that said it all. “There is no other option.” I smiled and told him, “You are much more gracious than I am. I would be very annoyed by now.”  He smiled.

I’ve read and used a lot of quotes from Lou Holtz. One comes to mind after watching him graciously respond to dozens and dozens of strangers over a two to three hour period: “Do right. Do your best. Treat others as you want to be treated.” And another: “I follow three rules: Do the right thing, do the best you can, and always show people you care.” For Coach Lou, there is no other option.

And for me, those five words have haunted me, convicted me, inspired me and shaped my behavior over the past couple weeks. As a leader, pastor, husband, and follower of Jesus. Some things I need to do just because: “There is no other option.” Being weary, stressed, or busy isn’t a legitimate excuse for impatience or harshness with others. Because of who I am and whose I am, “There is no other option.” Thank you Coach Holtz for your kind smile. And, for those five words.

QUESTION: What do those five words speak to you about your life? I’d love to hear your thoughts below.

 

 

95 years ago today. April 27, 1921. A ten-pound baby boy was delivered by Doc Toot in the bedroom of a rural Elida, Ohio farm house. Clarence and Stella Augsburger were the proud parents of their first born of five sons and one daughter. Over the years, while planting, cultivating and harvesting tomatoes and melons on the small family farm, God was nudging Fred to a distinctive kind of sowing and reaping.

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Fred Augsburger in his 30’s

After a five-year apprenticeship helping start a church in rural Wisconsin, Fred and his wife Carolyn and young family of two daughters, were invited to Youngstown, Ohio to start a church in 1952. A Caucasian farm boy answered the call. A predominately African-American inner city community was the field.

Seeds of love, compassion, acceptance and authenticity were freely planted. Acts of kindness, servant-hood, mercy, justice and respect were consistently cultivated. Everything was drenched with the living water of the Holy Spirit. And a church was planted. A harvest of fruit was evident. People of all skin tones worshipped God together. First a church on the south-side, and then a second church 15 years later on the northeast side of Youngstown. Thirty years of faithful and fruitful ministry.

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Children’s Bible Club in 1957

During and for an additional 15 years beyond planting two churches in Youngstown, were hundreds of fruitful ministry opportunities as the Fred Augsburger family of five children and parents travelled, sang and preached their way across the landscape of North American churches. Stories of transformation, healing and restoration abound. Several interim pastorates from Ohio to Oregon. (A book with their life story has been written). Sowing and reaping. Faithful and fruitful.

A God-loving, Christ-following, Spirit-empowered faithful leader. Married to an equally called, passionate and gifted wife. Together, they created five children who all married and birthed 13 grandchildren who now have added 10 great-grandchildren. At all levels of the legacy, there are younger generations living out a similar call that has been shaped by their father, grandfather and great grandfather. They have been faithful and fruitful.

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My wife Linda on the far right.

Fred’s legacy has been lived out in many powerful ways through this family. They are as varied as the uniqueness of each child, in-law, grandchild and great grandchild. But one I know most intimately. I married his third daughter, Linda, nearly 42 years ago. Together we have spent 37 years in ministry. The last 30 of those ministry years, planting a church in Cape Coral, FL. Our passion for loving God and loving people has been shaped by our father and father in-love. We have been faithful and fruitful.

And our three children have also been molded by their grandfather. One of our sons recently wrote: After just passing two years of sobriety this month, I was praying for Grandpa and reflecting on the wonderful man he is and the wonderful family I have been blessed to be a part of…and then it hit me…grandpa asked me one time if I was ever going to be a pastor. He said he had a dream where I was walking in his footsteps, I believe he said literally walking in his giant shoes, trying to fit into them. Although I am not going to be a pastor, I realized that I am finally walking in his shoes. At the time, the shoes were too giant and too big for me to fit into. But, through the grace of God, I feel the shoes fit now. I am not perfect. I still am trying to “wear them in” and they are becoming more comfortable as I wear them. And I just wanted to thank you grandpa for being a man of God and passing that down through the generations. Thank you for the shoes grandpa, they fit!

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Five Children Celebrating Fred’s 95th Birthday

Even at age 95, having just moved last week into the nursing home section of the retirement community he has resided in the past eight years, he is still laboring in the fields where God has placed him. He regularly prays for, encourages and inspires his peers. He sows seed. Cultivates and waters spiritual soil. And he still has the joy of a fruitful harvest.

If God gives me another three decades of life and health, I want to still be living and leaving such a legacy like my father in-love. Happy 95th Birthday Fred Augsburger!

QUESTION: What are you doing now to leave a legacy like my father in-love Fred Augsburger? I’d love to hear your thoughts below.

 

 

Last week I posted my first guest blog. The very first since I launched the blog in 2012. I invited my sister Julia to write regarding the sudden passing of her 60 year old husband, Loren, a bit over a year ago. There were so many powerful responses and shares on social media. My stat page showed it to be one of the highest reader count in months. So, I know a good thing when I see it. I asked her to write another blog post. Eventually, I’ll get her set up to have her own blog, I hope! And now, in her words…

 

When my husband lay deceased on our bedroom floor that Tuesday morning in March 2015, I lay beside him… stretched up against him, caressing his face and rubbing his chest while looking intently at him. Studying every detail of the face I loved. I ran my hands through his mustache, beard and hair. I massaged his hand and studied both beautiful hands I’d loved for 37 years. The hands that represented determination, hard work and sacrifice. And LOVE.

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Julia and Loren Wasson

I loved my husband in life. And I chose to love him in death. While laying beside him on that hard wood floor, the hymn “MY JESUS I LOVE THEE”, ran through my mind and breath. The 2nd verse says, “I’ll love thee in life, I will love thee in death. I’ll love thee as long as thou lendest me breathe…” I knew the lyrics were written to express a person’s love for their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. But somehow at that moment, my reverence and devotion was towards my husband, the man whom I grew to love as much as I loved my Lord and Savior. And having learned to love my husband that deeply, while honoring him, was pleasing to the Lord.

I had considered myself to be a woman of faith. I had considered myself to be a God-fearing woman. And most people would’ve considered me to be a strong woman. But my faith was shaken. As if an earthquake had occurred from the bowels of the earth, my core was disenegrated. The very God that I worshipped had allowed my husband to die far too early. How could I possibly exist without his companionship, his physical presence, the multiple texts, phone calls, funny pictures we’d send each other….you know, ALL of those things couples share? What was his passing going to do to our children? What was his passing going to do to our young grandchildren? These were mere firsts of the many “WHY’s?”

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Loren Wasson and Granddaughter

At week 20 after his passing, while driving to church one Sunday morning I had an “ah-ah” moment. I felt I actually heard Loren telling me that our goals and dreams for our 4 children were not over, that though he was in heaven with the Lord and I was still here on earth, I would be praying for them on earth while he was praying for them in heaven. Death could not separate us from the Love of Christ. Nor could death stop the love our family shared.

Since that Sunday morning, the scripture “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:6-8 and also check out 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14has fresher significance to me. I’m here. He’s there.

So my prayer today is, “God, I’m here with our children and grandchildren. All of our days are numbered and You have purpose for us, whether we are with You in heaven or down here on earth. Give me wisdom to live responsibly and honorably, because no matter what circumstance we are living in…You still reign.”  — Julia Gingerich Wasson

COMMENTS: I would love to hear your comments and any words you for how Julia’s writing has touched you. She would welcome your feedback. Thanks!