Direction Setting or Culture Setting?

If you had asked me what leadership was about a while back I think would have leant much more heavily towards direction setting rather than culture setting. Not that either is unimportant, but I have always tended to see the role of the leader/s as being that of choosing the direction and then planning how to implement the various strategies to move towards that direction.

And while I still do that stuff to some degree I’d have to say that I’m coming to see culture setting as way more important in the scheme of things. If we get the direction right and the culture wrong then chances are we aren’t going to head anywhere anyway because the people haven’t gelled. But get the culture right and create an environment people want to be part of and my hunch is that the rest will flow out of it much more easily.

By ‘culture setting’ I mean framing up the kind of people we will be and then living that out. Some would say this is just a natural by-product of any leader in a role, but I think we can let the culture of a community shape us, or we can endeavour to shape it.

So these days my question is less ‘where are we going?’ and more ‘who are we becoming?’

As part time paid church leaders its sometimes difficult to see in tangible terms just what Danelle and I do – at least that’s how I feel – but I know that a big slice of it is just this – setting a culture. Its been a couple of years now and I feel like we can see some of that culture taking shape and our identity becoming a little clearer and stronger as a church community.

Choosing a culture means we won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but then we aren’t trying to be and in that there is a great freedom to let ‘church shoppers’ know that if its glitz, pizzaz and shiny happy people with nice teeth and no problems they are after then we probably aren’t ever going to make you happy.

Privilege Entitlement and Contentment

I have been doing some reflecting over the last few weeks about why I feel somewhat discontent in life at the moment.

Much of it stems from not feeling like I am living as purposefully and passionately as I had done in years gone by. I don’t live with the same clarity of calling I had only 5 years ago and I find it disturbing and unsettling.

When I would coach people in this place I had a simple question for them (well it’s not that simple but it served the purpose) It was ‘if money were no object what would you do with your life?’ My own answer to this invariably was ‘exactly what I’m doing now’ (and I always felt that was the right answer) however now the answer I would give is ‘I don’t really know…’

And therein lies my frustration.

It’s not money that holds me back, but clarity. Money is always a consideration of some sort because none of us have the option to live without resources, but I know we could live on a lot less if we had to.

I’ve been in this place for a while now – it’s a bit like treading water – not going under, staying afloat easily even, but not feeling like I am actually moving in a clear direction.

I haven’t been here before so I can’t see what’s over the rise. I don’t know if this period will pass or if its here to stay. Since year 10 high school I have had some very clear goals, directions and ambitions. To not have that is strange.

I have considered making some ‘hard’ changes in life just to shake things up a bit. Quit leading the church or shut down my business… Both pretty drastic measures and neither feels right. Both feel like a bloke in the middle of a mid-life crisis trying to smash his way out… To pursue either change would certainly upset the equilibrium, but that would also feel like I am pushing something to happen that just isn’t there – like picking fruit that isn’t ripe.

As I was thinking about this on Friday it occurred to me that the reason I struggle is because I somehow feel like I am entitled to an exciting, fulfilling and inspiring life. And as a result anything less than that feels like either I’m being cheated, or being consciously frivolous with life and wasting it.

That sense of entitlement really threw me. I hadn’t really seen it from that angle before. But I think part of why I struggle with this place in life is because I do hold a (previously unconcious) belief that I am supposed to have clarity, purpose and fulfillment in all I do. Somehow – whether its my experience, life context or whatever has led me to believe that this is a ‘right’.

I’m guessing this is a western trait as I doubt folks in developing world countries ever get as frustrated with a less than inspirational existence. To have a job, a healthy family, a home and adequate food is often enough to satisfy. In fact I imagine if someone were offered a life swap for mine, it could look pretty attractive. I don’t see any ‘escape routes’ from this current situation, so I’m guessing its a place I may live for a while. Its not unhappy. Its not especially difficult. Just very different to where I have been for all my adult years.

So – while I’m here I think perhaps the thing I do need to aspire towards is learning what contentment looks like outside of goals and ambitions. Just another life change… Maybe the 50’s will be easier!

New Year’s Confessions

I have a theory that new year’s resolutions are better called ‘new year’s confessions’. Generally new year’s resolutions are us saying ‘I really suck at XYZ and I want to change something about my life. This is where I am failing.’

Of course most people also know that new year’s resolutions are typically short lived and we tend to fall back into old patterns fairly easily.

Do you ever wonder why that is?

If there was one thing most of us would love to be able to do it is make a decision to change our behaviour and the stick to it.

I am wary of making any ‘resolutions’ these days partly because I know I am setting myself up for failure, but also because I want to make changes regularly – not just at the end of a calendar year. I have noticed that change becomes more difficult with age and that habits become more ingrained. But if we can make ‘change’ and conformity to Christ an ‘ingrained pattern/habit’ then we have hope

Without the grace of God and the camaraderie of others on the road of discipleship I am left with sheer will-power, and often I am not that ‘willing’ to do the things that need to be done.


Lately in our church gatherings when I’ve been reading from the Bible I just pull up the text on my iPhone and read it like that. I never carry a Bible with me these days and don’t use my old blue NIV much at all either. It has served me faithfully for around 25 years, but now even at home I sit with my phone or laptop and use them in preference to the hardcopy.

Its just words – and how you access them doesn’t matter right?

I believe that’s a completely true statement, but this morning in church as two different people read the Bible – one from phone and the other from book I noticed that I felt different.

It felt strange seeing ‘the Bible’ read from a phone, whereas seeing it read from a leather bound book felt ‘right’ and maybe even curiously more authoritative…

What’s with that hey?…

I am guessing its just conditioning. Similar to what someone might experience if they went from spending all of their life meeting in a cathedral to meeting in a family room. But it also served as a reminder that these familiar physical objects, spaces and experiences trigger things in us that may be helpful or unhelpful to what we are trying to achieve.

I imagine we will see more and more Bible being read from phone, iPads and the like, but I imagine it will take a while to ‘adjust the settings’ in our psyche to give it the same legitimacy as hard copy.

Funny creatures aren’t we…

A Walk Down The Road

How do you make decisions?

How do you know which way to turn in different circumstances?

My advice to people has been to ‘walk down the road a bit’. By that I mean imagine yourself in the various situations that may possible. Really feel/visualise what it would be like to be there and ask ‘is this what I want?’

Last weekend we went away to Bridgetown for a good mate’s 40th birthday. No kids, no noise, no agenda, just relaxing and catching our breath with some old friends. Nice…

If you’ve been a regular reader you’d know that I am a bit discontent with life as it stands for me at the moment. I have been wondering is there a ‘next step’ I am missing. Is there something more for me to do.

Lately my retic work has been overwhelming to the point where I have offloaded a bunch of work to a mate and then actually asked a guy to subcontract to me. I have considered expanding before but rejected the idea as out of keeping with what I want to do in life.

But I’ve been re-thinking.

So Danelle and I chatted about it. And we took a ‘walk down the road’. We began to imagine what life would be like if I expanded the business and really ramped it up. I identified 5 advantages:

a) We make more money

b) We develop a genuinely saleable asset

c) I ease the stress on my own body

d) We provide work for others and have an opportunity to help people

e) I get a new challenge in life

Each of those advantages is very appealing in its own right and the combination of the 5 looks like a no brainer. Except that when I consider expansion I actually feel ill.

We discussed the plan of putting one car/trailer on the road each year, ramping up the marketing, moving me into quoting etc etc. I reckon we could do it…

But I don’t want to. It’s partly that I don’t want the added stress, but partly too that I doubt I could effectively lead a Christian community if my primary focus was in another project.

We gave it some thought. We really ‘walked down the road’, but while we were there we didn’t really like what we saw. The somewhat obsessive aspect of my personality would be fired up and I imagine I would be mono-focused for as long as it took to make it a healthy thriving business.

To get to there means that emotional energy gets stripped from other places. Danelle, family, church and so on…

There’s a price to pay for success and its a price I’m not up for.

We took that walk down the road, but we didn’t particularly like what we saw… so we continue on where we are at. but we took the walk. If you never take the walk then you never know…