A Motto That Means Something

Last week I talked about a Motto That’s On Mission, and basically I said that your mission statement is too long – shorten it to a motto that is easily digestible for your audience. This week I want to continue with that idea of motto, but in a different direction. About mottos that mean something more than just an organization’s existence.

Theology is hard. Books and books have been written trying to explain all the intricate details of theology – and then more books are written about those books. But the point of faith is its accessibility to all. Anyone can believe, so the information for belief must be easily digestible. Just like a motto.

When it comes to preaching, the most important thing to keep in mind is the Gospel. But what is the Gospel? There are four books in the Bible that are called “Gospels.” They record the life of Jesus and much of his teaching here on earth. But when Paul talks about the Gospel (Romans 1:16), he’s probably not talking about Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, at least half of which weren’t written at the time. No, he’s talking about the message of salvation that Jesus’ first followers were spreading. He’s talking about information.

What if we could take that complicated information of theology and reduce it down to something as simple as the message Paul preached, the message that unbelievers accepted, and the message that formed the backbone of the 2000 year old Church? What if we could take complex, intricate ideas and make them simple for anyone and everyone to get? I believe that’s the whole purpose of turning thoughts into words into actions.

Here’s how I’ve done this. When I think of the Gospel, I think of the basic information someone would need to know to understand who Jesus is, what he’s done for them, and how they should respond. So I’ve come up with a motto that explains this quickly, yet fully:

“Jesus died so you don’t have to, and he rose again so you can be with him forever.”

That, to me, is the essence of the Gospel message. It’s quick, it’s simple, and it’s all encompassing. From this motto you can springboard into more detail – How did Jesus die? What kind of man would die like that for me? How does his death mean I don’t have to die? What kind of death do I avoid by believing in him?

You can take this idea of motto and apply it to any number of other doctrines – justification by faith, water baptism, evangelism, accountability. Take the long form idea – with all its intricacies and details – and then break it down into the very essence of what the idea means and does. Then reshape it in as few words as possible. Finally, deliver that motto to an audience needing direction.

What big ideas do you think are obstacles to people believing in Jesus? How can you turn those big ideas into mottos that will help more people believe?

The Manager In Your Mind

You know when you go to a restaurant and there’s a wait. You go up to the host and ask how long the wait will be. What do they say? They say the same thing every time, right? “It’ll be about ten or fifteen minutes.” Somehow they’ve decided that people are willing to wait ten or fifteen minutes…but not twenty. That’s too long! So they always say “ten or fifteen minutes” knowing that you’ll stay there for a seat…even if it really takes twenty minutes.

Then, at some point in the wait, it happens. You see a table open up. But it’s just sitting there. No one’s cleaning it off. No one is rushing to get it ready. You’ve been waiting! Why aren’t they seating you?! There’s a table open!!!

That’s the moment when we all become restaurant managers, even if we’ve never worked in food service before. They need to hire more staff. Why don’t they expand their dining room? They need to train better. They should do call-ahead-seating like Chili’s does. Ah Chili’s – the great restaurant equalizer.

But anyway…

We all have these moments in our lives – whether at restaurants or somewhere else – when we become a manager. We see things going down and we jump to conclusions. We take over the position of manager in our mind and come up with twenty ways to fix it. With little or no experience, we are automatic experts.

Where else does this happen? A few other places that I’ve seen. One is school. Children come home that first week of school and we all seem to have a Masters of Education. Why do they send home so much homework? Why don’t they send home more homework? Why are they reading that book? Why don’t they teach cursive anymore? Who really needs algebra???

But here’s the things, parents: unless we’re educators, we really don’t know better…we just think we know better. Until we go around the counter and do the job that we are criticizing, we can’t fully appreciate how hard that job is.

This whole process of assuming we know better is like managing in our minds. We take on the role of manager without any of the responsibilities or instruction. Why does a certain business do what they do? If we asked enough questions we’d find out that they have a pretty good reason for it. It may be an inconvenience once in a while, but that doesn’t mean they should change just for you.

And the same goes for our churches. I’m guilty of this. Having spent over 20 years in church ministry, I think I know better. I jump into the manager role as soon as I walk into any church. I can usually point out five things wrong with any church within three minutes of passing through their doors. And I’ve already got a 9 Step Process for Turning Things Around power point ready to go. Now, where’s the pastor?

When we manage in our mind we’re usually unwilling to work with our feet. When we take the time to ask questions, see that good ideas are being put to use, and that there’s a reason for everything that’s being done, we generally turn down the volume on the management side of our brains.

When was the last time you tried to manage in your mind? What can you do to put a quick stop to it next time?

Benefit of the Doubt

During my first stint in full-time ministry I ran into a problem. Actually, I ran into a “problem person.” I had a volunteer that had an attitude problem. It came to a head one Sunday morning when she cornered my wife and spewed hate at her for no reason.

That next week I talked to my pastor about it. I was lit! I wanted to fire this volunteer, and let her know in no uncertain terms that she were unfit for any position in our church!

My pastor just looked at me. He sat there for a while, motionless and not talking. Uh-oh.

Finally he told me something that would change my life as a leader. “You need to give people the benefit of the doubt,” he told me.

“Yeah, but what about when they really mess up?”

“Give them the benefit of the doubt.”

“But what if they hurt your feelings, or worse – the feelings of those you care about?”

“Chris. This is not a debate. You give them the benefit of the doubt.”

Then he went on, explaining that yes, people will disappoint you. That people are imperfect and imperfect people do imperfect things. “But it’s much better to be surprised by people’s mistakes than be jaded and expect them to make mistakes.”

I took that advice with me. Ten years later, different church, different staff position, but same imperfect people. I took over a ministry area with over 100 volunteers and the first thing I was told was, “This one volunteer leader has got to go.” Apparently this guy – let’s call him Mark – had been disgruntled and upset for a few months. He was starting to let his attitude affect others too, always complaining about the church or the staff or his ministry area. So it was given to me to get rid of him.

Do you know what I did? I gave him the benefit of the doubt. I scheduled a meeting with him and sat down to chat – not about church or ministry or volunteering, but about his life. When we finally got around to his volunteer position, I laid out some options for him. The biggest frustration he had with the church was that he thought he had to stay locked in to this area of ministry. He wanted to do something else, like be a group leader in the student ministry.

I let him know that was more than okay. “Mark, if you want to cut back on your responsibilities, that’s fine. We can find a replacement.” All of sudden it was like a load was lifted. Benefit of the doubt. Repurposing volunteers. They go hand in hand.

Let me just give you some lessons I’ve learned about giving the benefit of the doubt.

First, giving the benefit of the doubt gives you freedom.

Where once you were jaded or cynical, now you are hopeful and expectant. Where once you would lay in bed at night wondering why people won’t do what you want them to do, now you’re free to expect great things from them. Sure you’re going to be disappointed and surprised. But you’ll only get hurt when they hurt you. When you’re jaded, you’re in a constant state of hurt.

Second, giving the benefit of the doubt gives the other person freedom.

When you assume the worst of people, you will get the worst from them. But when you give the benefit of the doubt, you release them to do so much more. My friend Mark would never have realized a passion for a different type of ministry if I had simply fired him, got rid of him, shaming him for his attitude.

Finally, giving the benefit of the doubt uncovers real issues.

When I started thinking about the problem of Mark, I wondered if there wasn’t something else going on. I asked around about him, starting to get a full picture of what was going on. Turns out he had just been laid off, his wife just had a baby – their fifth child – and she was going to have to go back to work. Mark had a lot going on that was causing a lot of frustrations. I would have never known about them – and been given an opportunity to pray for Mark and live life with him – if I just assumed the worst about him.


Giving the benefit of the doubt is loving like God loves. The reason God remains so faithful to us when we are so faithless at times is because he always gives us the benefit of the doubt. And that is why he was so willing to give so much for us – his very son.

When have you assumed the worst rather than giving the benefit of the doubt? Was it helpful? How can you start giving the benefit of the doubt in the future?


A Motto That’s On Mission

If you’ve been in ministry for a while you’ve probably heard the importance of a good mission statement. Guy Kawasaki in his book The Art of the Start says you’re wrong. You don’t need a good mission statement – you just need a motto. He suggests we replace “highfalutin, all-encompassing” mission statements with short, easily digestible, right-to-the-point mottos, what he calls a “mantra.”

Kawasaki gives a few examples from the business world:

Nike – Authentic athletic performance

Disney – Fun family entertainment

Starbucks – Rewarding everyday moments

These mottos are usually employed internally to direct the day-to-day vision of the company. But it’s not hard to see how they would translate to the general public in a pretty easy way.

Mottos are not only catchy, they also help the audience know – right away! – what they’re in for. So how does this work in the church?

Craft Mottos, not Mission Statements

Chances are your church already has a mission statement. I’m not telling you to scrap it. It’s probably pretty important for driving vision. But you can substitute it for a motto. Maybe take a snippet of the mission statement and turn it into a motto. Or start with something fresh that you’ll advertise to everyone.

The church I attend, NorthPoint Church in Springfield, MO, has as its mission statement: “NorthPoint exists to create a safe place for people to find and follow Jesus.” That’s pretty short, it’s definitely to the point, and it’s not difficult to remember. But it’s still not a motto. Sometimes our mission statement is shortened to just: “Find and follow Jesus.” In the end, that’s what the church is all about.

You can also look at your values and decide what’s important enough to advertise to the world. Another way to think of a motto is this: “If I only had a few seconds, how would I describe my church?” I know a lot of churches that use the “Real, Relevant, Relational” tag as a motto. Or maybe it’s “Love God, Love People.” There’s really an endless supply of good mottos when it comes to the list of values your church has adopted.

Once you’ve crafted a motto, get it out there! Start putting it on fliers, on handouts and bulletins, on signs and walls all over your church. Start advertising it on business cards and mailers, splash it across billboards, and repeat it on the radio or TV. Get your motto out there!

This is really about turning your church inside out. For those who have never visited, how can you – in just a couple of seconds – explain what your church is all about? They may already have an idea, and that idea could be wrong. But with a motto, you shatter their preconceived notions and invite them to experience it for themselves.

How can you use a motto to increase your audience’s engagement? How can you incorporate mottos in your weekly teachings?

The Best Part of Getting Lost

I love road trip! Probably because I love having long conversations with someone else, and that usually happens on a road trip. You’re stuck in a car for ten, twelve hours. What else are you going to do? And that’s what was going on a few years ago when we got lost. Here’s how it went down.

We’re heading north, out of Florida and right into Alabama, on our way back home from a great beach vacation. My wife is handling the navigating while I’m handling the wheel. And we’re talking. About what? I have no idea. But the conversation is really great and neither of us is really paying attention to the road until all of a sudden my wife says, “Wait! We’re lost!”

“What? What do you mean we’re lost?”

“We were supposed to turn left back there. Now we’re lost in Alabama!”

Well, we’re not so lost as much as off track. But no worries, just a quick reroute up ahead and we’ll be right back on track. So my wife plots a course and yells out, “Turn here!” So I veer our trusty Ford Escape off the highway and onto a dusty dirt road. Up and down a couple of hills and we’re right back on track. But then I looked up. And then I hit the brakes.

“What are you doing?” my wife yells, and rightly so. But I just had to stop.

I get out of the car and walk over to a little intersection on this back road of Alabama. Before me is a beautiful scene – a little farm house, rolling green hills, cows grazing lazily, and a pure blue pond. But I wasn’t looking at the farm scene. I was pointing at a road sign.

“Look!” I shout to her, still in the trusty Ford Escape. This road is an off-the-track, out-of-the-way, oh-no-we’re-lost road. This road is really just 150 yards of dirt leading to a stranger’s driveway, and there’s no way in the world that we would ever know about it. Unless we got off track. But we did, and so we saw it.

The road? Well of course it was called “Colvin Road.”

Was it fate? Was it coincidence? It doesn’t matter! It was Colvin Road!!! And Colvin isn’t the most popular of last names, trust me. It was meant to be, no matter what you think.

Sometimes we get off track. We get distracted, confused, or maybe just lazy. But we get our eyes off the map and before we know it we’re heading down a dirt road to try to catch up.

But in those times, if we don’t take time we may miss something amazing. Something you would only see if you get off track.

In life, you’re bound to get off track. It happens. You lose your job. You get robbed. Your boyfriend breaks up with you. Your spouse dies. God forbid any of those things ever happen! But if they do, and while you’re getting back on track, don’t miss what’s right around you. Use this time of being off track to find something beautiful, amazing, perplexing, astonishing – something you would have never seen, known, or experienced if you had stayed on track.

Look, I’m not saying that God is responsible for getting you lost. But I am saying that if you don’t stop and look around when you do get lost, you may miss something he’s trying to show you. About yourself. About your world. About something you’re really passionate about but don’t think about when you’re lost.

When have you gotten off track and thought you couldn’t get back on track? What have you seen that you wouldn’t have seen if you hadn’t gotten off track?