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Posts from March 2012

What the Church Can Learn From Steve Jobs

Some of you will find it difficult to admit that church leaders can learn from a man like Steve Jobs. In fact, just the title of this post is making some of you angry. I'm sure some are looking up verses of Scripture even now that affirm why I should never even attempt to make the claim this title boasts. 

Steve jobsAs many of you know, from reading his biography and other reports, Steve Jobs was not a supporter or believer in the Christian church. He was a seeker who abandoned the teachings of the Bible when his Sunday School teacher could not answer a question regarding the suffering in the world. He engaged in the liberal lifestyle and drug culture of Reed College. He became a dabbler and follower of New Age mysticism and his eccentricities of the "all fruit diet" and not bathing for many days as a young entrepreneur are well known.

Even though he was known as a demanding boss and very difficult to work with, his entrepreneurial spirit and leadership at Apple Computers has become iconic. 

I was watching a video presentation by Guy Kawasaki today. Kawasaki worked for Apple during the 1980s and then again in the mid-1990s first as the Software Evangelist and later as the Chief Evangelist. (Nice titles, huh?) He claims to be one of the few people to have been able to work with Jobs twice and survive. He is now an author and speaker and developer of numerous websites. One of my go-to sites is Kawasaki's Kawasaki speaks globally in different settings. He has spoken to leaders in the corporate and education world as well as at Catalyst to church leaders. Kawasaki's faith is evident and his ability to keep his finger on the pulse of culture is helpful for the church.

It's obvious that he has much respect for Jobs. When Jobs died last year, Kawasaki developed a list of "12 Things I Have Learned from Steve Jobs." I watched his presentation of this at TEDx at the Harker School in San Jose.

While watching this presentation, even though focused on the tech industry and business, I discovered some things that can be helpful for church leaders.

Here are the 12 things. . .

  1. "Experts" are clueless. That's a pretty harsh statement, but it's based on the fact that in industry, there are those who with past experience and age are elevated to the position of expert. Just because there is much wisdom in experience, there are times when the "experts" miss the point. He uses examples of Thomas Watson of IBM who declared in 1943 his view that the world would have a demand for a maximum of five computers. He also references Western Union's internal memo that declared the new device known as the telephone to be a loser and therefore not worth investing into. WHAT THIS MEANS FOR THE CHURCH: This is a stretch, but throughout church history, and especially in the past century or so, there have been some who have declared their "prophecies" of the future of the global church. Some have been dramatically proven incorrect. Sometimes it's a holding onto the past that leads to this, but mostly, it's a lack of discerning the Spirit's lead. There are far too few "men of Issachar" today who truly understand the times. However, there are some "experts" who seem to have their finger on the pulse of culture and without forsaking any of the message of the Gospel have been instrumental in leading the church to reach postmoderns and others to come. Lesson learned - just because someone has written a book and self-declared their "expertise" does not mean they are right. Trust the Spirit and the modern-day "men of Issachar."
  2. Customers cannot tell you what they need. Kawasaki states that "Apple market research" was nothing more than the right side of Jobs' brain. Jobs made it clear that if you asked the customer what they wanted, the answer would be simply "better, faster and cheaper." The customer would only ask for better "sameness," not revolutionary change. Customers can only describe their desires in terms what they are already using. WHAT THIS MEANS FOR THE CHURCH: People know they have needs, but they don't always know what those needs are. Even good Christian people in the church. Often the perceived need is a better choir, an organ (seriously!), better ministry options for the kids, a more comfortable gathering place, a new pastor, etc. What people need is revolutionary change. This is deeper than church talk. This is referencing the transformational change that only comes from the Spirit of God. So, go ahead and do that "church member survey" but you will not discover what is truly needed. You'll likely see things that have absolutely nothing to do with the Gospel and tranformed lives. You will see things that hearken back to the "good ole days" or a ministry model perfect for the 1950s (or 1990s - by the way, even the 1990s are outdated now.)
  3. Jump to the next curve. Big wins happen when you go beyond better sameness. Watch the attached video for a great illustration regarding ice (from harvesters to ice houses to refrigerators.) WHAT THIS MEANS FOR THE CHURCH: I'm reminded of Reggie McNeal's book The Present Future. One of the statements in this book was that the church is answering the questions correctly. It's just that we're answering the wrong questions. It's time for a jump. We do not need "better sameness" but revolutionary change. The world is shrinking. The church must not run from the technology that enables us to communicate globally or support financially missionaries with the click of a button. It may seem honorable to discount the internet and hold tightly to that leather-bound King James Version Bible. I just wonder what we'll say when God asks why we didn't use the things He gave us fully so that more could know Him?
  4. The biggest challenges beget the best work. The biggest challengers of Apple, this little startup company with a new type of device called the personal computer were giants known as IBM and then later Microsoft. The challenges were great and many other companies came and went in the 1980s and 1990s. Apple saw the challenges as a chance to be better. (This is very hard for me to admit, since I used to work and love IBM, but it's true.) WHAT THIS MEANS FOR THE CHURCH: Well, there are the David and Goliath elements here, but when thinking about the local church, it's a good reminder that the Enemy and the world are against the Gospel. Some cower to this. Some resort to creating "holy huddles" that protest everything. These churches become known, not for the transformational love and grace of Jesus Christ, but for the fact (or at least the appearance) that they are against everything. Some churches worry about the future, forgetting that this is a sin. The odds may be against the local church, but the victory is secure. This must be remembered. Any church that loses this focus becomes little more than a club. 
  5. Design counts. Kawasaki states that Jobs drove people nuts with his Type A design demands. He stated that "some shades of black weren't black enough" and other detail things that most would say "What's the big deal?" Jobs was a perfectionist. WHAT THIS MEANS FOR THE CHURCH: The church must remember that the work we do is not for ourselves, but for God. He is the focus. He is the audience. Therefore, why would we offer anything less than our very best? Some churches just offer crumbs at the altar. God deserves the entire meal. The little things matter. Just thinking practically, since our God is perfect and holy, we should care for all that He has blessed us with so that those who do not yet know Him are not distracted by incomplete stories, poor planned events and left-overs. Details matter. It's not about becoming obsessive. It's about offering the best.
  6. You can't go wrong with big graphics and big fonts. For Apple, this was made clear during Jobs' regular presentations at Macworld and other gatherings. He would stand in front of a huge screen, usually with one large graphic image and few words presented. WHAT THIS MEANS FOR THE CHURCH: Fix your PowerPoint (or MediaShout, or other presentation programs for worship). Find some 16 year old that understands that clear and simple is best. Oh yeah, clean up the website while you're at it. No one wants to read paragraph after paragraph on your site (and, therefore, probably not on this blog either.)
  7. Changing your mind is a sign of intelligence. Apple did a 180 on it's announcements about app development for the iPhone and iPad between 2007 and 2008. It was the right shift. WHAT THIS MEANS FOR THE CHURCH: Times change. Programs change. Communities change. Churches change. What doesn't change? The Gospel. The Message. Don't say "We're doing this program until Jesus comes" from the pulpit. I've heard that said. Guess what? We stopped doing the program in two years. Why? Because it was time to change. There was a shelf-life for the program. It had served it's purpose. Oh yeah, sometimes you change because you realize you were wrong. God's never wrong, but we do not always listen well.
  8. "Value" is different from "price." Apple products have never been the cheapest on the market. Why then does market share increase? Because the products are quality and have value. WHAT THIS MEANS FOR THE CHURCH: Ministry is not easy. It will cost. It will cost time. It will cost money. It will cost friendships sometimes. It will cost some relationships (Luke 14:26). However, all of these are worth it. The Gospel is worth it. There is value in the Gospel. It is not cheap. Christ's sacrifice was not cheap.
  9. A players hire A+ players. Jobs would say that A players should hire A players, but Kawasaki one-ups him here. If a leader only hires players who are not as gifted and effective as oneself, the organization suffers. If A players hire B players, then B players will hire C players, C players will hire D players, etc. What happens when you get to Z? WHAT THIS MEANS FOR THE CHURCH: Staff well. Too often pastors and ministers are "hired" for reasons other than the call of God and the excellence of the ministry needed. Poor hires lead to weak ministries which lead to frustrated leadership teams and disgruntled church members. 
  10. Real CEOs demo. Jobs always showed how to use the products on stage at the trade shows. He didn't have someone else do it for him, when he was able. WHAT THIS MEANS FOR THE CHURCH: Pastors must live out what they preach. Delegation is great, but many pastors do not fully understand what it is. Delegated leadership is not telling others on the staff or in the congregation to do something the pastor would not do. I have seen this and it's poor leadership. Pastors cannot tell others to share Christ if they do not model it first. Real pastors demo.
  11. Real CEOs ship. Sometimes the product wasn't fully complete, but Jobs would ship it anyway. It was always ready, but in most cases not fully developed. That's why there continue to be new iterations of Apple devices. Do you know anyone who still has the original iPod? You know, the bulkier white one with the monochrome screen? It was good. It was ready, but not fully developed. That's why there are newer versions of these devices and others released each year. WHAT THIS MEANS FOR THE CHURCH: If you wait until everyone in your church has been trained in evangelism before you begin to share your faith, you will close your doors soon. If you wait until everyone is fully engaged missionally, you will miss the moment God has given you now. Understand the challenge. Prepare and continually refine, but "ship." Don't remain in the church building. The Great Commission is about action. Real pastors lead their churches to engage. . .to "ship." Refine and release new editions (new believers) as you go and grow, but go and grow!
  12. Marketing boils down to providing unique value. Items need to be unique (not refined sameness) and valuable to impact the market. WHAT THIS MEANS FOR THE CHURCH: Our message is the most valuable one in the history of the world. It's a message of hope and life. It's the Gospel. It is never changing and cemented in Jesus Christ. The method for delivering the message. . .well, that's ever-changing. The challenge for the church is to follow God's lead into newer methods of delivering the never changing message. If the church does not embrace this, we are doomed to replicate what the church of Europe is now experiencing  - closed buildings, fewer believers and a culturally dying faith. (Oh, by the way, it's not hopeless even in Europe. I believe God is going to do a mighty work among the atheistic post-Christian culture there. It's never happened in the history of the world, but then again, our God has mastered the impossible.)

BONUS: Some things need to be believed to be seen. Here's Kawasaki's quote: "When you are jumping curves, defying/ignoring the experts, facing off against big challenges, obsessing about design, and focusing on unique value, you will need to convince people to believe in what you are doing in order to see your efforts come to fruition. People needed to believe in Macintosh to see it become real. Ditto for iPod, iPhone, and iPad. Not everyone will believe—that’s okay. But the starting point of changing the world is changing a few minds. This is the greatest lesson of all that I learned from Steve. WHAT THIS MEANS FOR THE CHURCH: I love this parallel. Faith is believing what we cannot see (Hebrews 11:1). A visionary pastor must believe that which God has revealed. There's no room for "Show Me" faith.

I recommend you follow Guy on Twitter at @GuyKawasaki 

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Becoming a "Dad"vocate

A number of men in our community volunteer their time to mentor young boys in local schools. Some of these men do so during the lunch hour of the boy who has been assigned to him by the school. Others participate in group meetings before or after school where boys show up voluntarily to learn more about life and what it means to be a man of integrity. I spend my Friday mornings at one such group

Dad with sonA good number of men in our fellowship participate in this. 

It's a powerful ministry, even if some do not fully understand that it is ministry. To pour one's life into a young man is powerful. Young boys desire this message of authentic manhood from their fathers. Unfortunately, some of the boys  do not have father in the picture. That makes the mentor's role even more valuable.

In many cases, there is a father in the picture, but due to work schedule and sometimes just lack of understanding the fullness of the story, they miss the moments.

Most fathers deeply love their sons. It's just that many do not know what to do, what is next or how to go about pouring into their sons' lives the appropriate messages at the appropriate times.

All of us as fathers wound our sons. It's the father wound we all carry and inflict. Yet, there is healing and the truth of the matter is that our wounds do not have to define us.

As we finish up this school year and many of our mentoring relationships are coming to an end, I lament the fact that I will lose the opportunity to meet regularly with these young men. That's why I am working with some other men to develop a force to help the fathers in our community experience what it means to live from their hearts and pour life into their sons. 

One option we are looking at is having a mid-week, early morning (before work) breakfast group meet together at an area restaurant with a private room, just for Dads. I believe our first step will be introducing material from the study "Raising a Modern Day Knight." I'm still looking at how to coordinate this, but my conviction is that it must happen. Dads who can will gather together weekly to discuss some of the basics that our sons need in order to grow healthy and become the men God desires them to be.

We need some "dad"vocates to stand in the gap with these Dads, holding up their arms, supporting them, and encouraging them to breathe life and power into the sons God has entrusted with them.

Pray for us as we venture out to do this. 

This is more than a church class for men who attend First Baptist. We've done that and will do so again. This is an opportunity to impact and change a community for the better. We're building boys into men, rather than ministering to adults who behave like boys.


Sometimes I Miss the Obvious and Walk Right Into Sin

Have you ever known what to do and what not to do?

Have you ever known what to say and when to say nothing?

Have you ever known right and wrong?

And chosen wrong.

It's a very frustrating thing as a Christ-follower. 

It's even more frustrating when it's me.

Earlier today, during my daily Bible reading, I came across a pretty powerful verse (actually, they're all pretty powerful) so I Tweeted it.

Here's the Tweet:

Great verse, huh?

Then, tonight at the premiere of October Baby, as we were waiting in line (all 200+ of us) two wonderful friends in our fellowship were making there way into the theater. They were going in early because of the use of a wheelchair and I jokingly said something to them about going in early. 

Ever have one of those moments when you say something and about a nanosecond after it comes off your lips, you wish you could grab it back?

This was that moment. 

I had said something jokingly, at least that was my intent. However, it was hurtful. I hurt my friends. To add salt to the wound, I did this publicly.

My speech was not gracious. The "salt" was not preserving, but painful. I had missed a moment. I, the pastor, the Christian, the man of God had wounded those God had placed under my leadership. There was no excusing it. There was no reasoning it out. There was nothing that could be done or said to gloss over the sin.

Immediately, I recognized this and apologized. Truly. I was, and am, so sorry. 

I am so thankful for godly friends who not only love me, but understand the power of forgiveness and offering it freely.

I then went to buy my popcorn and could hear God saying to me (not audibly, but it may as well have been) that I needed to apologize publicly. 

That's not fun.

But it was right.

I had spoken publicly and harmed my friends.

I needed to apologize to them publicly. 

I did not do this as a show. In fact, I didn't want to anything. But, I knew what God was leading me to do.

Oh, and there were dozens of people in the theater that I do not even know and honestly, about 90% had no idea I had said anything earlier to hurt my friends.

I tried to justify in my mind why I would NOT do anything.

It didn't work.

So, I stood in front of the 200+ people waiting to watch previews of upcoming films and apologized to my friends, Donna and Doris.

Then, we watched a movie that had this huge portion in it about the power of forgiveness.

Thank you Donna and Doris for being godly friends. Thank you for your forgiveness. I didn't deserve it. Well, then, I guess we never deserve forgiveness, do we.

Oh, and the movie? It was incredible. I'll write about it soon.

Rebranding Doesn't Always Work - Why "Great Commission Baptists" May Send The Wrong Message

First of all, I'm not against rebranding. In fact, I'm not against the new informal descriptor "Great Commission Baptists" for Southern Baptist Churches to use. If you're not aware of the proposal by the special task force to be presented at the Southern Baptist Convention this summer, you can read more about it here.



However, I do believe it is important when rebranding, especially in this age of acronyms and abbreviations, to explore all possible "other" messages a new name or logo may accidentally reference.


While I do not believe the task force could have seen this coming, it's now here. It's obvious to me. It's troubling and looks to be a punchline for comedians for a while. The brand "Great Commission Baptists" is inevitably going to be shortened to "GCB." 

In case you haven't noticed, the new ABC television comedy-drama titled "GCB" has recently begun airing. I kept seeing the advertisements for it and could not figure out what "GCB" stood for. Then, I read an article about the show. Apparently, it's based on a book titled "Good Christian B------" or "Good Christian Witches" with a replaced letter if you cannot figure out my cryptic blanks. The producers changed the name to "Good Christian Belles" but that didn't go over well either apparently, so now it's just "GCB." 


The show is being marketed as similar to "Desperate Housewives," but set in Texas and features "good" church-going women who fight with each other, embarrass each other, gossip and cheat, etc. and use the church as a venue to voice their issues. 

Is this reason enough to shelve the "Great Commission Baptist" tag? I'm not sure. However, in a world where media drives so much and pop culture often becomes the commonality between cultures, it may be more difficult to build bridges to people in other parts of the nation by calling ourselves "GCB Churches" rather than "SBC Churches." 

You think branding is not a big deal? Check out these stories. . .

  • Wisconsin Tourism Federation rebranded as the Tourism Federation of Wisconsin. The acronym TFW avoids the negative press of the offensive acronym they previously used.
  • The National Union of Teachers in the UK uses the acronym "NUT" on their website and promotional materials. There's even a link on their site to help teachers find employment that states "NUT Jobs." (No, I'm not making this up.)
  • The Georgetown University Hospital's webpage has a link with information on Disability Benefits. Under the heading, there is a subheading titled "Short Term Disability (STD)" and throughout the page the acronym STD is used.
  • The Boston Redevelopment Authority uses their acronym "BRA" throughout their advertising.
  • Lighting Solutions and Design. . ."LSD"
  • Bellingham, Washington has used a promotional piece advertising music in their area. The logo states "I BM's"
  • From 1884 to 1912 the District of Alaska was known as "DOA"
  • Progressive Management Systems. . ."PMS"
  • The student organization developed by students in university called the Students of Women Studies goes by "SOWS"

These are funny, and all very real, but you can see what happens when you're not really, really careful with your acronym of choice.

Should we use the "Great Commission Baptists" moniker, we had better be ready to laugh at ourselves because of the likely connection with the show "GCB." Of course, the show probably won't last long, so this may be a moot point.

And, just to be fair, SBC has multiple meanings as well. . .

  • Southern Baptist Convention
  • Sweet Briar College
  • Southport Brewing Company
  • Somali Broadcasting Corporation
  • Structural Biology Center

There are more. This is just the first page of the Google search.

Oh well, whatever title we have and use, may we truly be Great Commission Christians. It's in the personal relationships with others that the Gospel is shared and disciples are made.

Apparently Calling "Infanticide" "After-Birth Abortion" Makes It An Acceptable Practice. What?!?

Personally, I find the concept of abortion abhorrant. It has become a political issue, when in truth it should have nothing to do with politics. While some will challenge my beliefs, I truly cannot fathom the concept of murdering a baby and justifying it.

I was showing a clip connected with the upcoming film October Baby to my children last week that featured Gianna Jessen. Gianna's story as a failed abortion was inspiration for the new film. As we talked as a family, my children asked about Gianna and wondered how many people like here were out there. How many people were almost aborted? How does a person survive such a thing. Gianna's bio on her website states this . . .

Gianna is a Christian. Her life was given to her by the grace of God. She shouldn't be walking, but more miraculous still; she should not even be alive. Gianna's biological mother was 17 when she had a saline abortion in her third trimester. 

Many Americans don't realize it is legal to have an abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy. After being burned alive for approximately 18 hours in the womb from the saline solution, Gianna was delivered alive in a Los Angeles County abortion clinic. Her medical records state, "born during saline abortion" ... this is what caused her Cerebral Palsy. 

Once "born" it was illegal to continue the abortion on Gianna. In other words, if Gianna had remained inside her mother for a little while longer, she could and would have been aborted. However, since she escaped (by the grace of God) the womb at this moment, the legal abortion turned into the illegal murder.

My personal beliefs, based on what I understand God's Word to say (Psalm 139:13Jeremiah 1:5), is that life begins at conception, by God's design. Therefore, based upon this, I believe any abortion to be murder. That, apparently, is still up for debate in our culture. Somehow the right to live has been attacked by other "rights." But, I digress.

This morning I read a blog posting by Dr. Al Mohler about something I found to be even more appalling than abortion as we know it in our nation today. This even goes beyond the atrocity of partial-birth abortion. Doctors and those with a stake in the pro-abortion movement continue to debate the point where abortion should be allowed. Now, the reality of "after birth abortion" is being promoted. Dr. Mohler is clear that the moment of birth continues to be the debatable issue:

From the beginning of the controversy over abortion, this supposedly bright line of the moment of birth has been unstable. Abortion rights activists have even opposed efforts to restrict the gruesome reality known as partial-birth abortions. The moment of birth has never been the bright line of safety that the defenders of abortion have claimed.

Now, an even more chilling development comes in the form of an article just published in the Journal of Medical Ethics. Professors Alberto Giubilini of the University of Milan and Francesca Minerva of the University of Melbourne and Oxford University, now argue for the morality and legalization of “after-birth abortion.”

These authors do not hide their agenda. They are calling for the legal killing of newborn children.

The authors prefer the term "after birth abortion" to "infanticide" as if that makes it OK. Giublini and Minerva state that according to their research and beliefs. . .

“The moral status of an infant is equivalent to that of a fetus in the sense that both lack the properties that justify the attribution of a right to life to an individual.”

It's shocking. It's appalling. Rather than just repost all of Dr. Mohler's post, click here to read the full article.

God has called us as a church to delve deeper into His story, the Gospel. The Gospel is life.

As we live compelled by Christ, we then will be advocates of pure religion. I know religion has become a "bad term" among some Christ-followers today, but pure religion is what God seeks.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1:27 (ESV)

In this, we are called to advocate and fight for those who cannot, especially children (pre-born and out of the womb.) As the culture continues to redefine what constitutes a viable human being, may we not become like the people of the Old Testament who willingly sacrificed their children to the demon god Molech. Whether couched in political terms (which we hear often during this election cycle) or the verbage of "rights" may we, especially as Christ-followers, never allow the philosophies and acceptable behaviors of the culture determine what we deem as acceptable.

"Meat and Gravy". . .Don't Read Devotional Guides and Forsake the Bible

I have numerous devotional books in my office. I have even read some of them. There are those by deep thinkers like Oswald Chambers. Others by noted Christian leaders and teachers like Max Lucado and Billy Graham. In fact, as a church family, we are using a "Daily Guide" provided by Worktalk for the forty days of learning leading up to Easter.



While each of these guides offers something of value, I fear that sometimes we (and I mean all of us) sometimes substitute these devotional guides and inspirational thoughts "of the day" for actual time reading the Word of God.


It's like settling for the gravy, but neglecting the steak. I like both, but I'm not ordering a cup of gravy. I want the meat.

One that that must be remembered is that only the Word of God is inerrant. The daily guides and devotional books cannot claim that. While offering insight into Scripture and often stories to help make a point, the Word of God alone is infallible. 

In fact, there are some sections in our current daily devotional books that I take exception to. Oh, it's not so much the thought of the day and certainly not the Scripture passage. It's the "Quote to Note." Some of these quotes placed in the book to give it a sense of modernity and heft are taken from individuals whose lives are far from Christlike and their stated religious beliefs at the opposite extreme of orthodox Christianity and evangelicalism. While the quotes are good (mainly because they're taken out of context and seem to affirm the day's thought) the fact of the matter is they do little more than clutter the page.

So. . .I've been reminded once again that devotional thoughts, devotional books and modern illustrations are good, but the meat has been and always shall be the Word of God.

Read your devotional books, but do not do so to the exception of reading the Bible. The Word of God is living and active. Through it God speaks and affirms. His will is expressed through it.

Enjoy your devotional guides and books. Read them. I do. Use them to unite as a family and small group on a subject.

Remember, though, the devotional books are just the "gravy." The Bible is the "meat." 

All Missions is Local

In 1935, former Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill coined the phrase "All politics is local." This was following his first and only losing election. This statement has been discussed in political science and government classes ever since. It makes for good debates.

Derrick Daye and Brad VanAuken recently posted on their Branding Strategy blog about how "All Marketing Is Local" and it prompted me to think about how, in the church, our mission must be local initially. 

Now, I am a proponent of short-term mission trips, a supporter of career missions, and a believer and practitioner of global impact for Christ and all the other terms we use to affirm missions in our Christian world. However, I also believe that missions must first be local.

When I say local, I am not referring to the church planning a local mission project for the congregation, though those are valid and good things. I'm not talking about the youth pastor planning a "rake and run" community event either (this was a term I heard Reggie McNeal use to describe our feel good community mission events based on "random acts of kindness.") Though, I guess those are good as well.

The mission, or doing missions, begins in the invidual. It is a conviction driven by the Holy Spirit. The mission is to honor God through our lives. Honoring God begins in the thought life of a Christ-follower. How we think leads to actions. Therefore, all missions is rooted in the local. . .not the community, but the heart.