My Changing Stance on Halloween.

How do we respond to people who disagree with us on Halloween?
There’s hardly a more divisive issue in the fall among theologically conservative evangelical churches than what to do at Halloween. I wanted to share my personal journey and provide some guidelines.

On the one side of the argument are those who rightfully report the holiday’s occult underpinnings. It has almost no connection to anything Christian (aside from the day it precedes, All Saints Day) and thus those on this end of the spectrum abstain from any association with Halloween, as a principle of conscience.

On the other side of the conservative evangelical fence are those who rightfully report that Halloween is, in American culture, the only time their non-Christian neighbors willingly knock on their door, and thus a spectacular time to build relationships that might lead to people coming to know Christ. This group of folks participates carefully in Halloween with an aye toward the Kingdom of God. (spoiler alert, this is the group I’m currently in)

I see this as an area governed by freedom in Christ and subject to the leading of the Holy Spirit. In light of that, here are some questions to ask of yourself as you approach Halloween:

Am I mindful of my motives regarding Halloween?
This is a tough one for me. Often I am just seeking to be theologically correct, or to be culturally relevant. My motive should be to glorify God.

Is my participation or abstention from Halloween led by the Spirit, or by the flesh?
My flesh wants to be right, applauded, noticed, rewarded, and (in the end) worshiped. The Spirit wants all of those things for Christ. In my stance on Halloween, often I don’t take into account how my public stance on it can tend toward publicly stroking my own ego, not pointing people to Christ.

How does my reaction to brothers and sisters on the other side of the Halloween discussion shed light on my motives?
Here’s where the rubber meets the road. I tend to be a bit of a debater naturally (for the Meyers-Brigs folks out there, I am an ENTJ). So, for me, one of the best indicators of true motive is when I come across people who disagree with me on the whole Halloween thing. Back when I lived in Asheville I even wrote a blog post chastising folks for picketing Halloween. I have to be very careful to obey the command of Jesus to love my brothers and sisters.

In the end, let your participation or abstention from Halloween be governed by the freedom you have in Christ, and do it to His glory.

You can’t afford to hire based on a degree.

If you are in the business of hiring people to work for you, and the first filter you have is for a college degree, you might be costing yourself money, time, and the best applicants.

The tried and seemingly-true line (sold thoroughly to us–by educators) is that the single most important thing you have to have to get hired is a college degree. You have to go to college to get a good job. To think otherwise is to go against the grain of popular thought for the past 50 years or so.

And I certainly don’t mean to say that college is unimportant. I won’t go see a dentist who hasn’t been to college. There are many fields where a college degree is absolutely vital to getting hired.

But please don’t buy the lie that the degree is what makes someone (even a dentist) hirable. Somebody who treated dental school like I treated my undergraduate degree should never touch the inside of a mouth. I graduated using the “path of least resistance” method. Find the classes that are the easiest, and get out with as little work as possible. That person’s dental school degree doesn’t qualify them for hiring.

If you are in the business of hiring people, the first filter ought to be teachability. Can the person be taught? Sure, depending on the field you are hiring for, there are some things other than teachability that might rule out a person. But a lack of teachability will always rule a person out.

The second filter needs to be integrity. Take the person out to a middle-to-low-end restaurant for the interview, and see how they treat the server. Take them to Starbucks (ahem) and see how they treat the barista. Interviews are easy to fake. Integrity is not.

No matter the size of your business, hiring people without teachability and integrity will kill it. Even if they have a degree from Harvard.

The Municipal Broadband Bill: My take.

My Governor Bev Perdue has until midnight to veto H129, a bill that some are saying “protects the monopolies of second rate corporate ISPs at the expense of fast, cheap, local broadband.” I hope she doesn’t.

In the interest of full disclosure, I do work for a corporation that provides high speed internet, but I want to make clear two things: (1) I held these views before I worked here, and (2) the views expressed in this post are mine alone, and unrelated to my employer or my employment.

I’m frustrated, as I’ve written before, that those on the opposing side of the debate are characterizing my position as a support of “big business” or “corporate monopolies.” What I am against is a governmental monopoly. Municipal broadband is broadband that doesn’t have to continue making a profit to continue to function. Governments are fiscal nightmares, generally. Instead of closing up show when they stop making money, they just continue to spend money they don’t have until our economy collapses. “Big Business” on the other hand, makes a profit. That profit is used to hire more people, provide healthcare to those people, provide income to those people, and make the economy grow. (to call that a vast oversimplification would be itself a vast overstatement)

I understand that the same corporations are using those same profits to lobby government to pass legislation protecting their profits. (but can you blame them? Imagine someone entering your field, doing what you do, but for free, without having to make a profit to continue doing it.) I’m not suggesting that I know the answer to the complex issues of corporate lobbies for government action. I’m only vaguely familiar with the issues in the first place.

Let’s start, though, by seeking to understand and debate the issues, not just the sound bytes.

Be Outstanding.

Ever been amazed by technology? Imagine these sentences in the context of your grandparent’s childhood:

“I just facetimed with my uncle in GA and wished him a Merry Christmas.”

Or

“I like to play scrabble on my phone with a guy I’ve never met who lives in Seattle

Or

“So last week I tweeted about how great the book QBQ is and the author wrote back and sent me a box full of free books.”

All three of those things happened to me, in the past few weeks. The last one was particularly impressive to me.

John Miller, author of QBQ!, Flipping The Switch, and his new book Outstanding! responded to a tweet of mine by going to my website, reading enough of it to know (at least) that my wife’s name is Jacq and is a Pampered Chef consultant, and found my email and shot me a message thanking me for the kind words about his book. I responded and after a neat conversation he asked for my shipping address and sent me 4 free copies of his latest book (I told him I hadn’t read it yet) along with 4 each of his other books, and other assorted goodies (notepads, pens, etc).

And while he didn’t ask for it, I wanted to give him a shout-out for being so generous. He truly practices what he preaches about personal responsibility.

If you’ve not read it, QBQ was required reading for any student who wanted to be involved in a one-on-one discipleship relationship with me. It’s short, to the point, and remarkable in it’s effectiveness. I’ve read it now at least 3 times, and can’t recommend it highly enough. I’ll be giving away those free copies that Mr Miller sent me (of it and the other books/goodies) in the next few weeks over at AssumeTheBest.info

Outstanding, his latest book, is geared toward organizations, and outlines in 47 brief chapters (the whole book clocks in at just 206 pages) the way to make any organization outstanding. Predictably, I enjoyed the book. (free ice cream tastes better) But this book is well worth the price tag, if you are in management of any type or involved in leading others.

Here’s why I think this book is so crucial, especially now. In Chapter 40, entitled “Seek no Culprits,” Mr Miller lines out a principle that, if really grasped by many in our culture, would literally change the world. As a culture we constantly look for someone to blame. From 911 to Katrina response to school shootings to oil spills, every time there is a crisis, there has to be a fall guy. What if instead of looking for a person to blame, we expended the same amount of energy making the situation better?

Our entire insurance industry is built on the hypothesis that we are going to financially blame somebody when something goes wrong. What if instead of blaming, we all just agreed to not seek culprits, to make sure that we make things right, and to accept blame personally for the results of our decisions? There’d be no need for malpractice insurance or personal injury lawyers.

If each of us, and the organizations of which we are a part, decided to not seek culprits, try and imagine the outcome! We’d all turn the channel when the talking heads on Fox News and CNN start trying to find a politician to blame for the unemployment numbers, because that’s seeking culprits, and we aren’t interested in that. We’d be too busy trying to fix unemployment numbers by giving people jobs cutting our grass or selling us coffee. We’d almost completely tune out politicians in general, because 75% of what they say is seeking culprits (like the guy who just left office or the lobbyists or the red tape or the lack of red tape… they spend a lot of time talking about the culprits).

Yeah, the idea of seeking no culprits catching on might be a really good thing. It makes for outstanding organizations.

You know which organization I think is Outstanding? John Miller’s. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to give away such great stuff. And for blowing me away with the power of technology.

More Gospel Lessons from Starbucks.

“The lady in the car in front of you paid for yours.”

It’s my favorite thing to say at work, these days. As the newly appointed official drive-thru guy at my Starbucks, I get to become an evangelist every time she comes through my line. I take the good news that a debt has been paid, and I deliver it to the car behind her.

Some people try and shoot the messenger. One guy insisted that I take his money. I pointed at the tip jar and said that if he wanted to put it in there, he was welcomed to, but that I couldn’t put it in my cash register. “I don’t take handouts” were his exact words. I explained that it wasn’t a handout, but a gift from the stranger in front of him. He apparently wasn’t big on handouts OR gratuity, as he didn’t put the money in the tip jar either, but left upset that he couldn’t pay. Really.

Most people are just excited. Sometimes it starts an entire wave of paying it forward. But it’s always fun for me, as the messenger.

That’s precisely what evangelism is*. It’s in the root of the definition of the word. An evangel in the ancient near-east was a messenger sent with news (usually of military victory) to share with people. The most famous evangelist in history (the story goes) ran 26.2(ish) miles to Athens from the battle of Marathon, to announce that the Greeks had defeated the Persians (in a come from behind upset). The point is, an evangelist is one who shares news that dramatically affects the hearers. Either they are now slaves to the Persians, or free people.

Either you owe me 4 bucks for your CafĂ© Mocha or you don’t. The news affects you, but it’s not instruction, it’s just news. The Athenians don’t have to do anything to be free people, not enslaved to the Persians.

The guy who just had his cappuccino paid for doesn’t have to do anything but take the drink. (and he doesn’t even have to do that… his receiving it doesn’t change the fact that it’s paid for.)

The good news is that his debt is paid, and there’s nothing he can do about it.

*all deep theological insights were directly stolen from Tim Keller. Buy his books. Seriously.