I had an AHA moment this week, a serendipity … you might call it a blinding flash of the obvious. Something that was there all along but hidden in plain sight.
But first some history: My Primary Concern for twenty-seven years, even in my money making season, had been to discover my calling and to get busy doing it. The Bible says that each of us has a life task “prepared beforehand for us to walk in” (St Paul in Ephesians 2:10). Homer and the ancient Greeks called it a destiny, a necessary work predetermined by “the gods.” King David, in that most marvelous of all Psalms, Psalms 139, declares:
“For you have formed my inward parts;
You have covered me in my mother's womb …
For I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are your works,
And that my soul knows very well ….
When I was made in secret … your eyes saw my substance being yet unformed.
And in your book, they all were written
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.”
I and each one of us has a life task coded into what I call our Spiritual DNA. We don't have to do it. That is what the Bible calls Free Will. “To be, or not to be: that is the question” is the memorably succinct way Shakespeare put it in Hamlet.
The other big question is “how to?”. For me it was never a question of whether or what to do, but “how to?”.
Now on to the serendipity I mentioned in my first line. The answer came to me in five unplanned encounters, all during the past week. In each case, I had long ago made a small investment of time or money in someone's life that had provided a stepping stone for them to go ahead with a task God had uniquely assigned them. Every one of the people I will describe was fully equipped. All they needed was a shove. What I like to say is, “The fruit of my work grows up on other people's trees.” In whatever form it took, the HOW TO result was
It is what Peter Drucker did for me.
Someone needed to say, “You can do that,” and to ask, “How can I help you?”
Story #1 came in the form of an email from the spouse of a participant in a Halftime Institute I led on Monday and Tuesday. Out of 700 different people I have done HTI for, this is the first and only letter from a spouse. Bill Peel wanted to thank me “for Kathy's experience this week at the Halftime Institute. She is beginning to dream again for the first time in two years about how God might want to continue to use her gifts to impact families and help women become who God created them to be.” Kathy Peel is a superstar who has sold two million books, appeared on Oprah four times over, written countless articles, and delivered innumerable speeches. She is just tired of being a road warrior. Kathy and Bill have three children. Bill went on to say, “I also want to thank you for how God has used you in our lives for the past 25 years. In 1986, you paid for me to go through the SIMA. When I saw my gifts and motivated abilities in black and white, I realized I had limited self-life in most churches.” Both Bill and Kathy moved forward into ministries that were congruent with their strengths and calling.
Story #2: I had breakfast last Saturday with Jim Mellado who heads the Willow Creek Association. I invested and funded what we called The Foundation Conferences for ten years with Bill Hybels and the Willow Creek team. Along the way, I invested in strategy planning for the Willow Creek Association and was a speaker three times with Bill Hybels at WillowCreek. Willow began with two conferences a year each serving about 500 people. Last year's Global Summit Conference served something like 150,000 church leaders, most of them through satellite downlinks around the world. It was a small investment on my part and a big payoff on theirs.
Story #3: Mark Bankord, age 54, is the Directional Leader of Heartland Church. He is married to his high school sweetheart, Sherri, and they have four grown children. All of them are involved in Heartland which Mark started from scratch in his home eleven years ago. The church has grown from 128 people at his first service in 1998 to 6,000-7,000 people each weekend at two locations in Rockford, IL. An article in the Rockford paper quoted Mark, who doesn't mince words when it comes to who he used to be, saying, “I was an arrogant, egotistical jerk. I lived for me. It didn't matter who I stepped on or over getting there. The difference now,” said Bankord, “is that my life no longer revolves around myself. The difference is Jesus Christ.” Bankord sold his asset-management business four years ago. Heartland sees teaching and leading as two different skills, a still radical innovation. Mark said, “I don't do the teaching on the weekend … my job is primarily to build a team of people who figure out what they are best at and what God is calling them to do and make sure we are all directionally headed the same way.” Heartland uses the phrase, “It is a different way to do church.”
Story #4: On last Friday, I had lunch with another friend of many, many years. Bob Shank spent fourteen years as a businessman/entrepreneur in the construction industry. At 31, he transitioned from business to ministry and founded Priority Living, a faith-based organization serving businessmen and women in the marketplace. In 1997 with a nudge from me and after three years of training which I funded, he launched The Masters Program, a leadership training program that has helped thousands of leaders across North America to expose and exploit their unique kingdom callings. I made a couple of other investments at strategic times. Bob told me last week that the encouragement was probably more important than the money.
Story #5: I first met Jim Lane when I served as a speaker for a very vigorous and ingenious men's groups in his home in New Canaan, CT. Jim was previously a partner in Goldman Sachs who now runs a private investment firm. His major concern is the New Canaan Society whose meeting I attended last weekend in Washington, DC. Along the way, I helped provide Tom McGehee, who is one of the best process facilitators in the country, when Jim wanted to expand. Friday night I was in a room with 800 men representing forty chapters of New Canaan Society with forty more chapters on the way.
“You are the catapult, not the carrier.” A good way to sum this up is what I learned from my good friend, Admiral Ed Allen, who was captain of one of the U.S. Navy's twelve carriers. He once expressed my role in this way, “The catapult is what makes United States Navy work. It is virtually invisible but it gets 60,000 pounds that is a fully loaded F-16 off the deck in about 200 yards. You are not the carrier. You are not the plane. You are not the pilot. You are just the catapult that gets the plane airborne.”