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Culture wins

Culture wins

I’ve been reading a book on my Kindle lately entitled: Culture Wins: The Roadmap to an Irresistable Workplace.  I was somewhat skeptical given the title, but the farther I have gone in the book, the more I understand the thrust of the writer’s argument (who, by the way, was a pastor, before creating his own startup). 

William V simply argues that at the end of the day, it’s the context, the ‘culture’ that causes a company, a group, a mission to retain their workers. It’s the environment that causes people to want to stay long term with you, to recruit others to work with them, and to always speak highly of your organisation even if they move on to another ‘job’. It’s primarily because of the culture and how it makes them feel, how it makes them more productive and fruitful in their work.

Of course, the difficulty comes when our “culture” needs to be worked out in practice.  We know that it is easier to talk about culture than to actually function according to the principles or elements of that desired culture. 

World Team (based on the WT Ministry Framework) desires an organisational culture where we grow in accountability, character, competence, collaboration and community. We are probably doing well in some elements, and maybe less well in others.  What I have gotten out of this book, so far, is that we should not be content with where we are, but strive to grow more in all elements of our desired culture.  So that who we say we are, is how we actually live and minister together.

From where you stand, in which elements would you say we are doing well and in which elements less well?

Lulled to sleep

Last week, I traveled west to North America to participate in the WT Americas leadership meetings.  On the way, I met up with my older brother, who took me out to dinner (midnight my time,18h00 his time).  Afterwards, he invited me to his place to watch a short video.  Sitting there in his living room after an 8 hour flight, dinner, and recognizing that it was now 02h30 for me, the video was all the ‘music’ needed to lull me to sleep. 

Ever happen to you? 

In the World Team Ministry Framework, we talk about ‘growing in character’ as a guiding feature of our organizational culture.  To grow implies that we have ‘progressed’ or changed from our current attitude, habit or practice to one that is more aligned with Christ and His calling on our lives.  However, if we are ‘lulled to sleep’, that growth is stagnant and we will continue to act, react and live in ways that are not ‘in line with the Gospel’ (Galatians 2:14)

The ministry, daily life, and all the ‘things’ we need to do in a day can easily cause us to forget, can easily ‘lull us to sleep’ in regards to our own inner spiritual life.  I believe it was Bobby C who said that most people stop growing before they hit 40 years of age. They simply ride the rest of the lives on what they have learned up to that point.

To wake ourselves out of our spiritual drowsiness, I would suggest the following step: begin to write a short paragraph in a journal each day.

Now I’m not the journal writer type, but I have found this to be a good way to start reflecting on where God desires growth in my life.  Summarizing briefly the main activity(or activities) of a day, allows me to begin to see links and focus on one specific area of growth.

You may have a better way, or further steps to suggest. The objective in the end though is to avoid being ‘lulled to sleep’.


Just finished reading an article by TJ Addington on gratitude.  He cited an article from Forbes magazine about the 7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude that will Motivate You to Give Thanks Year-Round. Then he finished off his article with that most difficult of questions: “Are you living a thankful life today?”

It kind of ‘grate-d’ against my soul to read that question, rather than cause a gusher of grate-fulness to pour out of my heart. 

Now the problem is not with TJ, nor the article. It’s actually with my heart, with our hearts.  We are just not satisfied.  Not satisfied with life, with work … we might even admit we are not satisfied with God at times.  As Tim Chester put the question: “Do you want more of God? Do you want to enjoy him?  Or let’s put the question like this: do you like God?

So as I start, as we start 2019, a check of our hearts would be in order.  Here is a short text and one question to reflect on and get us started:

A soul that is capable of God can be filled with nothing else but God; nothing but God can fill a soul that is capable of God. Though a gracious heart knows that it is capable of God, and was made for God, carnal hearts think without reference to God. But a gracious heart, being enlarged to be capable of God, and enjoying somewhat of him, can be filling by nothing in the world; it must only be God himself. Therefore you will observe that whatever God may give to a gracious heart, a heart that is godly, unless he give himself it will not do.  A godly heart will not only have the mercy, but the God of that mercy as well; and then a little matter is enough in the world, so be it he has the God of the mercy which he enjoys.”

What ‘distracting, heart-consuming care’ keeps us from prizing again today our union with Christ and the work God is carrying out in our lives?

If you are interested in reading further: The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, Jeremiah Burroughs.  It’s not an easy read, but well worth the effort as Burroughs speaks to the heart to motivate, not our pride.

Running in the rain

In runners speak, we call it the ‘pre-wash’. That’s when you head out for a run and half way through the run, it starts to rain.  What are you going to do?  You have to get back home, so you just run through the rain and take the ‘pre-wash’.

When we woke up on the day of the Florence marathon (November 25th), I could hear the rain falling outside, and it didn’t sound like a slight drizzle.

For 42 kilometers, we got soaked.  This wasn’t just a ‘pre-wash’, but a slogging through the rain for over four hours (in the case of my daughter, a lot less time of running through the rain).

IMG-20181126-WA0009Now, I had linked this run to the challenge that I had gifted to us as a mission: to see significant impact among two unreached people groups in the coming months and year. We had chosen to focus our attention on the Dadjo (Chad) and Cham (Cambodia) peoples.

As I approached kilometer 28 and began to wonder if I could really go the distance because of the rain (the famous ‘wall’ when running a marathon), the thought came to me: ‘Is this what it’s going to be like to pray for the Dadjo and the Cham?  To ‘slog it out’ in prayer in order to see hardened hearts turn to the Creator of the universe?’

Now I don’t want to make a direct parallel between my marathon run and this call to pray for these two people groups, but the call to ‘persevere in prayer’ (Colossians 4:2-4) began to take on new meaning as I sought to keep running even though my mind was yelling for me to stop.

So, what kept me running past kilometer 28?  It was the thought of crossing that finish line in front of the Duomo (the main cathedral).

So, what will keep us ‘running together in prayer’; of persevering in our intercession for the Dadjo and the Cham?

The thought of seeing hundreds of Dadjo and Cham standing before the throne and “crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

It’s time to start ‘running’ together!

My friend Paul

My friend Paul went home to be with the Lord last week.  The deep groan of sadness that I felt when the news first came out, began to give way over time to reflection on the impact that this one brother had on my life. paul_welcome

As I ‘re-watched’ the videos in my head of the many times we had shared life and ministry together, three words or word images came to mind

Persistent challengePaul regularly put challenges out in front of you. The reason I started running marathons came about the day Paul called me up to announce he had an entry for me for the London marathon. I had never put my name in for the London marathon (a lottery system)!  Apparently Paul, however, had been putting my name in, along with his name and his son’s name, for three years until our names had been drawn!  Paul didn’t just challenge you in life activities, he challenged your capacity to believe that ‘God could do above and beyond what we could ask or think’.  He pushed you to believe that God could work among a resistant people group; that He could spawn movements of multiplying churches; that He could work in and through us to reach others for Christ.

Dogged perseveranceI cannot think of Paul without thinking of how he was constantly ‘moving forward’.  I still marvel at how he, a former wrestler, finished the London marathon in a very respectable time. He doggedly pursued the difficult tasks.  More importantly, he doggedly pursued God.  There was always that new thought, fresh insight that the Lord has laid on his heart and that he wanted to share with you when you got together in a meeting.  He not only shared, but he lifted you up before the Lord in prayer, and you could count on that when he told you so.  He kept driving forward to the ‘upward call’.

Amazing adventureYou never quite knew where Paul was ‘taking’ you when you set off with him.  One year, he decided to rent a boat on the Thames for the week long meeting of the Europe field directors.  After that ‘week on the boat’, we all said that we would never do that again.  However, his ‘adventure’ worked to draw us together in a way we weren’t expecting … and part of the proof is that we’re still talking about that infamous ‘boat trip’ to this day!  It wasn’t the craziness of the activity that finally characterized Paul, it was the context of grace he tried to create where you came to recognize the One in whom we put our trust and confidence, and who gave us the grace we needed to keep moving forward.

I will deeply miss my friend Paul.  I have missed him being part of my team for the past number of years.  Detlef got that privilege in recent years. And we are all better people for having rubbed shoulders with Paul.

I will not forget the impact that Paul has left on my life.

Don’t miss the opportunity to share with another how they have influenced your life!

We won’t always get it right

perfectionPerfection is elusive.  In fact, it’s unattainable in this life.  However, that does not keep us from expecting that standard of ourselves and of others.  Oftentimes, I either say to myself or I hear other people say: “Why couldn’t (I) they just have done ____?” And you can fill in the blank.

We won’t always get it right. I won’t, you won’t always do what is best for ourselves, for others, for God.

This is where God’s forgiveness greatly impacts our relationships one to another.  I really like Eugene Peterson’s translation of Colossians 3:12-14: “So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you.  And regardless of what else you put on, wear love.  It’s your basic, all-purpose garment.  Never be without it.”

We won’t always get it right. I won’t, you won’t always do what is best for ourselves, for others, for God.

Paul, writing to the Colossian church, challenges us to live in light of the reality that we can never completely and perfectly fulfill the ‘law’ or carry out the ‘work’ with which we have burdened ourselves or others.  That is why the love and forgiveness that Christ offers to us is so life ‘changing’.  It moves us away from self-centredness to Christ centredness; offering to others what Christ has and continues to offer to us each day.

We won’t always get it right. I won’t, you won’t always do what is best for ourselves, for others, for God.  However, we can extend to one another (and to ourselves) Christ’s love and forgiveness which will remind us that when we don’t get it right, it’s not the end of the world.  For Christ once again offers to us His love and forgiveness, picks us up, and sets us on our way again to serve Him as best we can with all our heart, mind soul and strength.

Discipline comes second

A few weeks ago, I went to see my doctor, in an effort to find an excuse for getting out of running the Florence marathon. My doctor listened carefully and when I was done ‘whining’, he asked me one simple question: “Mr Riddell, how have you been feeling these days?”  I couldn’t lie to him and so I said that, honestly, I was feeling really, really good; better than I have in a long, long time.  “You know why?” he asked.  My quick response was that it was because I was running a whole lot more these days in preparation for the marathon.  His response was insightful: it was not because of the increased number of kilometers I was running.  It was because I now had an objective, a clear challenge.

That challenge then gave rise to the discipline of running more regularly.  I left his office with a renewed sense of purpose and a willingness to press on towards November 25th (the date when I will be running the Florence marathon with our oldest daughter and son).

I began to wonder if there was not a possible parallel between the words of my doctor and our journey with Christ.  So often, we push discipline into first place in our lives — we just have to keep doing more, we think. A Christian, we say, must do more of this or that to grow in his or her Christian life.

What if the larger objective, the greater challenge took centre stage?  What if ‘glorifying God’ because of His mercy and love poured out on us was our first motivation?  Wouldn’t the discipline needed to keep walking with Christ be the natural (second) response to knowing that our lives are meant to be an act of worship and thanks to the God who loves us?

Ask yourself this question today: Did I read the Bible today because it was part of what I had to do as Christian?  Did I spend time with God today because that’s what a believer has to do?

If the answer to either question is ‘yes’, maybe it’s time to have a chat with the Great Physician and hear these words again and take them to heart: you are my beloved child in whom I am well pleased (Matthew 3:17)