Category Archives: Mentors

Top 5 Things I learned from Pat Gilbert

Pat Gilbert preceded me as Director of Information Systems at Willow Creek Community Church. I am extremely thankful for the opportunities that she gave me to grow as a leader.  I do not believe that I would have had the opportunity to lead and manage the Information Technology ministry at Willow Creek if it were not for her willingness to take risks on my growth. I know that my energy and propensity toward action can be a handful to manage. However, Pat’s experience, wisdom and patience with me over the years that she lead and mentored me has had a profound and positive impact on my character as a leader,  as a professional and as a follower of Christ. Furthermore, I don’t think that I have appropriately expressed my gratitude to her for her investment in me…that is…until today. This Post is dedicated to you, Pat Gilbert. Thanks for taking chances on me.

1. Employ-ability – Pat had a great concern for our ability to grow in our skill as professionals. Pat came to Willow Creek with a tremendous amount of skill and experience as a technology leader and manager. She worked for large financial corporations and she new how fragile employment situations could be. An economic downturn could mean that she might be forced to eliminate a position. She would say, “I can’t promise you employment forever, however, I can do my best to promote your ability to be employed.” To this day I think about Pat’s perspective on “Employ-ability” and though I can’t always provide the training opportunities I would like for the people entrusted to me, professional development is always an intentional objective for me to pursue for any of the teams I have of the privilege of serving.

2.Integrity – One of the things I remember most about Pat when I was serving under her was her integrity. I have always known Pat to be true to her character, even when the outcome might be that her perspectives or decisions were not popular. Pat was not in the habit of necessarily telling people what they wanted to hear. However, Pat always provided an unbiased and tactfully honest assessment of any situation. She believed that she was accountable to God first and never played favorites when it came to stewarding resources and setting direction for anything she is accountable for leading at Willow Creek.

3. Grit – I realize that I don’t have any semblance of credibility to talk about the challenges that women have faced and continue to face in our world. However, I think that I have been in the field of technology long enough to safely observe that even today this field is heavily dominated be men. While I am encouraged to see a growing number of women filling positions at all levels in the field of technology, Pat is particularly inspiring to me. She served in both high tech positions as a developer and high leadership positions as a Vice President at a time when I believe such things were even more of an exception than they are today. I believe that it has taken a certain amount of grit for Pat to make as far as she has in her field of expertise. I realize that the term grit can carry a certain negative abrasive connotation. However, others who have served under Pat have described her as “always being tough but fair.” After much thought and consideration I came across the following definition: “firmness of character; indomitable spirit; pluck: She has a reputation for grit and common sense.” This is, of course, a definition for the word grit. After reading this definition, with all that Pat has experienced in her life. Pat is a person of Rock solid character in Christ and she has an unconquerable spirit. She has a reputation for grit and common sense that has inspired me to seek a similar path.

4.Adventurous Spirit – As long as I have known her, Pat has pursued a relationship with God with great passion. She has also pursued serving God wherever He may lead her. Even when this meant leaving high paying jobs to work in full-time vocational ministry, Pat followed God’s call on her life. Wherever and whenever God gives Pat an opportunity to explore and serve she follows His lead. This has lead Pat all over the world. I believe that as long as God gives Pat the strength for follow Him, wherever He may lead her…she will.

5. Undying pursuit of learning – I remember walking into Pat’s office one day to report on some task we were working on in I.T. when I caught her installing a training software to help her learn the Spanish language. Pat had just returned from a trip to the Dominican Republic. She was determined to learn Spanish so she could connect better with our partners in that area. As long as I have known Pat, she has continued to pursue a lifestyle of learning. She does this even if it takes her out of her comfort zone or challenges her to go beyond the boundaries of anything she may have explored before.

I am thankful for the influence that Pat Gilbert has had on my life and I am so very thankful for the growth opportunities that Pat has given me. I pray that God continues to bless her in all her efforts to follow Him wherever He may lead her.

Top 5 Things I Learned From Bill Hybels

From the day he lead me to Christ during a weekend church service to the day I accepted a new calling to step out in faith and leave Willow Creek staff, his influence on me as a pastor, leader, mentor and friend has played a major roll in my development as a follower of Christ and as a leader. Like many who have served under his leadership, I would have to say that Bill is not a perfect person. He has made mistakes in many aspects of his leadership over the years.  He can also be an incredibly difficult person to work for, with what would seem like impossible standards to attain.

Well…this is not a post to bash Bill Hybels. He never claimed to be perfect. He is, after all, just a person, he knows it and he owns it. While he is a fallible human being, it is hard to argue with his intense passion for Christ and for Christ’s bride, the Church. In the words of Gary Haugen, President of the International Justice Mission, the Church is God’s plan for bringing hope to all that is broken in our world and “God doesn’t have another plan.” I have never met a person who is more passionate about God’s plan, the Church, than Bill Hybels. Bill’s deep conviction to reach out to those who do not know God coupled with his holy discontent about injustice in our world is contagious. He simply believes that Jesus and His church can change the world…he believes that it is our calling and purpose to follow Christ in this endeavor.

Condensing all I have learned from Bill over the past twenty four years into five points seems like an impossible task. However, out of everything I have learned from him there are five things to rise to the top…

A Clear Destination

I have not always agreed will Bill’s decisions on things, I don’t think he paid me to agree with him. However, I would have to say that under his leadership I always knew where we were going as an organization. Warren Bennis defines leaders as, “people who do the right thing,” as compared with managers who, “do things right.” While I do believe that Bill values doing things right, he demonstrated for me that, out of all the possible ways an organization can go, the leader must have a clear picture of that destination and they must be able to communicate this picture with such clarity that those who hear it and see it want to become part of the picture. Bill is incredibly gifted in this area. He takes this so seriously that he has spent a great deal of time in prayer and in God’s word over the years listening for whispers of direction and wisdom from God.


One time while I was in Bill’s office following up on a technology issue at the church, he decided to pull me aside and offer a little leadership coaching. He said, “Capital L leaders usually have an overwhelming number of problems to solve and priorities to address at any given moment of the day. Yet, they have the ability to focus on the moment. If that moment includes a conversation with someone, the capital “L” leader had the ability to make that someone feel like they are the only person in the world at that moment. Bill then went on to give me examples of other world leaders whom he had learned from in this area. How they might have issues of security, economics and social welfare to deal with at a national level, however, when Bill would meet with them or when he would observe their meetings with others, these world leader types would focus at that moment as if the other problems they faced did not exist. As you might be able to guess, he said that I could use some work in this area of the leadership. I have not forgotten this important lesson and though Bill has affirmed my progress in this area, it is something that I still consciously practice to this day.

Help Me Understand

Bill is an extremely passionate person. Candidly, I would have to say that some of his responses to problems he faced in his earlier years of leadership are legendary. Over the past 24 years of following him, I have watched him develop styles of self discipline to focus his passion. Frankly his rigorous self discipline is amazing to me. Many people know of the consistent disciplines he follows to stay healthy spiritually, physically and relationally. However, one area of his self discipline lifestyle that stands out for me is his “Help Me Understand” discipline.

In a spirit of full self disclosure, I would have to confess I am an activist. The minute I see a problem or get struck with a “holy discontent” about something broken in our world, I want to jump in and fix it. I can also tend to react strongly in the face of conflict. While I would not place myself anywhere near the same caliber of leader and servant as Bill Hybels, the one character trait that we share is our spirit of activism. It is precisely with the back drop of his action oriented heart where Bill’s, “help me understand,” discipline really shines. Typically, I have observed that action oriented people react first and ask questions later. Bill has learned to pause and ask the question, “Help me understand?” before he dives in to solve a problem. This simple practical discipline has saved me and several others who have followed me over the years from many a rabbit trail and false start. All this from pausing for just a moment to ask one simple question before a conclusion is reached prematurely.


When it comes to authenticity there one item that rises to the top when I think about the top things I have  learned from Bill. Authentic leadership in Christ comes from authentic follower-ship of Christ. Bill takes his relationship with God very seriously. He revolves his life around his love and pursuit of Christ and he realizes that his relationship as a treasured child of our most high God is more important than any of the leadership or ministry initiatives he delivers. Bill is a man of action. It would be easy for a person like that to put action over relationship. However, Bill has placed such a high priority on his relationship with Christ that he carefully disciplines himself to keep his relational priorities with God in place. I would even go so far as to say that I have learned much from observing Bill grow over the years in how he keeps his relationship priorities straight with people as well.

The last 2%

Simply stated, the “last 2%” is saying those last things that need to be said to keep relationships healthy. Here’s how I interpret and put Bill’s “last 2%” philosophy into practice. When we are faced with difficult conversations, we often slip into passive aggressive behavior, we either don’t say what needs to be said or the “last 2%” of our words we do say come out sideways and we start to accumulate baggage in our relationships.  I think, at the heart of what I have learned from Bill’s last 2% is that we need to think very carefully about the last 2% of those words we share in any conversation, meeting, etc. If we don’t go that last 2% percent in all of our relationships we will fall short of giving our best to people we share life with. However, we need to be mindful that our last 2% is not a quantity item. Quality is the key in everything we share. Quality is even more critical when we go that last 2%. In classic Hybels style I will end this section with a question. What if all Christ followers went that extra 2% in all their relationship? What if all Christ followers shared thoughtful truth in love and shared meaningful encouragement in love? I think the whole world would benefit from the outcome of this effort. I credit Bill for teaching me this philosophy.


Bill holds himself to incredibly high standards in all aspects of his life as a follower of Jesus. There is nothing casual about his walk as a Christ follower and as a leader. He believes that Christ deserves our whole heart; “ninety five percent of our heart yielded to Christ is five percent short.” He simply calls others around him to the same standard he follows for himself. As I look back over the years, I am thankful for Bill’s seemingly “impossible” standards. His standards called me to a higher level of excellence, yielding, integrity and even love for Christ and for people around me. In the midst of it all, his pastoring also helped me understand my true identity as a treasured child of our most high God.

The Top 5 Things I Learned from Rev. Mike Neal.

Back in 2005 I went on a Journey called the Justice Journey. I am not going to go into the details of the Journey here. I wrote a little about the Journey itself in the following link. However, it is safe to say that the Journey changed the lives of many of us who experienced it forever. For this post however, I would like to focus my attention on a dear friend I met on the Journey and how God used his influence to change my life. This friend’s name is Reverend Mike Neal. Mike and his beautiful family live in the Bronzeville Neighborhood of Chicago where Mike is currently pastor of the Glorious Light Church. Today happens to be Mike’s birthday. I thought that it would be very appropriate to share the top 5 things I learned from him as a token of my appreciation of him and in celebration of all the blessings he shares with so many…

Sanctioned By God

Some day I will be able to write all the details about how the “Sanctioned by God” phrase came into being. Let’s just say that as Mike and I started dreaming together about how we might be able to serve Christ in ways that would build bridges and promote a biblical mindset of Godly justice in our communities, our ideas were not always received with open arms. We decided that if an idea loves people, honors God and follows God’s word it just might be sanctioned by God and we have to follow it even if it is rejected by others. To this day, I follow a “Sanctioned by God” lifestyle.

Love and Patience of Another kind

Soon after Mike and I met, our families vacationed together. My family and I would often rent a small cottage in a quaint little neighborhood on Lake Delavan, Wisconsin. We had gone up there for years and no one ever noticed us, that is… until we brought our African American friends. I was in the lake swimming with all the kids while Mike, his bride, Dee and my bride, Dawn were up talking on some benches that overlooked the beach. At one point I looked up and I saw an older gentleman engaging in conversation with Mike and our wives. I thought that the situation looked a little strange so I went to investigate. When I joined the conversation I found that the man, who was quite inebriated, was very much taken aback by our presence there. He was surprised to see us all together. He asked us…”So what’s up with this salt and pepper thing here.” The conversation went on for some time and started to get spiritual. The guy couldn’t believe that we actually worshiped together. He was even surprised to find that we were actually all renting a cottage in the community. I could go into greater detail about the ignorance that was unveiled that day. However, I don’t want to draw anymore attention to the foolish man who crossed our path. All of this is just a back drop to the amazing character of Mike Neal. In the midst of this terrible situation, while I wrote this guy off as a drunken fool, Mike actually started to share the Gospel with him. Even as I write this post, the memory of my dear brother sharing the love of the good new of Christ to a man who was clearly racist brings tears to my eyes. Mike is truly an amazing follower of Christ.

Commitment to Calling

For this section, I have to include both Mike and his bride Dee. Ever since I met both of them in 2005 I have been inspired by the commitment they have to serve their community for Christ. Mike and Dee have a vision for their community. They long to see the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago transformed into a Christ Centered community where all socioeconomic, ethnic and generational groups are included. In 2006 they started the process of launching Glorious Light Church, a neighborhood church with a “walk to worship” vision. GLC is a strong Biblically based church that is serious about raising disciples for Christ. However, GLC also has a strong community center mission that is determined to be “Jesus with skin on” to Chicago. Mike and Dee continue to press on faithfully launching this church. Their commitment and sacrifice to their calling is inspirational to me.

Collaborative Leadership

One of the first things I noticed about Mike’s leadership style was actually articulated best by my wife Dawn. Both of us attended a Bible study that was hosted by Mike and Dee in Chicago. There had to be somewhere between twenty and thirty people who attending the study that day. Mike’s non-threatening, collaborative style of leading people through God’s word was amazing. Mike has a way of allowing others to engage and share, but he is always able to keep the study moving forward, even in a larger group. After the study, Dawn commented on how impressed she was by the way Mike led that group. Even when someone shares a thought that might not square with the Bible. I have watched Mike gently but firmly clarify and correct.

Step Out of the Boat

This last attribute that I learned from Mike probably made the greatest impact in my life over the past two and a half years. Some time over the Summer of 2008, while Mike was in the thick of launching Glorious Light Church he started teaching on Matthew 14:22-33 at one of his neighborhood Bible studies.. In this passage Peter steps out of a boat in faith and starts to walk toward Jesus. It was at that Bible study where I started wrestling with God about leaving my very comfortable ministry post at Willow Creek Community Church to follow Christ on a new adventure. One year later I submitted my resignation to the church even though I did not have a job lined up.  I thought for sure that my family and I would wind up in Chicago helping with Glorious Light. God seemed to have other plans and my family and I now live in Memphis. Even from Memphis I still have the privilege of serving the GLC vision. Where ever we live and serve, we love our new adventure and I credit Mike for our step of faith. His example of walking in faith and his fearless teaching of God’s word inspired my family and I to make bold moves for Christ.

Who would have known that in 2005, when Mike and I met as we started on a Justice Journey together God would use our relationship in such profound ways. I will be forever grateful to God for bringing this amazing person and his amazing family into my life. Happy Birthday my Friend…

Top 5 things I learned from Bruce Smith

I would like to introduce you to Bruce Smith. Bruce is a man of many talents, artist, craftsman, technologist, musician, leader…the list goes on. I think many of the people who have been blessed to know him would agree that with all of  his talent, he is not a perfect person. However, it would be hard for us to argue against his passion, his energy and his intense love for Jesus, for his friends and  for his family. Way back in the early 90’s…wow… seems like a lifetime ago now… I had the privilege of being mentored by Bruce. It was an intentional time of discipleship that lasted from 1991 and ended in 1995.

This focused time of discipleship coupled with an intense season of ministry  and deep friendships resulted in a series of life changing lessons for me. However, Before I get to the top 5 things I learned from Bruce during that time, I want to add some context to this season of my life.

I was working my way through Bible College when we started meeting together. Another dear friend of mine, Mark Herring, Bruce and I would meet in Bruce’s apartment every Sunday and Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. We would study the bible and go through various leadership books before heading to church where we all served together at the student ministry of Willow Creek Community Church.  Our times together were…well… let’s just say they were real. I don’t think we hid anything from each other. This authenticity spilled over into our time serving together. Our Sundays and Tuesdays started with mentoring at 8 a.m. but ended by finishing taking down student ministry programs at 11 p.m. Our Thursdays together started at 6 a.m. with a leadership team meeting of all the student ministry leaders of our high school ministry. Anyone late to this meeting would have to stand up and apologize to the entire team for being late. Then there were, of course, other meetings, events and tasks throughout the week to serve the student ministry at the church. In my spare time, I was a full-time college student and I worked a part-time job at a nursing home running activities, some social work assistance and some chapel services for all the patients there. All of this revolving around the rhythm of our Sunday and Tuesday morning 8 a.m. meetings. This was my life for 4 years, and I am very thankful for how God used Bruce and that season of ministry to mold my character.

My friendship and life together with Bruce went far beyond those first 4 years, however, God did something extraordinary during that time. Something that could only be characterized as supernatural. We may have been intentional in our pursuit of mentoring and discipleship. But it was God who used that season to change our lives.  I learned a great deal from Bruce during our season of mentoring, So without further delay, here are the top 5 things I learned from Bruce Smith.

Apologies With No Excuses

I honestly can’t remember the specific occurrence  that prompted Bruce to pound this truth into my thick skull.  I found myself apologizing for so many mistakes in my early days of ministry. It was one of those times I remember saying some like. “I am so sorry but”…then I would rattle off some excuse about why I made the mistake in the first place. Bruce would not let me get away with stunts like this. He finally sat me down and said something like this…

“When you make an excuse after you apologize, your apology is meaningless. You are not owning what you have done wrong when you rattle off a bunch of excuses for the apology. So here’s what I want you to do the next time you make a mistake that warrants an apology. Just apologize with no excuses. If someone calls you on something, don’t tell them your life story about why you made that mistake. Just say I am sorry…period. Even if you have a legitimate excuse, don’t say the excuse just apologize period.”

So after some time passed and my pride shrunk down enough for me to swallow it, I took Bruce’s words to heart and put that truth into practice. Here’s how I translate it today. I consider this to be the proper way for leaders to apologize when they drop the ball.

“I am sorry, You deserve better and I can do better.”

There is no magic to a heartfelt, honest apology with no excuses and it should never be abused or overused. Furthermore, if you find yourself using this phrase a lot and you really can’t do better, you need to own up to that as well. But, that is another lesson for another time. A sign of good character in a leader is when they can take full ownership of their actions, no excuses. I credit Bruce for teaching me this trait.

Following God is a radical “all-in” whole life experience…
“We are all full-time Pastors or Christ…”

When Bruce is mentoring you, you never quite know what you are going to be doing when you show up. It could be just a discussion or it could be a hands-on ministry experience. It was best just not to get too comfortable. One of my favorite examples of this was one time, when a bunch of us showed up to serve…Bruce said…today we are making peanut butter sandwiches and taking them to the homeless at O’hare airport. This was before 9/11 so airport security was lighter then. However, at the time I still thought that it was a strange assignment. “Homeless at O’hare?” I thought to myself. Still I went and I was overwhelmed to find an entire population of homeless people living their. We gave out everything we made and even met some workers at a compassion and justice ministry that set-up shop in the airport to minister to people in need who lived there. This was just one example of life be mentored by Bruce. Imagine learning lessons like this, sometimes multiple times a week. With Bruce I learned that there is no such thing as coasting in the kingdom of God. Each day offers an opportunity to pour out our lives for Christ. Each day, when we get up in the morning, we never know where Christ will take us. We should be ready for whatever He calls us to in the moment at all times. If fact, Bruce did much in my young adult years to convince me that we are all pastors and that everyone has the authority and responsibility to live out  full-time ministry of the gospel no matter what we might be doing to support ourselves during the best hours of the day.

Worship is not about performance…

Bruce is a very talented musician. But when it comes to worship, for Bruce it is all about God and all about getting others to engage with God. I remember leading worship for the students one time at a retreat. I thought I did a pretty good job…no mistakes…good musicianship…no distractions. But Bruce called me on my performance. He said something like, “you did a good job Mike, I don’t mean to be harsh here, but I think you were focusing more on your performance and less on helping others engage with God.” “You need to get out of the way.” I have never forgotten that wisdom. Bruce was not saying that as a musician I should push excellence in musicianship aside. He was not even saying that musicians should never perform concerts or shows. However, for Bruce, there is something particularly holy about leading worship. Helping people engage in worshiping God requires as much discipline, focus  and intentionality as the musicianship itself.   If we were to be completely honest with ourselves, I think, as musicians, we often lose sight of the disciplines leading worship. It becomes just and good excuse to play on Sunday morning rather than a high calling to lead others closer to God. Once upon a time, someone mentored Bruce in this art of leading worship and Bruce passed this wisdom on to me. To this day, whenever I have the privilege of leading worship, I think of that wisdom and I do my best to “get out of the way.”

Lead Well / Mislead Well…

During one of our many moments together, Bruce and I were discussing leadership…actually many of our discussions were more like debates than discussions. I remember this being one of those less heated moments together when Bruce said something that I have never forgotten. His lesson that day came right out of Roman 12:8 when he said,

“Mike, when God gives a person the gift of leadership, that is, the gift of influencing others, it has to be taken very seriously. You are one of those people who influences others. If you do not learn how to lead or influence people well you will mislead people. Leaders develop followers. You are, most likely, wired to develop followers. You had better learn to lead with diligence or you will hurt people. “

I wish that I could say that I have mastered this. The truth is, I have hurt people over the years. For this I have no excuse; I am truly sorry. When people follow you, they really do take your words and your actions to heart. As a leader, everything you do and say has potential impact. Not that leaders really control anything. however, I do believe that we as humans are wired to need leadership. I am not saying that we need kings and presidents in high and lofty positions. Leadership is not about position, it is about who you trust to lead you from point A to point B. All of this becomes clear when it is a matter of life and death. At work, I know who I would trust to get me out of our building if it was on fire. Leaders need to feel that life and death weight of responsibility for their actions and hold themselves to a high standard of accountability. You know that God will call leaders to account for theirs actions. I the mean-time lives are at stake right now and while I am a falible human being, I take any leadership responsibility that I might have for the moment extremely seriously. I am thankful for Bruce’s lesson so long ago.

Don’t be a fool…It’s not about you…

I have a disease. It is called “foolitis.” This disease is characterized by an elevated tendency to choose self over God and His wisdom and discipline.  When I first met Bruce I had a very bad case of “foolitis.” I blamed all of my fatal character flaws on my past. It was so bad that it was almost impossible for me to grow. Of course, Bruce didn’t call it foolitis at the time. He would call me on it any time I would start acting like a fool and say, “Gold, get your eyes off yourself and start thinking about others.” One of the very first scriptures he taught me that drove this lesson home was Proverbs 1:7, The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline. To this day, Proverbs 1:7 is a cornerstone verse that I set my life on. Today, I would describe myself as a recovering fool. I would hate to think of where I would be if I did not have the value of ordering my life around God centered wisdom and discipline.

Top 5 Things I Learned from Brian McAuliffe

For those of you who are just tuning into my blog, This category is one that I have dedicated to the men and women who have played a significant roll as mentors in my life. Brian McAuliffe is the CFO of Willow Creek Community church. He is one of the most energetic, humble, passionate and supportive leaders I have ever met. And I will always consider him to be a mentor,  a dear friend and a partner in what we both consider to be the most important movement on planet Earth, God’s Church.  Here are the top five things I learned from Brian.

1. An Unstoppable “can-do” spirit…

If there is a 1 percent chance that something can happen, Brian will turn it into a 90 percent probability. I learned from Brian that when it comes to leadership, attitude makes all the difference in the world. I witnessed Brian attack problems head on. When he is leading an initiative you get positive sense that you will succeed in accomplishing the goal you set out to achieve.

2. When Pigs Fly…

If you ever get a chance to visit Willow Creek Community Church and you have the pleasure of meeting with Brian in his office…Look for the cast metal Pig with wings that he has placed proudly on display on a shelf across from his desk. Brian may have an unstoppable “can do” spirit but he is no people pleaser. Brian is an amazingly authentic person. I have personally witnessed Brian tactfully but passionately communicate a sure we “can-do” statement followed by a “but we won’t” or “when pigs fly” statement when he believed that the request would put the church at risk. I guess…for me…Brian’s practical side adds credibility to his “can do” spirit. It’s great to have a leader who is passionately optimistic, but Brian’s optimism and passion is not blind, it is informed and educated. Brian is a true strategic thinker with a knack for leveraging details to make informed strategic decisions.

3. A True Pastoral Executive

One of my favorite memories of Brian was hearing how much he loved presenting the ministry of Finance and Church Operations to other pastors during a Willow Creek Association conference . Brian never loses site on why he does what he does with the best hours of his days for the Kingdom of our most high God. Brian is a highly educated and highly talented business executive who could serve as a CEO, COO, CFO or any other officer position at any large corporate organization anywhere. Yet he has felt called to invest his business education and talent in the front lines of ministry at a local church.

4. A One Man Cheering Section.

I could be having an absolutely terrible day and somehow meeting with Brian would energize me to attack my work once again. Perhaps it is his energy or perhaps it is his contagious “can-do”  spirit. Whatever the case may be. Brian is a one man cheering section. Brian taught me that believing in the people around me can make a difference. He taught me this in the way he believed in what God was doing in me and through me for the good of the church.

5. A Humble Heart

Brian embodies many extremes…extreme passion, extreme practical wisdom,  extreme ministry, extreme support, and finally extreme humility. As I have written above, Brian is an educated and talented executive. He can move at the level of being and executive’s executive and he would be the first one to roll up his sleeves and get his hands dirty to help his team move the mission forward. Brian consistently check’s himself and if  he makes a mistake he own’s it, if someone has a good idea he is willing to follow it. Brian may be passionate and strong, but somehow he has found a way to submit his passion to the Authority of Christ.

6.  BONUS ATTRIBUTE: How to end a meeting on time…

Ok…so this doesn’t seem like a big deal…but this one is so important to me that I had to add it to the list as a bonus point…
Honoring peoples’ time is a great way to build trust and follower-ship. Brian has a way of Graciously, but decisively ending meetings on time. He does it it with a respectful spirit, but he does it clearly. I think many leaders don’t take ending meetings on-time seriously. Brian doesn’t make a big deal out of this, he will just calmly but clearly state it is time to go. Brian has taught me by his example how important it is to honor people’s time. The discipline of ending meetings promptly looks so insignificant, but seems to help a leader go a long way down to road toward gaining or losing credibility and follower-ship.


Brian is one of the most supportive and inspirational mentors of have ever had. His heart for God, his love for the church and his passion to do whatever it takes in the right ways and at the rights times to accomplish great things for the kingdom has been inspirational to me. He has taught me that a leaders should have great vision and energy, but that energy should be complimented with diligent planning and sober judgment and self control. He has taught me that an executive at any level can and should have a pastors heart and he has taught me the importance of believing in the people I serve with and that God has a plan for their lives.

But that’s just me, Brian has made a difference in the lives of many. If this is you, please feel free to add a comment and expand the list…

Top 5 Things I Learned from George Stoms

A person who has a tremendous amount of influence in my life is a man named George Stoms. In an effort to protect the privacy of this dear friend I won’t go into details about his life…It is safe to say that this guy has overcome some overwhelming odds to be where he is today. He has led churches and businesses, and though the demands of life have kept us from staying connected as much as I would like, I have always known him to be a husband, father and friend of great character and Godly integrity. I’ve learned so much from him…but at the top of the list are 5 items I don’t ever want to forget.

1. The Contra Perspective

George is pretty smart guy. Actually he is a scary smart genius. From his fascination with things like game theory and relativity to his knowledge of mathematics, music, philosophy, psychology, literature and, of course, the Bible, George brings a unique point of view to everything and everyone he encounters. He has a unique ability to combine all that he knows into a perspective that looks at problems from multiple perspectives and he is not afraid to argue a point even though it may be unpopular or even wrong. He does this for the sake of seeking and discovering the truth. I remember having discussions with him about a particular decision I was facing. Even if he agreed with me, he would take the opposite view just to make sure I was clear about what I believed in. Though I probably only have 1 tenth of his intelligence and I probably will never master this skill as well as he can, his ability of take the “contra perspective” for the sake of testing the truth is a practice I continue  to pursue to this day.

2. Never elevate a person to a level of responsibility that is beyond their level of character

The wisdom of never elevating a person to a level of responsibility that is beyond their level of character, is an axiom that I have  used countless times. It is self explanatory with one additional note. I believe that George would add that a person can not achieve true integrity and character without Christ. True… there are many who claim they have Christ and  lack character. But I believe he might add that you can’t have true character without Christ.

3. Just a Guy

George has an aversion to celebrity. Even in times of great success and prosperity, he practices the art of being “just a guy.” It is a phrase and a concept that I picked up from George and it is not my favorite lesson from him, but I think it has been one that I continue to need to hear most.  I now call it the discipline of being “just a guy.” I think practicing this discipline is important for everyone, but I think it is particularly important for anyone who has any amount of authority to learn well the lesson that people don’t drift toward humility. I for one have to order my life in such a way as to constantly be reminded that I am just a person, a sinner like everyone else who needs Christ.

4. The White Blood Cell

This is one of  my favorite lessons from the life of George Stoms. The lesson of the White Blood Cell. George is a truth teller. But he sets a standard in truth telling that I have seldom witnessed in any other person I have ever met.  So…what does that have to do with white blood cells? A white blood cell has the unique ability to seek out and attack infection and disease in the body. George has this unique ability. Here’s the challenge of the white blood cell. There are circumstances in the body when white blood cells get confused and attack good tissue mistaking it for disease. I believe that most people who claim to be truth tellers or “white blood cells” have a difficult time distinguishing between good and bad “tissue” in the body. In George’s case,  I have watched him grow such tact in this gift that he rarely if ever attacks anything but infection. Of course, I am talking about the ability to discern truth from deception. George is so gifted at this that I have come to trust even some of his toughest inquiries toward bringing that truth to light as a precious gift. Watching George grow in this area has set a standard for me to look for this gift in others, especially as God entrusts leadership responsibilities to me.

5. The Priesthood of all believers.

I don’t know if I know of anyone who practices the priesthood of all believers, (1 Peter 2:9), like George. Here is someone who could easily work in full-time ministry. Instead he lives full-time ministry. Here is a man who shepherds  and prays for  his neighborhood like a pastor shepherds an entire church congregation. If you are one of George’s neighbors, and you happen to be reading this right now, you need to know that this guy really does care about the people around him. George has taught me that just because a person has studied and knows the Bible like a professional pastor, they  don’t have to be a professional pastor. They just have to be willing to be used by God wherever and whenever he calls.

Mentors or (Not just another category for me to write about)

For those just tuning into this blog…It has been a while since I have posted anything. Candidly, I have simply been busy…but…I also just decided to take a break from what Brian Cooley of CNET called an “orgy of self promotion.” …just got a little tired of reading about people walking their dogs or washing their cars. I got really tired seeing Mafia Wars pop up on my facebook.. Anyway… enough ranting about that. On to better thoughts. I still very much enjoy writing and I had a thought the other day… I was thinking about all the amazing people that God has brought into my life over the years. I have had more mentors in my life than I deserve.

As I move into new opportunities to serve God and people, I thought perhaps it might be a good idea to write down some of the gifts of wisdom I have received from others. Though most of them will hate the notion, they are the people who deserve promotion. As for me, I just don’t want to lose what they have graciously given me to the noise of everyday life. Noise that so can so easily drown out and make me forget  the things in life that matter most. So in short, to all the people I have learn from over the years, to all the people who continue to speak truth to me even now… I write, as loudly, clearly and sincerely as I can…THANK YOU! I started to write that this Category is dedicated to you, but that would be a lie. The truth is, I will be writing the following posts for me.  After all these years I am still hungry for God’s wisdom…a great deal of which He delivered through you. Today I need His wisdom more than ever. I am simply writing your lessons to me so they sink deeper into my soul and so that I don’t forget…

So stay tuned…I can’t wait to introduce you to a man named George Stoms…Just a guy who follows God’s Word and tells the truth in love…. My next post will be about the top 5 things I learned from him…