Why HERE is always less acceptable than THERE.

20130520-194048.jpg We are at an interesting point in the life of our little church family.

We are tipping on the edge of around 150 regular members on the books. Coming up for 3 years old since planting from the "mothership".

Kids work is central. Worship is getting more "professional", youth are arriving and we have kicked out a cool little "edgy" evening service.

And this weekend we welcomed our new pastor to take the reigns for the next "season".

If you picked up on all the above jargon well done. You passed the "been around church for a while bingo game". I need a catchier title for that.

Anywho - we are at an interesting place. And you could say all is GREAT. And it is. You could say we are doing all the right things. And we are. But unfortunately. I don' think that's going to be good enough.

A few years ago whilst travelling in the US I spent 8 hours in the back of a pickup truck eating chicken out of an old apple crate, wearing an Oklahoma U. Baseball cap and listening to some of the most amazing country gospel you have ever heard. Why all of this was happening is irrelevant, but helps paint a picture don't it?

Along the way we hit a good stretch of road on the outskirts of the Oklahoma pan handle crossing into Texas that was so deserted by man, animal, mineral and vegetable that you would swear you had just walked on the set of a Lee Child novel.

Road out front.

Road behind.

But either side - Nothing but land, the odd scrub of a tree, and them more land.

We were having a great time. I was travelling with 3 guys, one of which my best friend and two who I had known for a sum total of 24 hours.

We had all we needed. But with nothing out there to look to or behind at, even in that crowded loud little Ford steel death trap - you could feel pretty alone.

You see thats sometimes the problem with being on track, out there in the middle of the road. It's usually out there in the middle that we can feel the most alone.

The middle is always the hardest part of the journey.

You are at your most vulnerable and most tired. You have lost the beauty and mystery of the path leading out in front of you. But yet you don't have that motivating sight of the finish line drawing you ever forward.

The middle of the road is where dreams come to die.

As we instated our new leader this past weekend at the church, I felt a true burden for him. Something really heavy and tangible. A burden of not wanting us to get stuck where we are.

Which is odd really, because like many of our little band of "history makers" (bonus points if you get that one) - I love where we are. I love our people, our building, our music, our prayers. I love it.

And I think that was just the reason that burden is so heavy is because from the outside looking in you could think we are on track and that our pastor, he's landed in just the right place. And he has. But in the very same moment you know there is more to do.

We always have more to do.

To see the world changed.

To drive our visions to completion.

And we know we have not yet reaches ours. But how do you take people with you to that new place when everything we have HERE seems so acceptable, comfortable?

Bill Hybels, the leader of Willow Creek, speaking at last week's HTB Leadership Conference spoke to just this and I share it again with you because it struck us so as we heard it.

The goal to getting people to go with you to THERE is to explain that HERE is unacceptable.

You see just casting a vision of how great this church, company, project is going to be when we get to completion is only casting half the vision. Because we naturally as Christians and human beings, default to what we know, what is comfortable, what is HERE.

So, Hybels says (and I agree) the only way to move to THERE is to explain why we cannot, under any circumstance, come hell or high water stay HERE.

If you are stuck in the middle of journey, or about to cast a new one, and need to take, or keep carrying people with you - then grasp this little truth. It is a life-changing, company moulding, church progressing truth.

Here may be great, comfortable, wonderful and delightful, but AT THE VERY SAME TIME - it can be unacceptable.

Because we are called to do greater things than even this.

Next time you find yourself out on the road with nothing ahead or behind, look down at the dirt beneath your feet. Thank God for it and then step on out.

Because you can't stay here.

Travelling Light. The Art of Shorthauling it.

20130517-180333.jpg In recent months I have perfected the short haul trip.

Having spent 1 out of 2 weeks on a planes to various European based cities or work travel, i have gotten pretty good at packing small, and travelling lite. Which as a man carrying the amount of tech that I usually do is often quite a challenge. Here is the run down:

1 incase Go Backpack. 1 HP Elitebook Folio 13" - The Outlook Running Workhorse 1 iPad Mini 16GB Wifi in Black 1 Logitech Ultramini Keyboard for iPad Mini 1 Samsung Galaxy S3 in White 1 iPhone 5 32GB 1 Proporta TurboCharge Battery Pack 1 Pair of Beats By Dre Bluetooth Headphones (for the plane) 1 Pair of Senheisser in ear 501 headphones (for conference calling) A selection of accompanying wires, chargers and plug adaptors Washbag (including Gilette ProGlide, Molton Brown Black Pepper Body Wash, Kheils Face Fuel Moisturiser and Molton Brown Ultimate Shave Creme) Spare undies and socks Spare shirt. Jacket.

This my friends - will EASILY see you through 2 days of meetings and an overnight stop if you include the clothes you already have on your back without ever having to see a plug socket. Now for those of you still with me and who aren't currently working out how to steal my backpack let me explain why I bring this to your attention.

Recently I have done a fair amount of writing and speaking on the topic of discerning Gods purpose for our lives. As per last weeks post about "Whether God Cares Where You Work" - I have also found this seems to be on the minds of many friends and colleagues right now too.

One of the recurring themes in these conversations has been about the sheer amount of options that people now have - careers aren't defined for life any more and we are far more aware of the get rich quick learning options out there to get ahead. A trip into any airport bookstore (about the only place to find a physical one nowadays) you will find

"10 Rules of Strategy" Neurolinguist Programming for Dummies 101 things to do with Macaroons

To be clear here - I think the fact that our generation will no longer have their futures dictated by the first 5 years of their working life is amazing - we have choice and that is great.

But I have noticed that there is an undercurrent of discontent being stirred by all these options with a few friends - which brings me back to my backpack.

The art of the shorthaul pack is not really about what you choose to leave behind - its about what you choose to leave in. Learning to mix the right blend of essential. In her book "Seven" - Jen Hatmaker took on the challenge of picking and eating just 7 food items for a whole month. She new she had to find the right balance of nutrition and versatility of ingredients if she were to make it the whole month.

Constraint isn't always there to make us exclude things. It is sometimes there to make us truly value the things we include.

God packed you and me with a certain box of stuff to be going on with in life. Some of it is bound up in the talents we have through our genetics, inherited down the ages. Some he gives us through the nourishment of great teachers and resources, still others are added to us by time into which we are born and the season in which we are called to serve him.

But whatever he has put into your specific backpack of talents and giftings - he put them their for you to use. He gave you a specific set of stuff you would need in this life so you didn't have to hang around checking in your bags.

There is great freedom in knowing you don't need to be awesome at everything.

You can just carry on.

FOMO & Wondering if God cares where you work.

20130504-162513.jpg

Maybe its the changing in the weather or just a time in our lives, but it seems everyone around us is upping sticks, moving abroad or changing careers. And if they haven't done so recently, they are thinking about it.

There seems to be something contagious about change. When you see those around you pursuing new horizons and trying to route out their course it breeds, and spreads through small groups of friends and communities like wildfire.

For some years now I have had the pleasure of spending quite of time around students going through university. Seeing them pick courses and electives for new semesters and ultimately graduating and heading out into the world of work is also really inspiring.

However whether it is friends changing careers, heading abroad or graduating and going out to seek a career for the first time - there seems to be a question that permeates through all of them - does is matter where I work? Not just - does it pay enough or will I be looked after, but does it matter to God?

One thing that the internet has done us is massively extended a disease known in the TwitterSphere as FOMO. The Fear of Missing Out. Now we have so much Haccess to all of the job possibilities out there. Linkedin and Twitter give us new unprecedented access to every job level and career option going. Recruitment agents are having a whale of time, sending inMails to everyone who remotely could match a job description, and in my industry I can certainly testify to 90% of these being way off base.

This change in how we approach our careers choices seems to be helping perpetuate this FOMO way of living. Should I switch roles, companies? Should I move for more money or happiness? What should I do to feel fulfilled? And what does being fulfilled even mean? Will God be happy with my choice or should I do something more "kingdom focused"?

In Corinthians 3 we read:

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, (Colossians 3:17, 23 NIV)

Don't miss the emphasis here - Paul says that in whatever you do do it in the name of Jesus.

We as Christians - scratch that - as humans, have a really bad habit of trying to put things in boxes. We love to categorise and organise. We have been doing it since the time of the temple, when we built places to contain the glory of God and appointed people as Priests to mediate that glory to the people. In doing so we today invoke thousands of years of history thinking that some jobs are somehow more holy that others, or more worthy than others.

Pastor. Missionary. Charity Worker. Full Time Christian Whatever.

There is no such thing as full time Christian service. We are ALL full time. We are all Christians. We all SERVE. This is our calling friends. This is what we are here to do. In whatever we do - bring glory to him. The only ones who should be suffering from the blight of FOMO is those who haven't yet met him - not us.

I am not saying here that it is not important to think things through. To pray for God to guide the big choices in life, or that in certain circumstances. However to do any of this effectively we must first understand that we are all called to play our part in this - whether we spend our days pushing prams, preaching from pulpits or punching prices.

I was recently researching for a sermon I was writing on this topic and came across this story about St Augustine - who when asked about how to discern God's will for our lives he answered;

Love God, and do as you please.

This friends, is good news. Let's get on with it. Whatever.

Learning to do what comes naturally... first & the death of email

I don't really think I'm one much for a morning routine. Sure I get up roughly the same time most mornings (depressingly around 6:35 - but we set the clock 15 minutes fast (6:50) so it is less of a shock to the system... ask @HollyPoulter), the day doesn't get started until the first cup of coffee and sometimes the second, and most mornings are kickstarted by something to get the creative juices flowing.

For me it's podcasts. I studied radio production, ran a podcast production outfit and worked on a few shows for stations, and still find the spoken word the best way of sparking new thoughts. Whether its something deep and complex, or heartfelt and warming or just plain fun - the shows that course through my earbuds in the morning are what set my mind alight with new concoctions, ideas and projects for the day ahead. (See below for some podcast recommendations).

The problem with this form of early morning mental stimulation is the activities that I snared by through the average working day from the moment my coat comes off in the office. Namely - email.

Now I know several of you share my sentiment about email being the number one productivity killer of modern times, I truly believe it does more damage that Twitter, Facebook & Pinterest combined! But maybe this is only because of the bad habits we have developed with it. For most people, the first thing they do when they sit at their desks (or for those of us cursed with the CrackBerry - when we wake up) is checking email. This may seem logical - but the problem is email is full of inputs - actions that once acknowledged begin to create a backlog of unresolved loops* that our brain begins to want to process. Thus dashing any of the creative musings that were getting going in our heads when we first awake.

One of the sideaffects of working in companies, firms and businesses is that we are inherantly required to disregard the natural physical, emotional and mental cues that our mind, body and spirits give us to do what comes naturally. Now of course this is somewhat necessary convention - as otherwise it is likely that we would never get anything accomplished, but I dare you to follow me in this small change to the way we start our days.

Use the start of the day to be creative. Not productive.

Creative. Not productive.

By learning to do what comes to use naturally first - by starting the day not with a to-do list but with the act of putting fingers to keyboards, pen to paper or lips to words we may just find we spend a lot less time trying to be creative, and a lot more time actually creating the things we so long to see come to fruition.

So start today with what comes naturally - embrace it, feel it, let it mold you - and maybe, just maybe - leave the email till 10:30.

Podcast Inspiration

*See David Allen's fantastic "Getting Things Done" for more on loops

Church, Twitter & Trinity [Audio & Slides]

A couple of weeks ago now I had a great opporunity to share some of my recent thinking on social media for the church - how it affects our attention, our understanding of truth and of relationships - with the wonderful people at All Saints Church, Peckham Below is the audio and slides of that night! Enjoy.

James Poulter @All Saints Peckham - Sociality by jamespoulter

Sociality ASPeckham 220511

A lesson in passion and precision @DeptofCoffee

As someone who generally doesn't get bogged down in the nitty gritty (a typical Meyers Briggs "creative" type) I am not often drawn to the science or the methodology of my day to day existence. I don't spend hours pouring over data to find the gem, and I don't care to much attention to detail (if you've read this blog for any length of time you already know my spelling and grammar wouldn't pass the first round of 3rd year spelling bee). However this rule, like all rules has it's one exception, and for me that is food. I care a lot about food. I tend to think I generally am a lot more interested in eating than the general man on the street, and particularly so when it comes to a good cup of coffee.

Passion and precision

I spent most of last night with Chris and Tim at The Department of Coffee and Social Affairs on Leather Lane, Farringdon, as a guest at "Coffee School" - an initiative run by the store to teach caffeine addicts like myself just a little about the painstaking levels of accuracy and science that go into making a good well bodied espresso. Now not to bog you down in flow rates, brew ratios or how to create the perfect crema - for that I recommend taking the class - what I took away the most from the evening was how we take the most care with the things we care most about.

I can tend to get very VERY bogged down in how a Keynote document looks, how the grill lines on my Turkey steaks are cooked or how finely my milk is "stretched" when making a Flat White, but I don't much care about balancing a budget sheet or making sure that every line of a timesheet is filled out (for the record and if any clients are reading - of course I do these things, I'm just saying I don't feel I want to write home about them!).

Think about what you spend the most time and effort on, is it the things you love or things you would rather someone else did for you? If you are anything like me I am sure it is the former - which means often we can be most negligent about the detail of the things that really don't float our boat. However, for some people, making sure all the graphs are going in the same direction or spending hours to find that golden statistic is what they crave. It's those people we are most likely to rub up the wrong way in the workplace, the church or even the home!

Passions and pulls

I think the biggest reason why we grind one another's gears from time to time is a lack of understanding that one type of person is not lazy because they don't like Gantt charts, or another type of person is not anal because they love a good spreadsheet - it's just a difference of passions and pulls.

If you are experiencing friction with colleagues or loved ones, just take a second to think about is there a difference in passions here, and if there is, seek to find a way of getting passionate about what they are passionate about. In our marriage preparation course (a great course but I testify that nothing can prepare you for it!) I was told "if she's into shopping and Desperate Housewives - GET INTO shopping and desperate housewives!" - similarly my wife was told to "get into the rugby!". Why? Because as hard as you may try to understand what someone is into, or why they are asking you to do something you are never going to get on board unless you are passionate about it!

So they key to taking more care with the things we are not so keen on is caring more about them, to get precise in those things, you need to get passionate.

Holy Saturday: Why I love hindsight

From the darkness comes a light, I hear your voice and this is my awakening

Today is Holy Saturday, the quietest, maybe saddest day of the year. Well 2000 years ago, on that day of mourning and silence it was. Filled with nothing but the emptiness of a missing Saviour.

The disciples and much of Jerusalem had been expecting Jesus to come in - the triumphant king who was going to overthrow the rule of the Roman's. Instead they had his tattered clothes, pieces of wood drenched in tissue, blood and sinew and a cold hard tomb.

Today when we think of Holy Saturday I think we lose the impact of just how it must have felt for those who had been following Jesus around for 3 years, listening to him teach.

Today we have the beautiful viewpoint of hindsight, the ability to see past the emptiness of Holy Saturday to the glorious and triumphant return of the King on Easter Sunday.

We live in the light of The Empty Tomb.

Hindsight often get's a bad wrap, so often we talk about situations that went horribly wrong, we use words like "if only we had known then that..." - but today - well I'm glad that we know that both the Cross and the Tomb are empty.

The changing face of a digital PR agency

This morning I have mostly been thinking about the changing face of the PR agency in world of digital PR. Sounds riveting doesn't it. Well maybe that's a wee exaggeraion, but it is interesting. These thoughts were formed in part from a heated conversation about whether or not an Ad agency model would be more appropriate in the day and age of social, which struck up on twitter with @adamvincenzini, @dannywhatmough and @MaxTB on twitter, and offline with @vikkichowney (Reputation Online) and @arunsudhaman (The Holmes Report) at the #PRCAExperts briefing in Holborn this morning.

PR Agency Chat

It's an interesting question = would we be better off moving our agencies to a mixed disciple model, with creatives, planners, account people and producers, rather than sticking with the traditional Account Management hierachy that most agencies still use.

In my own experience here at Lexis, where we have a creative and planning department, digital, design and then the traditional model of account executives, managers, directors and associates, I can see the value of either side of the field.

The traditional model creates and nurtures people through a hierachy to be well rounded PRO's, who can turn their hand to most elements of the PR life with equal grace and competence, but may end up lacking the specialist expertise in certain areas to provide that allusive level of being a "trusted advisor" as David Meister so elloquently expressed in his book of the same title.

The model employed by most large advertising agencies, and in some cases by some PR agencies has it's merits also - providing true "expertise" in different disciplines of the marketing process, meaning that quality can be ensured at every step. This could well work for PR as we see more and more agencies needed to be competent in social media, SEO, media buying and design. These practices require real in depth skill and knowledge to achieve a level where one can be deemed an "expert" which only the most talented PRO would be able to achieve across the board.

So what is the best approach? What has worked for you? Share your stories in the comments below.

Other Thoughts on the topic: Danny Whatmough: Is the PR Agency Model Broken? // Social Matters: http://bit.ly/fJZDir