Tag Archives: meaning

What I want to build.

Lots of people talk about building an audience, building traffic to their blogs. I struggle with that idea.

Not for others, mind you. In fact, I love the idea of sending you to posts that I find valuable. I have a blogroll to make those connections. I use twitter sometimes, I put links in posts sometimes. I send emails with links. I have no problem driving traffic. (In fact, my next “8 ways Wednesday” post will be full of links…8 of them, in fact.)

My struggle is with establishing for myself the goal of building an audience.

I’ll be honest. I love traffic. I look at my site statistics. I treasure the Brogan Bump (DEF: The traffic spike that comes when Chris Brogan includes your blog in a tweet.). But when I find myself thinking, “What can I do next that will get attention,” I have to stop.

I could build an audience in all kinds of ways, but most of them are, for me, questionable. There are enough people who have enough questions about pastors, of which I am one, that I gotta be careful.

So, what about building relationships? That’s the social part of social media. And relationships are wonderful. We are built for relationship. We are built to connect together. And it takes more effort to build relationships than to build an audience.

The handful of you who are reading this will read that statement and say, “Wait. I have both. And I have built an audience BY building relationships.” And I understand that.


When I focus on getting eyes, I start writing for emotional buzz. I start turning phrases just to see if I can. I start trying to pick topics that will get attention.

I’m much better off, however, if I am focusing on people rather than topics. If I listen and encourage and comment. If I build connections.

Unfortunately, however, I run into a problem that way as well. I mean, I can comment on every comment. I can connect and friend and social.Eventually, however, I run the risk of maintaining networks just for the sake of maintaining the network.

Rather than elaborating, and running the risk of making people say, “What? You mean he’s pretending to care?” I need to move on.

So where do I want to end up? What really matters? Building people. I want to help people grow and deepen. I want to give you tools and understanding and resources and encouragement not for the sake of connecting but for your sake.

For example, I want to tell you stories that help you understand what prayer really is so that you can have conversations with God. I want to help people not be so afraid of church and what it will do to them. I want to help people figure out what they are built to do. I want you to be a better friend, to have meaning and find meaning and make meaning.

I want to help you matter.

And that, for me, takes the most effort of all. Because in order to build people, I need to listen and respond…just like in building relationships. However, I also need to learn, to read, to think, to have resources available so that in the course of conversations, in relationships, I have something to add.

And I can’t do that for everyone, for a huge audience, for the sake of building an audience.

It’s why, by the way, I’m not twittering much. I can’t start conversations that I can’t continue, that I can follow. It’s how I’m built.

I’m not sure this makes sense. I’m not sure I’m clear.

But I’m pretty sure I’m for you.


Dental assisting

I got a crown yesterday. A filling had cracked and it was time to fix it. A couple weeks before I had the bad part done (with incredible amounts of novocaine). This appointment was merely for putting the $700 piece of metal in my mouth.

I walked in and sat down. The dental assistant said, “You have an iPod, don’t you?”

I do. She knows because it is my own pain reliever. I discovered that if I play David Crowder as loud as possible through the ear buds, I can’t hear the drill.

I told her that I did. She asked about charging it. She said that she had gotten the new iPod Skip. (She meant Shuffle). She tried to charge it at home but it kept flashing red. She brought it in to the office but wasn’t sure it was working. I asked where it was. We went to the front desk. She told me she had called tech support who said she needed to stop it before unplugging it. We stopped it. We unplugged it. I asked her about directions. It hadn’t come with any that she remembered. She hadn’t downloaded iTunes. I told her to start there when she got home.

We went back to the chair. I sat down and the dentist came and put the crown on. And I laughed at the fact that I was dental assisting.

I didn’t help much, I’m sure. I can figure out how to do things in the moment. I have an iPod mini (thank you again, Michael). I can run it, I can load songs, I’m listening to Yo Yo Ma right now. However, I don’t have the manual memorized and I have never used the new Shuffle. I can’t tell you how to do the installation nearly as well as I can show you. I can’t tell you all the steps nearly as well as I can help you think through the questions.

And that is the answer, for me, to yesterday’s question. I quoted Patrick Lencioni who has a character in a business fable ask “What is the one thing I do that really matters to the firm”. His character actually identified four things that he had to do as the CEO of a consulting firm: hiring an effective team; providing organization clarity; communicating that clarity; putting in place human systems to continue the process.

The point of the exercise is to identify what you are made to do, equipped to do, gifted to do, shaped to do. Having discovered that one or four things, the challenge is to learn how can you strip away the rest of the activities to focus on that thing. Because if you do that one thing well, even if you don’t get to other activities, you are invaluable to the firm.

For me, that one thing is helping people understand. I am a translator, not of languages, but of ideas. I can find metaphors that can illustrate. I can find threads of meaning. I can create pictures. I do it here all the time.

The danger for me is that I also like to do as part of that helping. I can get caught up in producing the video, in fixing the technology, in sorting through the details.

Here’s why that’s a danger: if I can help someone else understand, then they can do the fixing and I can help someone else understand something else.

I offer that understanding of me only to help you understand the point of the post yesterday.

What are you built to bring to the table, better than anyone else at your table?

Don’t get falsely modest. You know that you are better at gracious truth-telling. You know that you are capable of handling chaos that would drive others over the edge. You know that you can handle details. You can create powerful word pictures. You can synthesize ideas. You can encourage. You can love unlovable people. You can write in 5 words of poetry what other people spend essays to accomplish dimly.

And you are likely the only person with that one thing at your table. There are other poets, but not in your house. There are other synthesizers, but not in your firm. There are other detail people, but they are in other departments or churches or universes.

So what is the one thing or the three things?

And what is it that you get caught in, that keeps you from that one thing or those four things?

And what would it do for your firm or family or friends if you put your energy into doing your one thing or four things as well as you possibly can?

I wish I could have helped the dental assistant more. But I think I helped her understand.

I hope I helped you.

So, let’s try again. What’s are your one or two or four things?


This marks my 575th post. When I started blogging, I read that someone said you couldn’t talk about staying power as a blogger until you had 500 posts. By now, that number is probably higher. Ah well.

I’m just grateful you come by. And have contributed to the more than 1000 comments.

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no fooling

I started the most challenging job of my life on April 1. It wasn’t the best job of my life. In fact, it taught me much about areas of weakness in my life. I haven’t resolved all of those areas, but I am, on average, less driven by career, more aware of the need for followthrough, more aware of my inability to make institutions change by sheer force of will or by weaseling. So maybe, like “take this medicine, it’s good for you”, it was one of the best jobs for my life.

I think that I may be in for another of those learning processes, though this time I’m doing it on purpose.

I’m going to try to live April as if I only have one month to live.

I haven’t received any bad news, any diagnosis, any warnings. My job isn’t on the line, my family isn’t sick, I have received no warning dreams or visions. I am not worried about turning fifty this summer. Our kids aren’t moving out any time soon. I haven’t heard about any comets or other cataclysmic events. I am not aware of any biblical prophesy that will be fulfilled by destruction of me or of my family or of our country or of the universe on April 30.

And yet.

What if, just for a month, I lived on purpose?

I’m reading 40 Days Living the Jesus Creed, a book where Scot McKnight reflects on the words that Jesus would have spoken morning and night, as emended BY Jesus (“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and all your strength and love your neighbor as yourself”). That statement can become a purpose statement. Yes, it is the summary of the commandments, but what if rather than doing it because we have to (“Okay, I’ll love my neighbor, but this better be worth it” “Who exactly counts as my neighbor … and who can I ignore”) we decided that it was a way to live?

So what if I decided to live for a month as my last, choosing to live the way Jesus lived his last month?
We’ll see.

(the Jesus Creed on the Jesus Creed blog is here)


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