Great leaders are high performance machines. Wise leaders are high performance factories of high performance machines. The best of the best understand the value of purposeful replication of themselves in others. It takes work, patience, vulnerability, trust, and some soul searching.
Most leaders will agree with the idea of reproducing themselves in others. I mean, it’s like world peace...or air...everybody wants it. Everybody knows it’s a good idea, but few actually know how to make it happen. The question then becomes: How do we become so purposeful in our leadership that we are marked not by how many times we’ve taken the lead, but by how many times we’ve given it away?
The movie Top Gun illustrates my point exactly. It not only underscores the importance of a strong wingman, it also reminds us how socially advantageous it can be to have a cool call sign, a sweet bike, and a jet...that’s another story however.
The military describes the function of the wingman like this:
“The wingman's role is to add an element of mutual support to aerial combat. The presence of a wingman makes the flight both offensively and defensively more capable by increasing firepower and situational awareness, permitting the attack of enemies, and increasing the ability to employ more dynamic tactics.”
The summary statement is that you are bigger, badder, and better together. The mental image of the planes working as one helps us move into some practical territory. The crux of the film is Maverick’s struggle to understand that leadership actually means taking a big dose of “followship.” His call sign already lets us know that he has a hard time working and playing well with others. With the introduction of the Iceman,... (clench teeth now), he is forced to trade independence of interdependence. Maverick was great on his own, he was greater on a team. A wise leader embraces this idea of interdependence and uses it to teach.
Author & leader Dave Ferguson gives us a great method for the interaction between a mentor and protégé, or in our case, between you and your wingman. Here are the stages he describes in his book Exponential:
1. I do. You watch. We talk.
2. I do. You help. We talk.
3. You do. I help. We talk.
4. You do. I watch. We talk.
5. You do. Someone else watches.
Although he doesn't claim ownership to this method, until I read it in Exponential, I had never heard it put so concisely. As a team leader, it helps me think practically about something that might have just remained a good intention. Studying this simple process of mentoring, helps leaders at all levels cultivate a wingman who will be challenged to then reproduce the same.
The application is plain for worship leaders. But, whether you are a ministry leader, marketplace leader, parent, (or all of the above) you now have a framework to use with the strategic relationships the Lord has placed in your path. Lastly, notice the amount of evaluation (talking) in the process. Be ready to talk it out and ask great questions. Also, be ready to explain yourself. You'll be amazed at how much you lead from pure, God-given, intuition. Enjoy the journey of explaining why it is you do what you do.
*I have recently come to find out I've been missing a major national holiday! Little did I know that May 13 of every year is TOP GUN DAY? I know, right??? Check it out here: http://www.topgunday.com/
**Also check out the TOP GUN CALL SIGN GENERATOR here: http://www.topgunday.com/call-sign-generator/
***Read more Dave Ferguson here:
Ferguson, Dave, and Jon Ferguson. Exponential: How You and Your Friends Can Start a Missional Church Movement. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010. Print.
Lt. Stephen 'Caesar' Smith (my generated top gun call sign)
I look forward to your comments below
The Eagles recorded the song Hotel California in February 1977 and it went on to win the Grammy for album of the year. It’s an unmistakable song like no other in the acoustic-rock anthology. Submitted to the band without lyrics by Eagles guitarist Don Felder under the name “Mexican Reggae”, Glenn Frey and Don Henley went on to add the classic, yet controversial lyrics.
It describes the story of a person checking into a hotel only to discover he is now trapped in a mysterious alternate universe he cannot escape. I can clearly remember where I first heard it as a little kid. I can clearly see my buddy’s house in my mind. In fact, I CANNOT listen to it without thinking about a ranch style with brown shag carpet. After hearing its mysterious intro, vivid lyrics, and euphoric guitar duet , I thought to myself “I... don’t know if I should keep listening to this...it’s freaking me out!” I mean “steely knives” and not being able to “kill the beast.” This church boy wanted to run for cover. So did the Church. By the mid-eighties, some in the evangelical community thought the Eagles were in league with Anton LaVey and the Church of Satan in San Francisco. In its full-length back-masked form, Hotel California, has apparently been written by Satan himself and released by David Geffen under the Asylum label. Who knew?
What the writers succeeded in doing was touching a universal emotion. None of us want to be trapped. None of us want to be held against our will. None of us want to be duped.
Solomon uses this imagery in Proverbs 9 to illustrate what I think is the original Hotel California. He describes two houses. One house is built by “wisdom,” the other by “folly.” The house of wisdom has set the table for humanity to come inside to drink, dine, and walk in the way of insight. Wisdom (she) instructs us to fear God, embrace the knowledge of the Holy One, and enjoy long life. Folly’s house is much the same only situated at the highest point of the city. Folly (she) sits on a throne at the door of her house and invites humanity in. Her invitation, however, is shaded and twisted into another form: enticement. She is calling out to the “simple” to come in and enjoy secret pleasures of stolen water and delicious foods. The punch statement of the allegory appears in verse 18: “But little do they know that the dead are there, that her guests are deep in the realm of the dead.”...The house of folly is inescapable.
Glenn and Don got it right. In their attempt to illustrate what Henley called "our interpretation of the high life in Los Angeles", they have also amplified an eternal truth that God has placed in each human heart. The way of wisdom is also the way of innocence. Someplace deep in our souls, we have knowledge of His house. He has placed eternity in the heart of every person. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we want to understand God more deeply. The fool abides self-deception. The fool marches into folly’s house and trades delicacies for his soul.
Maybe I got it right as a little kid too. The song should frighten everyone of us. Not because of some ulterior bit of song craft, but because it reminds us who we are. There are competing voices that call out against what we know to be wisdom. You can deny it for a lifetime, but it doesn't negate the truth. One turn into the doorway of that house, and sin has you by the throat. Don’t even go there.
NEW song, young guys
old song, old guys
old song, jung guy
A conversation once started on our team about appropriate attire on platform. As you can imagine, the subject is a Pandora’s box of opinion, feeling, and habit. It's a wacky world of subjectivity that is hard to navigate. Digging deeper, I came to few conclusions that have helped guide our teams to agreement.
1. Be objective:
The starting place for objectivity is to bring your thoughts down to paper. If your team sees it in writing and they understand there is a rationale, they are more likely to adhere and agree to the direction you want to take them. It also really helps when they are “on the fence” as to whether these pants or jeans are too tight or not. Putting it on paper is helping us teach.
2. Be modest:
This is an issue for both guys and girls. One of the fastest ways to be a distraction in worship is to display too many curves. The human form is a beautiful thing. That form, however, is not the focus of the worship. Do what you can to hide straps, cover necklines, and mask the areas that might distract.
3. Be forgettable:
Aim for uninteresting. I know this totally blunts the fashionistas, but there is some truth here. Find a style that is appropriate for your congregation and just stick with it. Let your self-expression come through other channels than your garment selection. I know black can be so boring, but for me, it is the color of choice to fade into the background or scenery.
4. Be appropriate:
“I’m just being me” sometime doesn’t hold water. Use the mall as an example. Are you willing to move from Buckle to Express based on the gathering? Ouch, I know it hurts. It hurts because most of the time my personal preference is for casual comfort in jeans and a T. However, “being you” or “being me” might mean loving your congregation to such a degree that we are willing to wear whatever so that we won’t be a distraction. I’ve got to remember that God is on display in the moment, not me.
These points are personal to me. They have come out of hours of standing in the closet worrying. Is that the biggest waste of time or what? I have finally come to the place where is would like to just wear a jumpsuit or a Star Trek uniform so I can eliminate one more thing to think about. That last sentence was a lie... But the point is, get with something that meets some objective criteria and get on with it. Our minds, and the minds of those we are leading, need to be filled with other things in the moment.
Would welcome your comments and feedback
***There is ample evidence in the scripture for the detail God requires in the OT. So, objectivity is not necessarily legalism. Pauline writings suggest becoming all things to all people while at the same time avoiding the latest styles of the day. It is more than we can get into in this entry, but at minimum, it get the conversation going.***
Hi and welcome back to the stephenandstar.com. We want to say thanks to all of you who have joined our update list over the past several updates. Thanks for being part of growing group of people who want to lead better on and off your personal platforms. If you've not joined, you can do sign up on the right side of this page. Thanks again, and we look forward to your comments!
Team Smith vacations are a big deal. We love to get away together and forget what day it is. For the past 5 years we have been fortunate enough to stay at a friends house on the Guadalupe River. The experience on the Guadalupe is a classic Texas: good food, happy people, and an oasis in the hard hill country terrain. We “toobers” come from all over the state to float in the lazy flow under massive sycamore and cypress. We have looked forward to it each year.
This year’s experience began a bit differently from our previous trips. Let me explain. There is secret spot downriver about a half mile that is missed by most tourists. A smaller creek flows into the Guadalupe at this point in the river and has formed a small pond clear pond. This idyllic little spot has become known in Smith Family folklore as “White Rocks.” We race there each year to swim, picnic, and play. Some of our best memories have occurred on that bank baking in the hot sun and cooling off in the notoriously cool waters of the river. You can see why we look forward to it each year.
Upon our arrival at our special spot this year, we pulled the tubes and kayaks to their usual spot and were laughing excitedly for the annual river fun that was about to break out. Just about the millisecond after those thoughts went through my mind, I caught the sharp whiff of cow…yes. As I got closer to the pond I could see the kids begin to slow down and look around the bank in amazement. We suddenly realized we were not the first to visit the water that day. Our riverbank had in fact been bombed earlier that day by cows who couldn’t have cared less about our imminent arrival to White Rocks. To put it reverently, our secret spot had been defiled. To put it less reverently, there was poo on the bank, poo in the bushes, and poo in the water. We were stopped in our tracks...and theirs.
Star and the kids are made of resilient stuff. They were more than happy to move down the bank or over to some rapids to spend the day. Dad, on the other hand, was ticked. I was totally thrown by some stupid cows. I could feel the anger and disappointment rise in me. Those cow droppings would be there all week. Lord knows I couldn’t move them all. We couldn’t enjoy the water or the bank or our secret spot. As far as I was concerned, our vacation was about to come to a screeching halt. Can you tell that I overreacted just a bit?
Frustration surfaces when our expectations about something or somebody aren’t met. Humans deal with frustration almost daily. Most of us are able to take the course correction and keep moving. The test of our leadership often occurs in our ability to handle bad news. How do you react? My desire is to be a person of God-given poise in the face of unmet expectations. I’ve come to realize a few important helps for me. I want to be a leader who:
Holds plans loosely: (Proverbs 16:9) My desire is not to allow my happiness to be dictated by my plan. I want to trust that He has a higher plan for me. A leader who is poised is a leader who is happy even when the plan changes. Let him establish our steps.
Stay cool: (Proverbs 17:27 “He who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.”) When I feel the disappointment from frustration begin to rise, I must remember to stay cool. Losing my composure only makes things worse for everybody involved. My kids would agree with this!
Be okay with things that are out of my control: (Psalm 121, Job 38-41) I want the default setting of my heart to be switched to trust. Great Leaders make a habit of spotting all the subplots. A poised leader considers complexities in the story. Our personal plot line might not be the only story being told. Trust that he knows the back-story and the road ahead.
I hope these tips help you like they keep helping me. Stay strong in the belief that he is working in you and your surroundings. Strive for His glory through your life and soon your life and leadership will be marked with an attitude of poise!
By the way, this all happened on the first day and it was certainly not a vacation killer. I was over it in like 4 days...(kidding)
Sam Jones is musical ninja and worship leader in Houston, TX. He has been on our worship team for about 3 years at the Downtown Campus of Houston's First. So proud of him and what he is doing. You will soon find out, he knows his stuff. Some of you might have incorporated the NNS already, if not, I believe it is an essential part of training and leading in worship through song.
You should learn the language of music. For hundreds of years, smarter people than me have been writing about music and creating terminology in effort to talk about a purely aural experience. This field is called “Music Theory”. I’m not here to ask you to go back and get a degree in Music Theory (I’m a huge nerd so that’s basically what I did). However, I AM asking you to learn a simple concept called “The Nashville Number System”. The system’s roots are found in classical music theory, and as the name implies, it was first utilized in Nashville in order to facilitate efficiency and creativity in recording studios. If you learn it, you too can facilitate efficiency and creativity in your rehearsals and times of worship.
Whether you know it or not, every song you play is in a key and each key is made up of only 7 different notes.
For simplicity sake, let’s use the key of C Major. Here are the notes in said key:
C D E F G A B
If you’re playing in the key of C, you’ll most likely play a C chord, an F chord, an A minor chord, and also a G chord. The Nashville System gives a number to each chord used in any key. For example, the C major chord will be called “1” and the F chord will be called “4” and the A minor chord will be called “-6", as seen below, etc.
C Dm Em F G Am Bdim
1 -2 -3 4 5 -6 7dim
This is the fundamental concept of labeling chords using the Nashville System. As you can see, we use a minus sign “-“ to denote a minor chord (flat third) and “dim” for a diminish chord (flat third and flat fifth). If you want to know more about what a “flat third” or “flat fifth” really means just Google, “Chord Theory”.
For practical application, it’s best to start by learning all the 1, 4, 5, and -6 chords, in several keys as these are most commonly used chords worship music. Here’s a list:
1 4 5 -6 Chords
Key of C : C F G Am
Key of D: D G A Bm
Key of E: E A B C#m
Key of G: G C D Em
Key of A : A D E F#m
Key of B: B E F# G#m
For chord inversions or “slash” chords such as C/E, we simply write it as 1/3, (You can say “one over three”).
For some more practical application let’s take a really common chord progression is C | G | Am | F (“With or Without You” aka “Blessed Be Your Name”) and with the Nashville System we could write it as:
C G Am F
1 5 -6 4
One of the primary benefits of the Nashville system is the ability to transpose songs to a different key very quickly. We can easily plug in the numbers and transpose “With Or Without You”/”Blessed Be Your Name” to the key of A Major. The progression would then be:
Key of C: C G Am F
Numbers: 1 5 -6 4
Key of A: A E F#m D
This comes in handy if you’re a guitarist and use a capo or if you’re just wanting to find an easier key to sing a song in.
Another benefit of the Nashville system is being able to quickly communicate chord changes to your team. Numbers are easier to understand in a loud rehearsal and you can also throw up some hand signals to let your band know which chord you want to go to next (especially helpful at the end of songs).
Things to practice: begin thinking of chords as numbers while you play, memorize the list of chords above from common keys, transpose as many songs as you can into several different keys, learn which notes are flats or sharps in any given key (called Key Signatures or Circle of Fifths), learn how chords are built, if you play guitar, practice a song with a capo in different places or without one, and finally, teach someone else the system once you get the hang of it.
CONNECT WITH SAM HERE: @theSamJones