Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Last night I had the privilege of being my oldest daughter’s date to a lecture on the campus of University of Texas Permian Basin. The intriguing and thought provoking lecturer was Malcolm Gladwell. Mr. Gladwell has written two New York Times bestsellers and his new book “Outliers” will no doubt make this prestigious list also. I was not sure what to expect as I had not attended a lecture on a secular university campus in years. I was pleasantly surprised.

Gladwell’s lecture centered upon the theme of “Capitalization.” Coming from an accounting background I thought he was going to speak about proper capitalization of assets during difficult financial times (yawn!). I’m glad I was wrong. Capitalization is the ability to maximize the potential for achievement of an individual or group of individuals in spite of factors which seek to limit success. In other words, why do some athletes achieve greatness while others refuse to capitalize on their raw talent and ability? Why do Asians excel in mathematics while the Western world struggles with a defeated mindset in this area? What factors influenced the success of Bill Gates to capitalize on his abilities? These were intriguing questions as I have longed believed a celebration of mediocrity to be the standard by which success is measured in America (and in the church). He had my attention.

As we walked to the car, the question regarding how capitalization can be increased by an individual/organization was racing through my mind. With never a mention about the church, Gladwell had just described one of the greatest frustrations pastors of older, established churches face – how to lead this organization to maximize its potential for the Kingdom of God when there are so many factors (both internal and external) seeking to suppress capitalization in the church? As Gladwell applied three major factors suppressing capitalization – poverty, stupid rules, and attitude – I will do the same for the church.

First, what about poverty? Does poverty in the local church impact Kingdom success? No doubt there are definite times when financial restrictions do suppress capitalization in the church. Even today there are congregations facing this reality due to the financial crisis we are experiencing across this land. However, poverty in the church can always be countered by the financial faithfulness of its members. As we are obedient with God's money, poverty for the purpose of advancing the Kingdom is minimized.

Second, stupid rules that constrain capitalization (Gladwell’s words not mine) flourish in the church today. Some traditions found in the church would fall into the category of a stupid and constraining rule. Whenever tradition dictates a church’s ability to maximize Kingdom potential, capitalization has been suppressed. When there are more effective means of reaching people but “we’ve never done it that way before” becomes the determining mantra, capitalization has been suppressed. When worship style garners more attention on Sunday morning than the God we worship, capitalization has been suppressed. When a church is unwilling to adapt to a changing demographic due to traditionalism or racism, capitalization has been suppressed. Clearly some of the extra-biblical “rules” inserted into the life of the Church should be examined as realities that suppress capitalization for the Kingdom.

Third, the attitude of a church and its leaders can be the greatest determinant for increasing/decreasing capitalization. Gladwell effectively revealed that Asians thrive in math not because they possess a "math gene" but because they possess an attitude of hard work and will settle for nothing less than success. Bill Gates arose at 1:30 AM most mornings during high school to utilize a nearby university mainframe for four hours – hard work. Athletes that excel epitomize an attitude of hard work. Far too often those responsible for leading God’s people have a “get by” work ethic rather than a “get after it” determination to succeed for Kingdom advancement. Their attitude permeates through the entire congregation suppressing capitalization due to lack of vision and hard work.

So what is the answer? As far as I can tell, Jesus believed in capitalization for Kingdom sake regardless of obstacles standing in the way. The Great Commission is proof. Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Mt. 28:19-20 ESV). Church leader, what are you doing to increase capitalization in your congregation to impact all the world for Christ? Christ follower, how are you maximizing your abilities to achieve more for the Kingdom of God than you ever dreamed? When understood in this context, capitalization is not a financial term, it is a Kingdom term!

Remember... Never yield your shield, stay in the battle!

In Christ alone,