A wise man once said, “You never want more responsibility than you have to have”. I am learning to give away responsibility as quickly and as carefully as I can. But this has been a slow lesson for me to learn and I can remember clearly the first time I ever saw this in action and it freaked me out.
It was my first day on the road with John & Carol Arnott. I was their pastoral intern and this was my first conference with them. The location was Virginia Beach and it was my introduction to the team I’d be spending over a year with in many different parts of the world. We were hosting a conference together which started Thursday afternoon (if my memory serves me correctly) and we had driven down from Toronto a couple of days early to join the team and help set up the event.
After our twelve hour drive we slept very well and awoke on Monday to prepare the main banquet hall to receive a thousand or so people for the conference that started later that week. John & Carol weren’t flying in until Wednesday afternoon so there was a lot to get done before they arrived. In addition to helping set up the conference I found out (some 24 hours earlier!) that I was also going to be teaching on one of the soaking schools they were running before the conference started.
There is a lot to do when you run a conference. In very practical terms chairs need to be put out and seats labeled for speakers, guests, ministry team, VIPs, etc. The sound system has to be installed, the video projections systems have to be installed, cables have to be run, ministry teams assembled and trained and for prayer time we’d lay out tape on the floor to help bring some sense of organization. Then there is the product and resource tables that need to be setup, there’s volunteers to be organized, there are speakers and worship teams to collect from airports. There are phone lines and internet connections that need to be setup, slides for announcements need to be prepared, sound checks to undertake and rarely does everything run smoothly. In this particular case our product got held up at customs, our credit card machines wouldn’t work with the hotel’s phone system and the lighting in the main banquet hall wasn’t adequate for video use and the hotel was asking for an additional $900 a day to turn on their spotlights. While I was helping Dave trouble shoot these I was also in and out of the soaking school teaching sessions on how to hear God’s voice, the importance of rest and soaking people in prayer. These were very long days for the team and often we wouldn’t get to bed until after 1am, but they were filled with laughter amidst the busyness.
After three days of setup, problem solving and prayer, it was time to pick up John and Carol from the airport (remember this was my first gig with them, so I didn’t know them). There was an outstanding list of things still to be fixed and setup and I was worried that we might not get them done before the conference began. I arrived at the airport looking for John & Carol, all the while running lists in my head of what we still needed to get done back at the hotel and conference center. When I picked them up I was shocked at how relaxed they both were. When John asked how setup was going, I was almost too scared to tell him! But as I gave him an overview of what had been setup, the problems we’d encountered and the steps we took to overcome them and presented him with a list of outstanding issues, he smiled that wonderful smile of his, chuckled and said, “Ahhh Alyn, you’ll see, it will all work out!”
I thought to myself, “Either he doesn’t understand what I just said, or he doesn’tcare about what I just said” but I’d completely misunderstood John’s reaction. I had yet to learn about John’s unflappable confidence in the Holy Spirit. I actually went as far as judging John for being irresponsible! I look back and laugh at my arrogance; here I was, having never helped setup or run a conference before, judging John who for the last ten or so years had hosted over 100 conferences! I couldn’t believe that someone could just saunter in the night before the conference was due to start and be so relaxed about the impending disaster. Alas, I had still to learn the invaluable lesson of outsourcing your genius.
To this day, John surrounds himself with brilliant people and this conference was no different¹. Running the soaking school was a dear friend and fellow Scott, June Bain. In charge of the conference was David Richards and overseeing the bookstore and all the volunteers was John & Carol’s personal assistant at the time Nicola Tancock. Each of these people are geniuses in their own right. It’s hard for me to describe just how brilliant these three people are. The reason for John’s peace, which I had judged to be carelessness², was that John had absolute confidence in the Holy Spirit to make everything right and that John had outsourced responsibility to these two women and this man. To this day, I try to think like Dave when planning events, I still marvel at Nicola’s ability to manage John & Carol’s extensive range of responsibilities and I still smile at the buoyant radiance that June emanated while things around her looked like they were heading for destruction.
Of course, just as Jesus taught (according to your faith be it unto you) John’s faith and confidence in the Holy Spirit, coupled with some very hard work from the people above and their volunteers made the conference a hit. Nothing went wrong, everything was wonderful, people got healed, saved and delivered and we had a great time. There would be many, many, conferences in the years following and I would see the same patterns over and over again; brilliant people overcoming big problems, encouraged by a big thinker with an even bigger father’s heart.
And now, many years later, as we have just finished our first emanate conference I reflect on all that I’ve learned and realized that I too am learning to outsource my genius. As pastors and leaders, there’s a real temptation to hold onto control; to have everything run by you, but in reality that’s one of the worst things you can do. Ironically, we think it’s good stewardship to be in control or that we’re being responsible to have all things flow through us, but we need only look at the life of Jesus and we find that there’s scant evidence of this in His approach to ministry and life. Jesus actually outsourced his anointing to twelve guys. He left His kingdom in the hands of twelve (actually eleven!) other people and let them get to it. But of course it wasn’t these eleven guys on their own, it was the apostles and the Holy Spirit.
I am privileged to find myself in the situation where I am surrounded with people who are geniuses. Chris McClarney is a prime example. I know of few other worship leaders who consistently bring the presence of God like Chris does. Working along side Chris McClarney is Michael Wessner. We often joke that Mike is Chris’s brain. So I outsource worship to Chris, Chris outsources organization to Mike who in turn outsources skill and talent ensuring that we have brilliant people on the worship team playing. Together, they usher in the presence of God and voila, I just outsourced the most important part of the ministry I oversee. I rarely concern myself with the worship at our services. In the few short years that we have worked together, I’ve watched them consistently represent my heart at emanate, so I never worry about anything that might go wrong because I know there are geniuses at the helm.
But worship teams are nothing without people to make them sound good. And so we have incredible sound guys headed up by Markus Hendrickson. Markus is constantly thinking five steps ahead of me which is good, because by now, I’ve forgotten to even consider anything sound related, because Markus is such a genius that I’m confident that between him, his team and the Holy Spirit everything will be taken care of.
If you look at every area of the MORE + conference that was going swimmingly, you’ll see geniuses at the helm taking ownership for their areas of responsibility. My job is to find the right genius for the right job at the right time. The night before the MORE + conference started we had no internet - partly because as a team we thought it might be a good idea to upgrade our public WiFi before inviting 500 people to use it - and our poor tech person had only 24 hours notice to get the parts, configure the router and upgrade the network! Given our whole registration system and credit card processing required a stable internet connection, this could pose a problem. The other “small” issue we had was that our water mains blew up which meant there was no running no water in the building (500+ people with no bathroom facilities = ewwwww). On top of this, our keynote speaker was stuck in Iceland where an erupting volcano was hindering flights in and out of the country.
Like Father, like son, I found I had nothing to worry about, because I’ve learnt to trust Holy Spirit and the geniuses that I’ve surrounded myself with. I have no control over volcanos so there was little point allocating worry or concern to that problem (besides which, the Holy Spirit has control in that department and He’s a genius and as far as I can tell, is on our side), the internet was in the hands of someone brilliant who we trust, and Don Dalton, our facilities manager, was already on the water problem. The very worst thing I could do is fret and worry about any of it. The success of MORE + is down to the people who helped make it a reality. To everyone who helped in any capacity, thank you for the part you played.
Probably the smartest thing I ever chose to do, was marry my wife AJ. She is a genius in her own right. She manages our family, helps lead emanate and gives incredible insight and help to the leadership of Grace Center. She makes us all look good. Without her I’d be a shadow of the man I am and wouldn’t be where I am today. In light of that, I like to think that the decision I made to marry her, in some way, makes me a genius.
- He used to joke, with a glint in his eye, that he liked having Brits and Americans on his team. He hired Americans because they thought bigger, but he hired Brits because they thought better...
- Reminder: worry does not equal care.
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