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Recently Paul McKaughan wrote a paper on metrics and control that I think fits the purpose of our sailing friends blog. The paper is rather long so I am adding it to the Papers & Reports page. Let me just give you some sample statements from the paper, so you have an idea of Paul’s thinking:

“What you measure you become” [by Paul McKaughan]

Jim is a technological, creative and networking genius. His track record of effective innovation is stellar. He is way out in front of most mission types I know. From Jim, this affirmation, delivered with great vehemence, blew me away.

That statement has an ominous, inevitability to it. It sure got me thinking about how we use metrics and the impact they have on us. Is that statement even true, do we become what we measure? Throughout my whole missionary career I have been an advocate for metrics in missions. Faith Goals have been a big discipline and huge motivator in my life. Have I somehow missed the downside of measurement?


Author Nicholas Eberstadt nailed the contemporary society we see all around us when he says, “Though he may not always recognize his bondage, modern man lives under a tyranny of numbers.” In insisting on numerical evaluation are we being shaped by our society’s “bondage” to numbers? This tyranny is derived from the belief that numbers are concrete and exact rather than relative representations of movement or scale. Another wise man affirmed. “What you measure becomes important, but it may not be significant.”


Some time ago I came on a quote about metrics that convicted me. It sadly rings true in my personal experience.

“Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement. If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it. If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it.” –H. James Harrington

The desire for control over a very complex set of realities resides deep in the heart of most leaders. We want to manage well the resources God has placed in our care. In our most honest moments we are uneasy with how little we really do control as leaders. Metrics promise to give us leverage with the people we are supposed to be managing. The desire to establish corporate accountability and organizational discipline can pander to that deep-seated felt need to be in control. Using metrics to meet our fleshly need to feel in control can make us oppressors rather than enablers, overlords rather than servants. The unforeseen consequences of measurement can shape who we are becoming as people.

See McKhaughan’s full document in Papers & Reports.

Enjoy the reading.



Tim Laniak offers the following reflection on Jonah that I find relevant to our sailing discussion. You will find more by Laniak at

One of the common topics discussed among Christian leaders is “calling.” The Bible uses a variety of examples to illustrate the diversity of ways God calls people – from the dramatic burning bushes and Damascus roads to the normal process of selecting people of character and gifting as elders. The call is virtually always to a task of some sort.

Consequently we are prone to think of ourselves as accountable for “doing” God’s will and we focus our energies on our special assignments. The question of why God calls people is quickly answered in terms of the projects that we feel called to do.

But is that the only reason? Does God call us simply to get jobs done? I believe Jonah provides a fuller answer to the question.

The first three chapters make it clear that God does call people to do specific tasks. The book begins, “And the word of the Lord came to Jonah, son of Amittai: Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it…” (Jonah 1:1-2; cf. 3:1-2). The first chapter makes it abundantly clear that running away from God’s calling isn’t worth it. The second chapter reveals a God who is willing to save a recalcitrant prophet and set him up for a “recall” in 3:1.

One certainly gets the impression that God is intent on getting this prophet to obey. The most obvious reason is to give the Ninevites an opportunity to hear the word of judgment. When they do hear this word, there is city-wide penitence led by the pagan king. … And, as we know, the God of Israel did respond to their repentance with his own change of heart (3:10).

If the story of Jonah ended here, we would have a fabulous Old Testament story of God’s calling, a hesitant but ultimately obedient prophet, and the saving of many Gentile lives. And it is all about these topics to be sure.

But there is a fourth chapter in Jonah that focuses our attention on the heart of the prophet from Israel. Jonah is “greatly displeased” and “angry” (v. 1; cf. vv. 4, 9). The reason? He knew that Yahweh would be a “gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love” (v. 2). Watching God’s pity for the Ninevites was so abhorrent to Jonah that he wanted to die (vv. 3, 9).

To give Jonah some credit, the Assyrians (whose capital was Nineveh) formed the most malicious empire that the world had seen. … The Assyrian boot was moving closer to Israel during the eighth century and would, after Jonah’s time, destroy the Northern Kingdom and most of Judah. It would have been a hope and pleasure for any Israelite to see divine justice executed on this ruthless enemy.

However, God was intent on showing mercy to the Ninevites, and, in the process, teaching Jonah a personal lesson. To get at the prophet, God incites his emotions. He causes a plant to grow up and provide shade for him, only then to have it wither. A scorching east wind from the desert (still feared in Bible lands today) pushes him further toward his anger and death wish (vv. 8-9).

Having Jonah’s emotional attention, God then asks him a rhetorical question with which the book ends: “You have been concerned about this vine, thought you did not tend it or make it grow…But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?!” (vv. 10-11).

The fourth chapter of Jonah reveals a God not only with a mission to the Ninevites, but also a mission to his prophet. Jonah needed to be rescued from a hollow orthodoxy. He was glad to repeat the familiar words from Exodus 34:6-7 (in v. 2) which articulated God’s amazing mercy when Israel had sinned at the foot of Mt. Sinai. But he couldn’t bear the thought of God being merciful to others who were also sinful. This was serious enough for God to discipline his messenger.

God’s mission to the prophet seems, in the end, more difficult than his mission to the pagans. The eager repentance of the Ninevites in chapter 3 echoes the willingness of the sailors in chapter 1 to sacrifice to Yahweh. These two instances of turning to the Lord are silent witnesses against the Jonah whose answer to the final question is never heard.

Let me summarize what I believe this little book has to offer us on the topic of calling. God doesn’t need messengers or “mailmen.” If he did, the book of Jonah would have three chapters, and the rest of us could go on in an unqualified obsession with what we do for God.

Put differently, God doesn’t need our help; he needs our hearts. Of course, humans have been delegated great responsibilities with eternal significance. Genesis 1-2 make that patently clear. But, like any parent asking children to do chores, God can get things done much more efficiently without us – if all he wants is getting jobs done.

To state this all more theologically: Service is the forum for our sanctification. God uses ministry to get a hold of our hearts and conform them to his own. This is the ultimate, though most subtle, reason for our calling.  We serve not only to get things done for others but, at least as importantly, for God to get things done inside us.

The book of Jonah uses a Hebrew word for God’s activity (manah) to show his sovereignty over the elements of nature: He “appointed” a fish, a gourd, a worm, and the wind. These various forces in Jonah’s life are mobilized to create a learning moment for the prophet. The question is, Will he “get it”? Will the stirring of his own passions and the chaos in his life help him existentially comprehend the doctrine lodged exclusively in his head?

God works holistically with Jonah because the divine agenda goes below the neck. Will you care about others more than yourself? Our calling to service will relentlessly drive us to this question.

And the divine Example will be waiting for our answer.

We have argued that a paradigm of control over the process of advancing God’s kingdom leads to ministry structures that are not sufficiently flexible to respond to unexpected leading from the Wind of God. This is true even when in our hearts we really would like to be responsive.

If you lead a ministry with a formal organization, buildings, staff, and contracts with providers of goods and services, you have daily responsibilities and commitments that cannot be ignored while you wait for divine direction. How do we reconcile the basic demands of living and working in the world with the need to be flexible to God’s leading?

I am helped in my reflections by looking at the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt under Moses’ leadership.

There were two realities Moses had to consider:

1. He had to lead his people to Canaan;

2. And he had to provide for their well-being and security during the journey.

These are not contradictory but complementary realities. How was Moses to exercise his leadership responsibilities concerning the two areas?

God was very clear about the first one. God said concerning his mission to reach Canaan: I will provide you with spiritual guidance concerning when to move and when to stop. A pillar of fire will guide you at night and a cloud during the day. When they move, you and the people move. When they stop, you and the people stop. It would be foolish for Moses to continue moving when the cloud stopped, and foolish to stop when the cloud kept moving.

As to the second responsibility, there was no cloud by day or pillar of fire by night. Does that mean Moses did not need to do anything about the people’s well-being? Of course not. He did not need special guidance from God to manage the needs of the day. Camping space was allocated to families; provision was made for herding the cattle, for fetching water, and for all the activities that a large people must fulfill on a daily basis. There were also preparations to be made for the journey when the cloud moved again.

Moses and the people were not idle when the cloud stopped. When we talk about ‘sailing’ as a better metaphor than ‘powerboating’ for Christian ministries, we are not suggesting that we just sit idly waiting for the wind to blow. The Israelites were not idle when the cloud was not moving.

The issue with powerboating is not with regard to the operational aspects of running an organization; it has to do rather with plans and strategies that drive us to move when the cloud is stopped. Our model of ministry is generally based on ambitious strategies and timetables that demand we keep moving. They encourage skills related to relentless pursuit of results and target dates, and they undervalue the need to develop our spiritual sensitivities to the Wind of God. Therefore we may not be skilled at knowing how to wait: we equate waiting with lack of commitment, even disobedience.

If we conclude that our powerboat model is harming our desire to serve God well, we need to keep in mind that changing to a sailing model will involve learning how to be obedient as we wait. Moses was not idle while he waited for the cloud to move. But he had the flexibility to move and to stop as the Lord directed.

Is sailing realistic? One of the most common reactions to the sailing paradigm is whether it can really be done at the organizational level. It is easier to believe it works at the personal level. Organizations, on the other hand, are objective entities with working relationships with the outside world. There are commitments to staff, clients, investors and government.

How does one wait on the wind to blow while there are salaries to pay, supplies to purchase, and government forms to fill? Is it easier to see how sailing works with a small mission agency, with volunteer staff and an understanding board of directors? Can a complex multi-level organization even dream of abandoning powerboating for sailing? These are very good questions that deserve good answers.

The answers are more accessible that we might expect. Dr. Roger Parrott, president of Belhaven College in Jackson, MS, has been applying sailing principles for several years, and has amassed a lot of practical experience. I have had the opportunity to meet Roger and visit the college twice this year.

The second time I visited Belhaven, I was part of a group of ministry leaders examining together the implications of a sailing paradigm in our work. Roger was part of our meetings and we were able to question him concerning practical applications of the paradigm. His answers consistently demonstrated that leading a large complex organization according to a sailing paradigm is not only possible but also quite beneficial to students, faculty, staff and the larger community.

Dr. Parrott has collected his insights and lessons learned in a very practical book for leaders released this month with the title “The Longview: Lasting Strategies for Rising Leaders”, (David C. Cook Publishers) The book is available at If you have been intrigued by the sailboat paradigm and wonder whether it is practical, I believe you will find Roger’s book very helpful.

A colleague recently raised the concern that most of the current dialogue regarding a ‘sailing’ paradigm are ‘North’ people. He wonders if we are not missing something by not bringing ‘South’ people more fully into the discussion. It is a good question.

When I first began speaking about changing from powerboating to sailing, it was in the context of finding language that would help ‘North’ people understand why there are still lingering concerns and frustrations around the world with the ‘North’s participation in global missions. Also, as a result of my presenting the topic in the presence of people from the ‘North’, I have been asked by ‘North’ people to make presentations on the topic.

It is very clear that this topic directly impacts ‘North’/’South’ relationships. ‘South’ leaders who have been exposed to it have received it with open arms because it may help them make progress in communication with their North brothers and sisters. Perceptive ‘South’ people also recognize that they are not immune to powerboating, and need the message as well for that reason.

I have spoken twice in an international context where ‘South’ people were present, and found them very interested in participating in the discussion. My intent is that this blog will draw them into the discussion as well.

I often hear that the North people in particular need to look at ‘sailing’. There is good historical reason for that, since we in the North have been most active in developing and operating a powerboat model. But I want to be careful not to encourage any sense among the South people that because they are not ‘North’ people they have got ‘sailing’ right.

The temptation to rely on our own power and control is universal. Western societies just happen historically to have recent success in the material realm and have been bolder and more confident in their own abilities.

The comparative material poverty of the South in relation to the North happens to favor them in a switch to ‘sailing’, but it is not a given. Powerboating is a universal tendency among humans of any culture. Some times the difference between ‘North’ and ‘South’ is not of paradigms but of resources. A rowboat is just as much a powerboat as a motor boat.

Once everyone grasps the meaning and implications of the metaphor, we all can begin to learn to ‘sail’ together.

What do you think?

In John 3:8 Jesus speaks of the total freedom of the Spirit of God to move when he wishes as he wishes. The Spirit is not controlled by any one. He, like the wind, blows where he pleases. We hear his sound, but we cannot tell where he comes from or where he is going.

Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:3-8 speak of our utter dependence on the Spirit to do serve Christ. Jesus, having commanded his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations, tells his disciples to wait in Jerusalem until the Spirit comes to them, before starting out on their mission. Yes, there was an urgency to the mission, but not without the Spirit’s empowering and guiding. We must adjust our sense of urgency to the parameters of the kingdom.

We know very little about times and seasons; we have almost no concept of the specific circumstances that determine how and when God will act in the world. Yet, we are given an assignment within the kingdom. How are we to know what to do?

This utter lack of knowledge of when and how God will act is likely to make us very uncomfortable. In fact, we are so uncomfortable that we resort to our best human resources to come up with plans to do what God asks us to do. We try to make up for the fact that God has left us in the dark about his plans and agenda by coming up with our own. When we do this, we fail to understand something very basic to being people of Christ in the world. What is this very basic thing?

Here is essentially what the Lord seems to be saying to us about our role in his work: ‘I will tell you very little in advance about what I will do next and what specific part you will play. Instead of giving you advance knowledge, I will give you my constant presence. What I ask of you is to stay close to me, wait for me and follow me to the degree that you see and understand me’. Jesus concludes his instructions to the disciples in Matthew 28 with the words, “and surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Instead of giving us advance knowledge of the plan, he gives us something the he determines is much better: his abiding, guiding and empowering presence.

I believe Jesus meant for us to feel relieved by witholding from us control of the process and energized by the promise of his presence. He takes from us the burden of knowing and controlling the steps of our obedience. As he said before, he can make even the stones to praise him; he can send his angels to do the work of world evangelization if all he cares about is the task. Instead, he wants us involved, and has made us integral part of plan. It is not about the task, but about our fellowship with him as he goes about the task. Our effectiveness in the task is more related to our familiarity with him, our closeness to him, than it is with our mastering of times and seasons. Should this not bring us immense relief? Apparently not, if measured by how we go about serving him.

What I see in myself and my missions colleagues instead of walking closely with Christ is a fair amount of anxiety, of frantic attempts to fill in the knowledge gaps Jesus intentionally left. We still want to serve him well, and we fear that unless we know the details and grasp the controls of the process, we will fail him. Yet, the truth is the opposite. The more we try to fill in the knowledge gap that he left , the farther we risk missing the mark of his intention for us.

How are we then to respond? If he has given us his presence instead of plans and timetables, I strongly suspect that the best way for us to be obedient to his command is to learn how to stay close to him. If his presence is described as the wind of the Spirit blowing at will on us and in the world, our hope is in learning how to sail. We need to learn how to discern the sound of the Spirit’s voice, and how to stretch our spiritual sails to receive the wind and trim our souls to best be moved by him where he wants us to go.

What does this say to our existing approaches and structures of obedience? How are our organizations structured to catch the wind?