I’d love to hear YOUR story

I’m looking for stories of personal forgiveness.

One of the reasons people struggle to become forgivers is they don’t see many examples. (I shared my 3-year grudge HERE.)

Author Lewis Smedes said, “I learned about forgiving, not by reading books, but by listening to good forgivers.”

In a profound example of cosmic irony, God uses other people to heal the wounds that other people inflict.

‘If it’s true that ‘hurt people hurt people,’ then it’s also true that ‘healed people heal people.’’ – David Nasser

If you’ve been able to release a grudge, are others being healed by your story?

what's your story

I’m looking for stories of forgiveness. What’s YOUR story? (I won’t share anything without receiving your permission.)

If you’re willing to share your story with me, please email your story to markariggins@yahoo.com.

This Friday, we will continue our #ForgivenessFriday series.

Sadly, I held a grudge for more than 3 years. Here’s why . . . #ForgivenessFriday

I was certain that God was leading me to start a different kind of church across town. My pastor was certain that God would never lead me to do such a thing. I was devastated that he wouldn’t support me. He was devastated that I would risk hurting the church. After serving together for 12 years and despite being best friends, our relationship completely severed and we wouldn’t talk to one another for years to come.

* * * * * * *

Two years later I was sitting inside Smokejack BBQ restaurant in Alpharreta, Georgia. Sitting across the table was my church-planting coach and friend from Northpoint Community Church. Despite my best efforts to resist, I ended up talking about my hurt like I had so many times before.

My hurt was tattooed on my tongue. Every time I spoke people saw my hurt. Like an ugly tumor, people would awkwardly smile and pretend it wasn’t THAT bad.

But this time my friend looked me in the eyes and said, “Mark, you keep looking back. You need to forgive so you can start moving forward.” I took a deep breath and nodded my head in agreement like you do when someone has said something true but unhelpful.

Forgive and move forward? I felt like he’d just told me to build the Golden Gate Bridge . . . with my bare-hands . . . blindfolded . . . spanning the Pacific Ocean . . . within 24 hours.

“I don’t know how to get past this!”, was my desperate, inner scream.


I flew back to my West Texas home and prayed another prayer of forgiveness hoping I could dig deeper and somehow mean it more. Nothing changed. My thoughts and conversations continued to be interrupted by my past hurt.

It felt like the cruelest divine trick of all to be given a memory with instant and detailed recall without the ability to forget.

Another year went by and my hurt was still with me . . . daily.

I wanted to forgive but something was holding me back. What was it?

After some intense soul searching, I discovered three things that were making forgiveness hard for me:

1. I wanted to forgive but I didn’t think people appreciated how badly I was hurt

2. I wanted to forgive but when something went wrong, I continued to blame my offender or my hurt

3. I wanted to forgive but I felt like my offender was “getting away with it”

Sadly, I held my grudge for more than three years!

How about you? Are you holding a grudge?

It might help to ask yourself the following questions:

Have you told your story more than once to the same person?

Do you replay the events that happened at least once a day in your mind?

Do you have imaginary conversations with the person who hurt you?

Does your story focus primarily on your pain and what you have lost?

Have you made a commitment to yourself to not tell your story again and then broken your commitment?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, chances are you’re holding a grudge. You’re not alone, I initially answered “yes” to ALL of these questions.

Your hurter may have been your spouse, a parent, a co-worker, or a close friend. Someone did something. Someone took something. Someone owes you something.

Eighteen months ago I began a journey. I wanted to pursue real forgiveness.

This is your invitation to join me on this journey.

Beginning today, let’s talk about forgiveness each Friday. Think of it as #ForgivenessFriday. (Though we’re free to forgive on the other days of the week.)

Is someone you know stuck in a past hurt? Forward this to them and invite them to join us.

Here’s the key: I want YOUR input. Okay, it’s your turn.

What’s the longest period of time you’ve held a grudge?

What are some of the things that have made forgiveness difficult for you?

Click HERE for PART 2 (includes the 10 common misunderstandings of forgiveness).

Deep hurts shape us

I experienced my greatest hurt four-and-a-half years ago. A few of you are vaguely aware of that painful season.


I’m grateful that God uses the painful seasons to shape our heart and grow our faith.

Tomorrow, I’ll begin sharing what I’ve been learning.

But I gotta tell you . . . sharing this makes me nervous. Super nervous. I’ve never shared it publicly.

Tomorrow, I’ll share my greatest hurt briefly (76 words) and then unveil the one thing God has been teaching me in the aftermath.

How can you make better decisions?

You make decisions every day. Some are minor. Some are major. Imagine being able to improve your decision-making.

According to Heath, “60% of executives said bad decisions were as common as good decisions.”

chip heathChip Heath recently released his new book Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work. At Catalyst-West last week, Chip shared “How to Make Better Choices” based on his research.

So how do you make good decisions? Chip Heath said, “Most people in culture say, ‘Trust your gut’.” 

Heath said you should only “trust your gut” when:

1. You have a decade of experience (10,000 hours)
2. Feedback is quick and clear.

So, why do you make bad decisions? According to Heath, there are four villains in the typical decision making process:

1. You encounter a choice. But narrow framing makes you miss options.
2. You analyze your options. But the confirmation bias leads you to gather self-serving information.
3. You make a choice. But short-term emotion will often tempt you to make the wrong one.
4. Then you live with it. But you’ll often be overconfident about how the future will unfold.

How can we do better?

Heath suggests a tweak in the typical decision making process:

1. Widen your options – when you encounter a choice.

2. Reality-test your assumptions – when you analyze your options.

3. Attain some distance – before you make a choice.

4. Prepare to be wrong – then you live with it.

Chip spent the rest of the time discussing how to Widen your options & how to Attain Distance before deciding:

1. How do you widen your options?

Avoid “whether or not” (yes or no) questions for decisions.

More options increase odds of making successful decision. “Thumbs up or down” decisions (yes or no) decrease odds of success.

When you hear someone say, “I’m trying to decide ‘whether or not’ I should . . .”, a siren should go off in your head because they’re likely missing good options.

Ask “what would you do if you couldn’t do either option in your “whether or not” scenario?

Research suggest adding 1 additional option results in a decision being 6X more likely to be successful according to Heath

2. Attain distance 

Do you want your epitaph to say, “He always returned emails promptly?”

How do you gain a bigger perspective? According to Heath, here are four ways:

a. Sleep on it

b. Consider 10/10/10 (Think of implications 10 minutes, 10 months, 10 years from now)

c. Add social distance

For personal decisions ask yourself, “What would your friend do?”

For business decisions ask yourself, “What would your successor do?”

d. Seek a Divine perspective

We will never be perfect but we can do better and be bolder.

“Making decisions is like driving: Most of the times it’s straight but it’s the turns that determine where we end up.”

How about you? What tools have you found helpful when making decisions?

“If I were starting over, this is how I’d create a high-performance team” by Andy Stanley

Andy Stanley’s 1st session at Friday’s Catalyst – West main session


Most people in the work force don’t feel like they’re part of team. They feel like employees. Hiring a staff is not the same as developing a team. For those content to manage the status quo, employees will do. But for the leader who is consumed by the desire to move the needle, team is an absolute necessity. Here’s why:

Synergy – when a combination of elements produces an effect greater than the sum of the individual elements.

Dilemma: Most people in charge think they’re leading a great team but most team members don’t feel like they’re part of a team = disconnect.

Last summer Andy took the entire summer off from speaking to walk around the campus each weekend evaluating everything with these two questions: “Why does it work so well?” “What if it broke?”

“If you don’t know why something’s working, you will not know how to fix it when it breaks!”

We don’t generally evaluate success. We generally only evaluate things that are broken. Successful leaders evaluate success.

Andy (w/leadership team) decided they were doing 3 things well. Andy, If I were starting all over, based on what I’ve learned, here’s how I would create a high-performance team:”

andy stanley

I. Select performance-oriented people and position them for maximum impact.

a. Recruit doers not thinkers. Ask them “What have you done?” Not, “Where have you worked?”

b. It is much easier to educate a doer than to activate a thinker. At Northpoint we hire doers out of the market place and pay them to go to seminary. You can always rent a thinker!

“Great vision without great people is irrelevant!” – Jim Collins

Paul was a doer. God hand-picked a doer to share His Gospel.

c. Position individuals for maximum impact.

1. Put your best people on your best opportunities!

Pharoah hired Joseph because he decided, “I want someone who wakes up every morning thinking about our country’s coming famine.”

Despite the org chart, Pharoah decided to put the best person on the best opportunity.

You’re tempted to be fair. But fairness ended in the Garden of Eden.

2. Connect the dots.

Everyone needs to understand the interdependence of the staff. Do this in staff meetings through stories and expressing gratitude.

Do your team members feel interdependent? Do they understand how what they do impacts what others do?

II. Clarify the “what” and the “why”

a. Performance-oriented people like to win. You must clarify the win! One sentence purpose-statements for every ministry.

“A clear, common, compelling task that is important to the individual team members is the single biggest factor in teams success.” – Pat Macmillan, The Performance Factor

b. Team dissolves when the problems are all solved.

You know where you begin with the discussion of change? Not with what needs to change but your vision. People won’t let go until you clarify where you want them to go! This requires extraordinary clarity.

c. Organize to the what

1. Create an organization where the lions-share of the resources are allocated to the what. That’s the game-changer!

2. Don’t force people to work around the organization.


What is the problem your team has come together to solve?

What is the task your team has come together to accomplish?

What is the opportunity your team has come together to leverage?

What is the what around which everything should be organized?

Andy, “Why am I being critical? Because billions of dollars are spent every year by the church driving high schoolers out of the church!”

III. Orchestrate and evaluate everything

a. Orchestrate: This is how we do it here until further notified. “Orchestration is the elimination of discretion or choice at the operating level of your business.” – Michael Gerber, The E-myth Revisited

1. Orchestration brings consistency and predictability to all your processes and environments.

2. This will actually make your organization feel more, not less, personal.

3. You already do this in some areas. (i.e., children’s check-in)

b. Evaluate everything

1. Evaluate formally and systematically

– With the people involved.

– As often as it occurs.

2. Create a feedback loop that keeps you closer to the events.

– Growth distances leaders from the events that matter most.

– Numbers don’t tell the whole story.

Question: What are the mission-critical events in your organization? (At Northpoint: Service-programming, children’s ministry, and guest services)


1. Select performance-oriented people
2. Clarify the what and the why.
3. Orchestrate and evaluate everything.

P.S. I’ll be sharing more notes from Catalyst-West on Monday.

6 Unusual Things I Enjoy About the Catalyst-West Conference

I’m at the Catalyst West Conference in Orange County. Love the heart of this group!

I love the speakers, inspiration, worship, information, energy, space for reflection, seeing friends, time with co-workers and the fun.

catalyst pic

But here are six unusual things I love about this conference:

1. Feeling old – Today I turn 42. This conference was originally established to engage Christian leaders in their 20’s & 30’s. I’m super encouraged to see thousands of young, high-capacity leaders. I’d be discouraged if everyone were older. I’m encouraged that most are younger.

2. Being disturbed – There’s always at least one speaker (main session or breakout) who says something I don’t agree with and it immediately disturbs me. This causes me to search out why it disturbs me. God always uses this disruption to grow me.

3. Discovering a new problem/solution across the world – I’m busy in local ministry so I’m grateful for people who discover problems and invite us into the solutions. Catalyst thrives at this!

4. Saying, “That’s super cool . . . for your ministry!” – Some of the ministry approaches are contextual. Some are personal style. Some are personal preference. The older I get the more I enjoy being able to support and encourage something without feeling any pressure to implement it personally.

5. Free to dream – I always imagine the potential impact in the Kingdom when I hear thousands of “all in” people worshiping. Always emotional.

6. Learning something new about a co-worker – There’s something about eating at a new restaurant late at night out of town that allows you to comfortably ask, “So tell me about . . .” I love learning more of the personal stories of my teammates.

Gonna be a GREAT couple of days!

Don’t do this in Private

Don’t make decisions in private.

When you’re motivated to make your decision in private, you’re behaving like a person does just before they announce a foolish decision.

I make decisions in private when:

1) I think I already know what’s best

2) I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t like the counsel other’s would offer

The wisest man EVER (Solomon) said:

. . . a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel. (Prov. 1:5)

. . . a wise man is he who listens to counsel. (Prov. 12:15)

. . . wisdom is with those who receive counsel. (Prov. 13:10)

Listen to counsel and accept discipline, that you may be wise the rest of your days. (Prov. 19:20)

. . . in abundance of counselors there is victory. (Prov. 11:14) 

. . . with many counselors they succeed. (Prov. 15:22)

“Private decisions always become public so don’t make them in private.” – Andy Stanley

wise counsel

2 truths about every leader:

1. You will never reach the place where you no longer need wise counsel.

2. You will never reach your full potential without gaining from the wisdom of others.

Private decisions always become public and will be judged in public so don’t make them in private.

Hopefully you’re gaining from the wisdom of others. If so, what are some of the characteristics of the wise counselors in your life?

Conform, Inform, or Transform?

I spent a week in Honduras last October. I’ll never forget visiting Tegucigalpa’s (capital city) largest trash dump where 1,000 people (men, women, and children) live.

I discovered that each day trash trucks drive from all over the city to dump their garbage. As the truck approaches the dump site, young boys race to be the first to jump onto the truck, climb into the garbage and begin to search for hidden treasures.

We were told that if you asked one of these kids, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” most of them would say, “A trash truck driver.” From their perspective, that’s the key to a better life.

I was so encouraged to learn about an incredible local ministry that is now educating, housing, and ministering to these kids. One long-term result is that some of the kids are discovering that there’s so much more to life than living near the trash dump.

You can see one of the boys who lives at the dump and jumps into the back of the trucks searching for garbage.

Some of the people who live at the trash dump

When it comes to my faith, I sometimes settle for being a trash truck driver. Maybe you can relate. Let me explain.

Ginger and I have a group of friends we hang out with every Wednesday night. (You can meet them on THIS video.)

We are discussing John Ortberg’s book, The Life You’ve Always Wanted.

According to Ortberg, we are trying to grow our faith by being: conformed, informed or transformed. Here’s the cliff notes version:

Conformed (premier value = rules) – Despite Duet. 6:4, first century rabbis focused on circumcision, dietary laws, and Sabbath keeping. Why? Because when we can’t experience transformation we want to separate ourselves from “outsiders” so there’s a noticeable difference. John Ortberg calls this “boundary markers”. These are highly visible, superficial practices (vocabulary, dress, style) intended to distinguish insiders from outsiders.

Informed (premier value = information) – Some people constantly desire “deeper” teaching. For most of us, it’s easier to be intellectually stimulated than be internally transformed. Since learning can disguise a heart that’s not being transformed, sometimes we pursue “deeper”.

Transformed (premier value = heart change) – Jesus focused on the internal vs. the external. He asked, “Do you love God and do you love people?” Not, “What are you doing?” Or, “What do you know?” Paul addresses this in 1 Corinthians 13:1.

Sheldon Vanauken wrote, “The strongest argument for Christianity is Christians, when they are drawing life from God. The strongest argument against Christianity? Also Christians, when they become exclusive, self-righteous, and complacent.”

Which of these 3 are you pursuing?

John Ortberg offers these 5 questions to help us discover if we are being transformed:

1. Am I spiritually “inauthentic”? Inauthenticity involves a preoccupation with appearing to be spiritual.
2. Am I becoming judgmental or exclusive or proud? Pride is a potential problem for anyone who takes spiritual growth seriously. As soon as we start to pursue virtue, we begin to wonder why others aren’t as virtuous as we are. As Homer Simpson’s fundamentalist neighbors said: “We went away to a Christian camp. We were learning how to be more judgmental.”
3. Am I becoming more approachable, or less? Jesus was the most approachable person people had ever seen. The religious leaders had a kind of differentness that pushed people away. Jesus had a kind of differentness that drew people to him.
4. Am I growing weary of pursuing spiritual growth? Observing boundary markers, conforming to a religious subculture, is simply not a compelling enough vision to captivate the human spirit. It was never intended to be.
5. Am I measuring my spiritual life in superficial ways? “How is your spiritual life going these days?” Quick—what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? If you’re like me, I  immediately think about how consistent my quiet time is going. As if that is the single measurement of my spiritual growth. A better set of internal questions is, “Am I loving God more? Am I loving others more?”

When I focus on conform or inform above transform, I’m settling for driving the spiritual trash truck when God has so much more.

7 Habits of Highly Effective Small Group Leaders

I’m sitting here at Simone’s Coffee Shop in Ventura, California sipping my Butterscotch Toffee Coffee (stop judging me).

As both a long-time fan of Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and a long-time small group advocate, I thought I’d combine both worlds.

smallgroup pic

7 Habits of Highly Effective Small Group Leaders:

1. Commit to personal growth – authentically share what God is teaching you

2. Pray for group members regularly – rally around people during tough times

3. Celebrate together – regular, fun, social activities

4. Contact group members weekly – let people know they were missed

5. Be prepared – success or failure is often determined before the group meets

6. Share leadership – since life change requires sustainability, effective leaders invite someone to co-lead

7. Mentor a new leader – formal or not, find someone in your group you can help take a step toward increased leadership

What group leader habit would you add?

Your ministry can learn from MLB’s Opening Day

Opening Ceremony (photo - LA Times)

Opening Ceremony (photo – LA Times)

As Major League Baseball celebrates “Opening Day” at stadiums all around the country this week, churches should take notes.

On Monday, I went to Dodger Stadium in LA for opening day to watch the Dodgers and the Giants play. Despite the fact that it’s been 25 years since the Dodgers won a pennant, there were 55,000 fans full of hope and anticipation. Why? It was opening day!

I took this pic of Sandy Koufax throwing 1st pitch to Orel Hershiser as Magic Johnson and Tommy Lasorda watch.

I took this pic of Sandy Koufax throwing 1st pitch to Orel Hershiser as Magic Johnson and Tommy Lasorda watch.

Everything was new and it created momentum that everyone could feel. There was the freshly cut grass, two brand new score boards, a new ownership team, the first “first pitch” of the season, my first Dodger Dog, and a renewed hope by the fans because everyone starts off in first place on Opening Day. Last season (or the last 25 seasons) is history. This season holds exciting possibilities.

Wouldn’t it be great if your ministry could start over with your team enjoying a similar level of enthusiasm? Wouldn’t it be great if you could have an “opening day” that included renewed hope for the future regardless of “last season”?

I think you can and should. There’s only one thing you need to do first. You gotta quit! Seriously. You and your church will be better off. Why quit? So you can start again.

Think about it. In order to start a ministry, you either have to start something brand new or re-start something that was stopped. It makes a lot more sense to re-start something that was intentionally stopped.

Too many churches spend precious resources trying to create momentum by beginning brand new ministries. Short-term results are more common than long-term results with that approach.

Imagine Major League Baseball going year-round while also starting new franchises every year or so in an attempt to generate momentum and enthusiasm. That would be crazy! Existing franchises (players, staff, and even fans) would be worn out and New franchises would have extremely high costs getting off the ground.

They don’t do that because they’ve learned that a more effective way to generate momentum is to strategically QUIT. Temporarily stopping and then re-starting works.

Churches should take notes. A re-starting ministry creates the same “starting momentum” as a brand new ministry launch but costs much less time, money, and energy.

This summer you should look at your ministry and decide what you can strategically quit (or at least scale way back) so that you can re-launch it in the Fall.

Here are some important benefits of quitting:

You honor your key volunteers with a break

You and your team have time to work “on it” instead of just “in it”

The break provides space for evaluation, recruiting, training, vision-casting, etc.

New volunteer leaders have a clear entry point

Ministry is given a more sustainable pace

You leverage “starting momentum” in the Fall

So what should you strategically quit to create starting momentum?