How Environmental Immersion Leads to Creative Inspiration

One can be inspired by research as well as immersed in it for inspiration.  Rhonda Counts, Show Producer, Walt Disney Imagineering Florida

How you do research is dependent upon where you are in the process. Disney’s Imagineers value the story’s intent and the importance of being surrounded with or immersed in the story’s environment.

Here’s an example from one of my projects:

As you can see, there’s a definite pirate’s theme going on in part of my office. It’s both from previous work and work in process. I’ve used the theme of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” storyline – both the attraction and the movies – to develop training resources and presentations in the area of Guest Experiences.

Specifically, I created a tool – the Guest Experience Compass. And how better to demonstrate it, than using Jack Sparrow’s compass? I also created the Guest Experience Code – and based it on the storyline of the Pirates Code. Of course, both of these tools had to be introduced and used by a pirate – the Navigator – in a fully immersive learning environment. The result?

As a result of my pirate “adventure,” I created a blog series which you can read about here.

And it doesn’t stop with pirates.

There’s the Disney wall in my office…


It’s continually changing as I acquire new books and other “resources” that help my inspiration.

It’s no secret that I am a Disney fanatic of the first degree! I had an early start in the 60s, both from watching “The Wonderful World of Disney” and benefiting from my father, who as a Gulf gasoline dealer received many promotional tie-ins from Disney movies.

Anchored by a Disney library of over 400 books (and growing!), I am literally immersed in all things Disney. As I research and work on various projects – especially Guest Experiences – I find great inspiration through the many resources at hand. My immersion is not limited to the visual and tactile – at any given time, the soundtrack of a Disney movie, or the background music from one of Disney’s theme parks is playing in the background.

Here’s how Disney Imagineers recommend immersion into an environment:

Select a project that you want to immerse yourself in. Make a list of all the elements of the project and find samples (the larger the better) that represent these elements. Find a place in your surroundings to display the samples so you can immerse yourself in them.

For example, if you wanted to fix up a vintage car, surround yourself with large detailed pictures of its original interior and exterior, very large color samples for its seat cushions, dashboard, etc., and exterior paint job, pictures of various locations you would drive to, and of course, spray the space with new car scent.

Research leads to inspiration.

part of a series of ideas to help shape and tone your creative muscles

Inspired and adapted from The Imagineering Workout

written by The Disney Imagineers

Manage Yourself to Achieve True and Lasting Excellence

Tom Paterson, brilliant consultant for decades and creator of the StratOp strategic system for operating and growing your organization, passed away on September 3, 2019.

As a non-profit group, Auxano has the largest team of theologically trained, pastor-experienced facilitators in the country in the process developed by Paterson. Each of our Navigators feels the impact of the tools developed by Tom Paterson in their daily work with churches across the country.

To honor the legacy of Tom Paterson on the anniversary of his passing, this excerpt from SUMS Remix 128 is based on one of Paterson’s friend and collaborator Peter Drucker’s books.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Managing Oneself by Peter Drucker

Peter Drucker is widely regarded as the father of modern management, offering penetrating insights into business that still resonate today. But Drucker also offers deep wisdom on how to manage our personal lives and how to become more effective leaders.

In these two classic articles from Harvard Business Review, Drucker reveals the keys to becoming your own chief executive officer as well as a better leader of others. “Managing Oneself” identifies the probing questions you need to ask to gain the insights essential for taking charge of your career, while “What Makes an Effective Executive” outlines the key behaviors you must adopt in order to lead. Together, they chart a powerful course to help you carve out your place in the world.


Tom Paterson was a long-time friend of Peter Drucker. Drucker often referred to Paterson as the “Process Practitioner.” In turn, Drucker was known as the “father of modern management.” Because of their friendship, the third excerpt of this SUMS Remix comes from Drucker’s thoughts on “Managing Oneself.”

According to Drucker, the concept of managing oneself is increasingly important as each one of us becomes solely responsible for the trajectory of our ever-longer careers.

He believed that only when you operate with a combination of your strengths and a disciplined self-knowledge could you achieve true and lasting excellence.

Most people think they know what they are good at. They are usually wrong. More often, people know what they are not good at – and even then more people are wrong than right. And yet, a person can perform only from strength. One cannot build performance on weaknesses, let alone on something one cannot do at all.

The only way to discover your strength is through feedback analysis. Whenever you make a key decision or take a key action, write down what you expect will happen. Nine or twelve months later, compare the actual results with your expectations. I have been practicing this method for 15 to 20 years now, and every time I do it, am surprised.

Practiced consistently, this simple method will show you within a fairly short period of time, maybe two or three years, where your strengths lie – and this is the most important thing to know. The method will show you what you are doing or failing to do that deprives you of the full benefits of your strengths. It will show you where you have no strengths and cannot perform.

Several implications for action follow from feedback analysis. First and foremost, concentrate on your strengths. Put yourself where your strengths can produce results.

Second, work on improving your strengths. Analysis will rapidly show where you need to improve skills or acquire new ones. It will also sow the gaps in your knowledge – and those can usually be filled.

Third, discover where your intellectual arrogance is causing disabling ignorance and overcome it. Far too many people – especially people with great expertise in one area – are contemptuous of knowledge in other areas or believe that being bright is a substitute for knowledge.

Peter Drucker, Managing Oneself


Work through the following blind spot exercise to discover potential blind spots in your understanding of your strengths.

  1. On a chart tablet, write a list of your strengths (up to ten), and arrange them in order of your certainty of that strength. In other words, the strength you feel best reflects you should be number one, and so on.
  2. For each strength, write down and number elements that are assumptions or uncertainties.
  3. Think about what would happen (consequences or risks) if the assumptions for each strength were wrong or untrue. Write down and number the consequences and mark their impact as high, medium, or low.
  4. Count the number of assumptions/impact per strength. Select both the strength with the lowest score (least assumptions/impact) and the one with the highest score (most assumptions/impact).
  5. Select the three strengths with the highest score, and develop ideas on how you might reduce the assumptions and impact, and therefore make them stronger.

The above exercise adapted from “75 tools for Creative Thinking.”

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 128, released September, 2019.


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<

Look Back and Learn: Investing in Wisdom Equity

In researching and working on some leadership development material for an ongoing writing project, I came across the following:

Christianity is a religion of change. Jesus’ call in Mark 1:15 (the kingdom of God is at hand) was a call to change – change of mind and heart, of conduct and character, of self and society. By its very nature Christianity is a religion for a changing world and has always had its greatest opportunity during times of upheaval.

The Christian leader has no option; he must face a changing world. If the leader is to render maximum service, he must both adjust himself to the phenomena of change and address himself passionately to the business of producing and guiding change. Here are some elements that constitute the changed world in which the Christian leader today is called to fulfill his ministry.

Changed world outlook

Changed economic philosophy

Changed social consciousness

Changed family life

Changed community conditions

Changed moral standards

Changed religious viewpoints

Changed conceptions of the church

Changed media for molding public opinion

Changed demands made upon the leader

Pretty good list, right? Dead on. Taken from today’s headlines.


courtesy the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

courtesy the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

The author was Gaines S. Dobbins, distinguished professor of Religious Education at my alma mater, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Louisville KY.

Written in 1947.

As the introduction to the book “Building Better Churches: A Guide to Pastoral Ministry.”

Dr. Dobbins retired before I was born, but while in seminary in the early eighties I had the privilege of sitting under a couple of professors who were students of Dr. Dobbins and spoke of his great influence on their development and career. There is a chair named for him at SBTS, and of course I recognized his name and influence. When I came across this book in a used bookstore, I bought it on impulse. After flipping through it, I realized it was a treasure of leadership wisdom.

At Auxano, we talk about a concept called “vision equity.” It’s realizing that the history of a church is a rich resource for helping rediscover what kinds of vision language past generations have used. That language is very useful for anticipating and illustrating God’s better intermediate future.

As I read Dr. Dobbin’s book, I think there is also a concept called “wisdom equity.” It’s realizing that there have been some great leaders and deep thinkers over the past decades and centuries whose collective wisdom would be a great place to start as we struggle with the new realities that face us every day.

It’s why I love history – I see it not as an anchor that holds us to the past, but as a foundation to build a bridge to the future.

History is not just books and information stored about the past. It can also be found in living beings – those around us, family and friends, who have lived through events and learned lessons my generation – and the ones following me – need so desperately to learn.

Go ahead – look back and learn.

Guiding Your Multigenerational Workplace Through Five Growth Precepts

In 2020, 25 percent of the labor force is projected to be over the age of 55 – and they’re not retiring anytime soon. These projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics at the US Department of Labor indicate that not only will Baby Boomers continue to work alongside their current Generation X and Millennial colleagues, but that they will still be around when Generation Z joins the workforce.

The result? A clash of cultures that will require a new management approach.

Gone are the days when people entered the workforce as young adults, worked until their late 50s, and then moved off into retirement while younger generations took their place. Instead, the average retirement age has steadily been creeping up in recent decades as older employees – in particular, the Baby Boomers – stay in the workforce either by choice or by necessity.

Before we dive into the discussion, here’s a brief recap of just who comprises the generational cohorts mentioned above. While there’s no set standard, the following descriptions are generally accepted:

  • Baby Boomers – born in the years 1946-1964, numbering about 76 million people
  • Generation Xers – born in the years 1965-1980, numbering about 66 million people
  • Millennials – born in the years 1981-1997, numbering just over 83 million people
  • Generation Zers – born in the years 1998-present, numbering over 80 million and still growing

How do you manage the workplace reality of having three or four different generations on your team?

THE QUICK SUMMARYGenerations at Work: Managing the Clash of Boomers, GenXers, and GenYers in the Workplace by Ron Zemke, Claire Raines, and Bob Filipczak

Written for all who are struggling to manage a workforce with often incompatible ethics, values, and working styles, Generations at Work looks afresh at the root causes of professional conflict and offers practical guidelines for navigating multigenerational differences.

By laying bare the most common causes of conflict – including the Me Generation’s frustration with GenYers’ constant desire for feedback and the challenges facing GenXers sandwiched between these polarities – the book offers practical, spot-on guidance for managing the differences with consideration to each generation’s unique needs.

Along with the authors’ insights for managing a workforce with different ways of working, communicating, and thinking, the book offers in-depth interviews with members of each generation, tips on best practices from companies successfully bridging the generation gap, and a mentorship field guide to help you support the youngest members of your team–tools, which are the key to helping your workforce interact more positively with one another and thrive in today’s wildly divergent workplace culture.


According to the authors of Generations at Work, today’s workplace contains the conflicting voices and views of the most age- and value-diverse workplace the world has known since our great-great-great-grandparents abandoned field and farm for factory and office. At no time in our history have so many and such different generations with such diversity been asked to work together shoulder to shoulder, side by side, and cubicle to cubicle.

While there have certainly been multiple generations employed in the same organization before, they were mainly separated from each other by the hierarchy of a manufacturing-oriented economy. Senior (older) employees – mostly white and male – worked in the head office or were top management positions in key parts of the company. Middle-aged employees tended to be in middle management or high-skill, seniority-protected trade jobs. The youngest, newest, and physically strongest were on the factory floor or endured time in specific trainee slots that would lead, over time, to middle management – at best.

Among all the groups mentioned above, contact was primarily horizontal; with people like themselves, or at best, one level up or down the chain of command. Mingling among the generations, if and when it happened at all, was significantly influenced by formality and protocol.

Today’s workplace is totally different. The old pecking order, hierarchy, and shorter work life spans that kept a given generational cohort isolated from others no longer exist or they exist in a more permeable manner.

An unfortunate outcome of this shift is the likelihood of intergenerational conflict: differences in values, views, and ways of working, talking, and thinking that set people in opposition to one another, and challenge organizational best practices.

While generational differences have existed for, well, generations, what’s different is that this new generation gap is a four-way divide. The once “natural” flow of resources, power, and responsibilities from older to younger has been dislocated by changes in life expectancy, increases in longevity and health, as well as changes in lifestyle, technology, and knowledge.

Life for every generation has become increasingly nonlinear, unpredictable, and uncharitable.

Generational differences can be a source of creative strength and a source of opportunity, or a source of stifling stress and unrelenting conflict. Understanding generational differences is critical to making them work for the organization and not against it.

Accommodate employee differences

With employee retention at or near the top of the list of organizational “must meet” measures, the most generationally friendly organizations treat their employees as they do their customers. They learn all they can about them, work to meet their specific needs, and serve them according to their unique preferences. Each generation’s icons, language, and precepts are acknowledged, and language is used that reflects generations other than those “at the top.”

Create choices

Generationally friendly companies allow the workplace to shape itself around the work being done, the customers being served, and the people who work there.  They recognize that people from a mix of generations have differing needs and preferences, and they design their human resources strategies to meet varied employee needs. “Change” is not so much the name of a training seminar or a core value listed somewhere in their mission statement as it is an assumed way of living and working.

Operate from a sophisticated management style

Generationally friendly managers don’t have time for BS, although they are tactful. They give those who report to them the big picture, with specific goals and measures, and then they turn their people loose – giving them feedback, rewards, and recognition as appropriate.

Respect competence and initiative

Generationally friendly organizations assume the best of people. They treat everyone, from the newest recruit to the most seasoned employee, as if they have great things to offer and are motivated to do their best. It is an attitude that can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Nourish initiative

Generationally friendly organizations are concerned and focused, on a daily basis, with making their workplaces magnets for excellence. They know that keeping their people is every bit as important in today’s economy as finding and retaining customers. Therefore, they offer lots of training, from one-on-one coaching opportunities to interactive online training to an extensive and varied menu of classroom courses. They encourage lateral movement within the organization and have broadened assignments.

Ron Zemke, Claire Raines, and Bob Filipczak, Generations at Work: Managing the Clash of Boomers, GenXers, and GenYers in the Workplace


Set aside time at a future leadership team meeting to review your organizational structure in terms of the five initiatives listed above.

On five separate chart tablets, write one phrase each as listed above across the top. Draw a vertical line down the center of each chart tablet, and write the words, “Positive” and “Negative” on either side of the line.

Discuss with your team how each one of the five initiatives are demonstrated in your organization in both positive and negative terms.

After your discussion is concluded, decide how you will celebrate the positive actions and correct the negative actions.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 127-1, released September 2019.


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<

My 5 Generation Family is a Microcosm of Society

The legions of ancient Rome were composed of ten cohorts each: cohesive units of 300-600 men who trained, ate, slept, fought, won, lost, lived, and died together. The strength was their ability to think, act, and react as a unit. Though composed of individuals, training and socialization equipped them to behave as if of a single mind when called to battle. Social demographers, students of the effects of population on society, use the term cohort to refer to people born in the same general time span who share key life experiences – from setting out for school for the first time together through reaching puberty at the same time, to entering the workforce or university or marriage or middle age or their dotage at the same time.

The five primary generations of today’s American lifestyle span a remarkable slice of American and world history. Three major wars, countless minor (?) ones, economic booms and busts, social upheavals, rocketing technological achievement, and even stepping beyond our planet are among the milestones that have directly and indirectly shaped the times.

I count myself fortunate to have a direct connection to all five generations. To me, understanding more about how each of them think, feel, and act is not just a mental exercise – it’s necessary part of life.

  • Veterans (1922-1945) My father and mother were born into the early part of this cohort. He entered military service just as WWII was ending; she was in college and then taught school; they were part of what some call “The Greatest Generation”. Think “American values” and you’ve got their number: civic pride, loyalty, respect for authority, and apple pie. My father passed away in 2012, and my mother in 2018. They may not be physically present with me, but who I am was shaped by their influence, and they impact me every day. My mother-in-law, aged 99, still lives at her home of 65+years (with a caretaker). Additionally, this cohort, as their generation moves into their twilight years, still controls a significant part of the economy and will continue to be influential in the years ahead outside of their numbers.
  • Baby Boomers (1946-1964) My wife and I are late Baby Boomers. Born in the latter 50s, we are a part of what was until recently the largest cohort in US history. For over thirty years, the sheer size of the Boomer generation defined the organization’s social landscape in a majority-rules cultural takeover. We were the civil rights, empowerment, and diversity generation. Never content with the status quo, we are always redefining what it means to be old and cool and important and successful.
  • Generation X (1965-1981) My oldest son and one of my daughters-in-law are Xers, even though they sometimes exhibit characteristics of the next cohort as well. Technologically adept, clever, and resourceful, the Xers are a deeply segmented, fragmented cohort. Their need for feed back and flexibility, coupled with the dislike of close supervision is but one of the many complex nuances of this generation. They are all about change- they’ve changed cities, homes, and even parents all their lives. Often seen as pessimistic with an edgy skepticism, many Xers are more positive about their personal future than the group as a whole.
  • Millennials (1982-2000) My other three children, two daughters-in-law, and a son-in-law all fall into this cohort. They are the children of the soccer moms and little League dads, and endless rounds of swim meets, karate classes, dancing lessons, computer camp and … you get the picture. They consider themselves the smartest, cleverest, healthiest and most-wanted group to have ever lived. Born into the technology boom times, barriers of time and space have little absolute meaning to them. They are willing to work and learn. By sheer numbers (their total births eclipsed the Boomers by several million) they are going to dominate history in new ways. They are the hyper-connected: constantly connected to multiple devices in order to know what and whom they need to know.
  • Generation Z (born after 2001) Just now entering teenage years and early adulthood, sociologists have little hard data yet. But it is the generation of my six grandchildren, and it is important to me! So far, technology is the hallmark of this group, which is the first generation to be raised in the era of smartphones and social media as a daily part of life. They’re growing up amid the promise of technological innovation – but also in the environment of economic uncertainty, a sharp decrease in well-defined and reliable career paths, increasing political divides, and the effect of decades of repressed racial tensions. Consequently, when compared to their predecessors, this group is both more cautious and more anxious.

There are some indications that generational cohorts repeat every four generations, so we’ll just have to see. Led by the thoughts of William Strauss and Neil Howe published in the late 1990s, this idea of “cycles” is getting more attention now that their predictions of today’s Millennial cohort are proving to be on target more often than not. That will definitely be my radar in the future!

An interesting fact, and the origin of the title of this website: there are 27 years between each of the first born in the above generations of my family, thus 27gen.

The next five years are going to be very interesting as each of these five generations exert influence on each other. I will be actively watching my own microcosm of society.

The last time we were all together in one place – Walt Disney World, September 2016.

Mulan – Reimagined

When Disney’s animated musical action adventure film Mulan came out in 1998, our daughter Amy was 10 years old. I’m not sure what exactly it was in the movie that captivated her, but Mulan became (and remains) her favorite Disney character. I’m pretty sure we wore out at least one VHS tape, and various pieces of artwork and figurines that she has collected over the years can be found all over her house.

So it was no surprise that when Disney announced in 2015 that a live-action version of Mulan was in the works, Amy was both excited – and a little skeptical. After all, since Disney began producing live-action remakes of their animated classics in 1994, it’s been a pretty hit-or-miss proposition. Some have been pretty good, some have been so-so.

And the 2020 version of Mulan?



Wait a minute – it’s not coming out till Friday, September 4 on Disney+ Premier Access, you say.

You’re right – but I saw Mulan in a theater on March 11!

I can say that because Amy and I are among the few hundred people who have actually seen Mulan – before it’s scheduled premier on March 27 – and subsequent reschedulings – were all derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here’s how it happened…

On March 11, I took a quick trip to Raleigh, NC, where I met Amy for an afternoon movie – the first public showing of Mulan, a preview for Gold members of D23, Disney’s fan club. It was shown following the annual meeting of the Walt Disney Company’s stockholders.

I had been looking forward to the movie’s release on March 27 (I already had tickets), and had intentionally not read or watched a lot about it online. So, my expectations were neutral, reserving judgment until I had a chance to see it in person.

When the VP of D23 introduced the movie, I think it was his words that set the tone and pretty much sum up the approach that made this so successful.

“We’re so excited to unveil Walt Disney’s reimagining of the animated classic.”

Not a remake.

The following comments may contain slight spoilers, so read at your own risk.

  • If you really liked the musical aspect of the 1994 version, you won’t find any of the songs that garnered significant praise and won several industry awards in the new movie.
  • If you liked Mushu, the ancestor’s guardian wonderfully voiced by Eddie Murphy, you won’t find  the character anywhere in the new movie.
  • If you liked the character of Li Shang and the developing romance and implied marriage with Mulan, you won’t find it happening in the new movie.

There’s more, but I think you get the point.

The 2020 version of Mulan is not a remake of the 1998 version of Mulan – and that’s what makes it a marvelous movie; in Disney terms, a reimagining.

  • There’s no songs, but there are musical themes from those songs, along with dialog references.
  • There’s no Mushu, but there is a delightful surprise “guardian” introduced early on who makes regular, timely appearances.
  • There’s no Li Shang, but a couple of different characters more than make up for his absence.

I could go on, but I won’t. I’m not a critic (thank goodness), but I know a good movie when I see one.

One that has a vibrant story, identifiable characters you want to root for (and against), emotional twists, action-packed choreography, and amazing production design.

The soon-to-be-released live action Mulan is all that, and more.



I pre-ordered a multi-year subscription for Disney+ when it was first announced last year. I have added the Premier Access to Mulan, and will be watching it with my wife on Friday September 4.

Yeah, it will be coming to Disney+ in December as a part of the regular programming.

Doesn’t matter.

The reimagining of Mulan is worth it.

Fight Information Overload by Going Minimal

Information overload.

You live it every day – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. You’re more informed and connected than ever.

Yet, if you’re honest, you’re probably feeling more distracted than ever.

More lonely. More restless.

According to studies done by Barna Research:

  • 71% of people feel overwhelmed by the amount of information they need to stay up to date.
  • 36% of adults stop what they’re doing to check a text or message when it comes in.
  • 35% of adults think their personal electronics sometimes separate them from other people.

Being hyperlinked changes every aspect of our lives – and often, not for the better.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport

Minimalism is the art of knowing how much is just enough. Digital minimalism applies this idea to our personal technology. It’s the key to living a focused life in an increasingly noisy world.

In this timely and enlightening book, the bestselling author of Deep Work introduces a philosophy for technology use that has already improved countless lives.

Digital minimalists are all around us. They’re the calm, happy people who can hold long conversations without furtive glances at their phones. They can get lost in a good book, a woodworking project, or a leisurely morning run. They can have fun with friends and family without the obsessive urge to document the experience. They stay informed about the news of the day, but don’t feel overwhelmed by it. They don’t experience “fear of missing out” because they already know which activities provide them meaning and satisfaction.

Now, Newport gives us a name for this quiet movement, and makes a persuasive case for its urgency in our tech-saturated world. Common sense tips, like turning off notifications, or occasional rituals like observing a digital Sabbath, don’t go far enough in helping us take back control of our technological lives, and attempts to unplug completely are complicated by the demands of family, friends and work. What we need instead is a thoughtful method to decide what tools to use, for what purposes, and under what conditions.

Drawing on a diverse array of real-life examples, from Amish farmers to harried parents to Silicon Valley programmers, Newport identifies the common practices of digital minimalists and the ideas that underpin them. He shows how digital minimalists are rethinking their relationship to social media, rediscovering the pleasures of the offline world, and reconnecting with their inner selves through regular periods of solitude. He then shares strategies for integrating these practices into your life, starting with a thirty-day “digital declutter” process that has already helped thousands feel less overwhelmed and more in control.

Technology is intrinsically neither good nor bad. The key is using it to support your goals and values, rather than letting it use you. This book shows the way.


While many leaders believe in the power of digital platforms, and recognize the importance of various specific applications, a growing number of those same leaders feel as though their current relationship with technology is unsustainable – to the point that if something doesn’t change soon, they will reach a breaking point.

According to author Cal Newport, people don’t succumb to screens because they’re lazy, but instead billions of dollars have been invested to make this outcome inevitable.

It seems we have stumbled backward into a digital life we didn’t sign up for.

My research on digital minimalism has revealed the existence of a loosely organized “attention resistance movement,” made up of individuals who combine high-tech tools with disciplined operating procedures to conduct surgical strikes on popular attention economy services – dropping in to extract value, and then slipping away before the attention traps set by those companies can spring shut.

The tactics below have proved successful in shunting aside relentless efforts to capture your attention.

Delete Social Media from Your Phone

The smartphone versions of social media sites are much more adept at hijacking your attention than the versions accessed through a web browser on your laptop or desktop computer. Because you always have your phone with you, every occasion becomes an opportunity to check your feeds. If you’re going to use social media, stay far away from the mobile versions of these services, as they pose a significantly bigger risk to our time and attention. This practice suggests you remove all social media apps from your phone. You don’t have to quit these services, you just have to quit accessing them on the go.

Turn Your Devices Into Single-Purpose Computers

The sentiment that temporarily blocking features of a general-purpose computer reduces its potential is common for tools that do just that. It’s also flawed: it represents a misunderstanding of computation and productivity that benefits the large digital attention economy conglomerates much more than the individual users that they exploit. As many have discovered, the rapid switching between different applications tends to make the human’s interaction with the computer less productive in terms of the quality and quantity of what is produced. This practice of blocking might at first seem overly aggressive, but what it’s actually doing is bringing you back closer to the ideal of sing-purpose computing that’s much more compatible with our human attention systems.

Use Social Media Like a Professional

Social media professionals approach these tools differently than the average user. They seek to extract large amounts of value for their professional and (to a lesser degree) personal lives, while avoiding much of the low-value distortion these services deploy to lure users into compulsive behavior. Their disciplined professionalism, in other words, provides a great example for any digital minimalist looking to join the attention resistance. To a social media pro, the idea of endlessly surfing your feed in search of entertainment is a trap (these platforms have been designed to take more and more of your attention) – an act of being used by these services instead of using them to your own advantage.

Embrace Slow Media

To embrace news media from a mind-set of slowness requires first and foremost that you focus only on the highest-quality sources. Breaking news, for example, is almost always much lower quality than the reporting that’s possible once an event has occurred and journalists have had time to process it. Similarly, consider limiting yourself to the best of the best when it comes to selecting individual writers you follow. Another important aspect of slow news is the decisions you make regarding how and when this consumption occurs. The key to embracing Slow Media is the general commitment to maximizing the quality of what you consume and the conditions under which you consume it.

Dumb Down Your Smartphone

Declaring your freedom from you smartphone is probably the most serious step you can take toward embracing the attention resistance. Dumbing down your phone, of course, is a big decision. Convincing yourself that a dumb phone can satisfy your need so that its benefits outweigh its costs is not necessarily easy. Indeed, it might require a leap of faith – a commitment to test life without a smartphone to see what it’s really like.

Cal Newport, Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World


According to author Cal Newport, if you are exhausted by your “digital device addiction,” it’s not only possible to say, “No More,” it’s actually not that hard.

Set aside some time (without your phone!) to review the following five suggestions listed above. For each, make a Pro/Con list for what it would mean to your life if you took that action.

Review the list, and make a decision to embrace at least one of the actions for the next week.

After the week has passed, reflect on what taking that action meant to you, in terms of time gained, relationships grown, etc.

Consider another action to undertake, and follow the same suggestions.

At the end of one month’s experiments, talk with your spouse or a close colleague who would have noticed the changes in your routine and its results. What do they have to say?


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<

Pursue Hospitality in Your Home

Note: During the month of August, I will be going back to previous SUMS Remix issues relating to hospitality in the home that have not been published here on the Wednesday Weekly Reader. Why? In these crazy times, we could all use a refresher in how to be a better neighbor. I’m also posting these to support an Auxano initiative during the month of August, Building Bridges to our Neighbors.

In April 2020, as this issue of SUMS Remix was being prepared, most of the United States was under some type of mandate restricting movement. Typically called “physical distancing,” the intent is to minimize the chances of the coronavirus being spread by maintaining a distance of at least six feet when you are in public settings.

However, even if “physical distancing” (the more correct term) is required, “social interaction” is needed more now than ever before.

Efforts taken to slow the spread of the coronavirus should encourage strengthening social ties while maintaining that physical distancing.

Therefore, some of this content may not be applicable under current restrictions in your community; however, the intent is critical in moving forward as we demonstrate hospitality to our neighborhoods, in every season

According to Rosaria Butterfield,

Christians are called to live in the world but not live like the world. Christians are called to dine with sinners but not sin with sinners.

She adds,

We live in a world awash with counterfeit hospitality. Knowing the difference between the grace of God and its counterfeit is crucial to Christian living.

Hospitality shares what there is; that’s all. It’s not entertainment. It’s not supposed to be.


When people live in community moved by the gospel and marked by the Spirit, great things happen.

They commit to one another. They grieve together, sing together, eat, pray, and play together. They love, serve, honor, encourage, and provide for each other gladly. And they live on mission together.

Hearts are healed, walls come down, and outsiders come in. No competition. No pretense. No vain conceit. Just full hearts breaking bread and giving freely.

It is nothing short of amazing.

Most of us live in a shadow of what God intended for us. Life in Community calls us into the light. Reclaiming Scripture’s stunning vision of gospel-centered community, it inspires us to live in love unbounded. Read it, live it, and join the movement: Help unleash the power of extraordinary community.


According to author Dustin Willis, too often we view our homes as a place of refuge rather than tools to advance the gospel. We come home from work or school or other obligations, pull in the driveway, go into the house, and lock the door behind us. The next morning we reverse that order, and repeat the pattern day after day.

Hospitality gives us the opportunity to break that cycle, and live out the gospel to those we invite into our homes.

In Romans 12:13, Paul challenges us to “pursue hospitality.” It’s not a once and done proposition; it’s an idea of continuous action.

Hospitality is the practical outworking of the gospel into the rhythm of our everyday lives. We practice hospitality when we consistently receive others into our lives and homes in the same fashion as Christ received us.

The home is the greatest environment that exists to create and cultivate community. But how do we “do it right”?

Hospitality is Not About Entertaining

We’re inviting folks into real life in a way that they get to know the real us, and feel comfortable enough to be their real selves, which leads to real community. Relax and let people see you and how God’s grace meets you in your messy life.

Hospitality is About an Open Life

Hospitality is about relational posture and attitude far more than any skill, action, or practice. It’s a heart that says, “Yes there is room in my life for you.”

Hospitality is a Community Project

Hospitality is a community endeavor. God has sovereignly placed you with the people you are around so you can team up in your efforts. Every shortcoming you have is an opportunity for God to provide through someone else.

Hospitality Can Be Planned or Spontaneous

Whether you are a Type A planner or a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants personality, you can make hospitality a regular part of your life.

Hospitality is Powerful

Scriptural patterns of hospitality shows that genuine love leads to offering hospitality – both for those in our community and for strangers outside of our community.

Hospitality is Worth the Sacrifice

Gospel community calls us to give up the isolated view of our home. By pursuing hospitality, we grow from a self-focused, self-centered way of life and use our homes as a tool for displaying the gospel.

Dustin Willis, Life In Community: Joining Together to Display the Gospel


As appropriate, with regard to your current shelter-in-place or government recommendations, take author Dustin Willis’  practical ideas for pursuing hospitality in your home.

What night of the week could you commit to invite someone into your home for a meal?

Do you know your neighbors’ names? What would it take for you to learn their names and something simple about them?

What would it take for you to offer them hospitality?

Who’s the new family on the block? Is there a new coworker? Could you invite them to dinner?

Hospitality is a great way to provide a tangible blessing (a warm meal) and a source of encouragement (a warm conversation) to those who are broken. Who around you is hurting?


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

August Special: When you purchase a SUMS Remix annual subscription during the month of August, you will also receive a PDF containing all seven issues of SUMS Remix that have a “hospitality in the home” theme. The PDF will be emailed to you after purchase.

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<

Share Your Table With Others

Note: During the month of August, I will be going back to previous SUMS Remix issues relating to hospitality in the home that have not been published here on the Wednesday Weekly Reader. Why? In these crazy times, we could all use a refresher in how to be a better neighbor. I’m also posting these to support an Auxano initiative during the month of August, Building Bridges to our Neighbors.

In the fall of 2019, the motion picture “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” starring Tom Hanks as beloved television icon Fred Rogers made its debut. Rogers was the creator, showrunner, and host of the preschool television series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, which ran from 1968-2001.

As a musician, puppeteer, writer, and producer, Fred Rogers’ gentle demeanor brought beautiful simplicity through nurturing interactions with young children to over 30 years of viewers. His enigmatic theme song, from which the motion picture takes its title, includes the following lines, which many adults can recall:

It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood,

A beautiful day for a neighbor,

Would you be mine?

Could you be mine?

Fred Rogers was also a Presbyterian minister, and it’s likely those lines were inspired by another story of a neighbor.

In the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), Jesus asked the expert in law, in effect, “Who is your neighbor?”

It’s almost 2020, and the question remains, “Who is our neighbor?”

From the television neighborhoods of Beaver Cleaver and Andy Taylor, to Mr. Rogers, to Sam and Diane, to Jerry and Kramer, to Rachel and Monica and Phoebe and Chandler and Joey, to Phil and Claire, to Jack and Rebecca and Randall and Kate, it’s a question that mainly depicts an unfulfilled longing for a neighborhood that actually works.

It occurs to me that this is not a neighborhood; it is only a collection of unconnected individuals.

Philip Langdon, A Better Place to Live

Long gone are the days where kids played in the yards and streets all day “till the street lights came on” and where neighbors talked across fences or on front porches.

It seems as if the people we live closest to appear only briefly when the car leaves the garage in the morning and comes back in the evening.

It seems as if the idea of “neighborhood” has disappeared in reality if not actuality, and with it the idea of knowing for, and caring for, neighbors.

As Lance Ford and Brad Brisco write in “Next Door as in Heaven:”

What does all this neighborhood business have to do with the gospel? As Jesus followers – people of the Good News – we follow the one who said the most important commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. We have a tremendous opportunity before us: to take notice and help resurrect rich relationship in our neighborhoods.

If anyone should “neighbor” differently, it should be us.

According to Leonard Sweet, if we really want to learn someone’s story, sitting down at the table and breaking bread together is the best way to start.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – The Tangible Kingdom: Creating Incarnational Community by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay

Written for those who are trying to nurture authentic faith communities and for those who have struggled to retain their faith, The Tangible Kingdom offers theological answers and real-life stories that demonstrate how the best ancient church practices can re-emerge in today’s culture, through any church of any size.

In this remarkable book, Hugh Halter and Matt Smay “two missional leaders and church planters” outline an innovative model for creating thriving grass-roots faith communities.


You may have watched it in person in the early 80s-early 90s, or you may have binge-watched it last weekend, but there’s no doubt the sitcom “Cheers” depicted a fictional, but aspirational setting where “everybody knows your name.”

Authors Hugh Halter and Matt Smay remind us of another similar setting from the same time period, what sociologist Ray Oldenburg called “the third place.” Different from home and work (the first and second places, respectfully, “the third place” is somewhere people can relax, in good company, on a regular basis. They are places of familiarity, where people can find and make friends.

Following the concepts that Starbucks introduced at about the same time, many churches tried to make “third places” out of their programs or spaces on campus – mostly without great success.

What if we turned our thoughts and actions from church-campus based instead to a neutral, public place, or our homes?

As the authors say, “Good things just seem to happen when we share spontaneously.”

I’ve concluded that, almost without exception, relationships are formed, important dialogue and conversation begin, and powerful moments of ministry occur during spontaneous, unplanned moments while we are sharing our lives together.

What’s the big deal with food? Go through the Gospels and note how many stories include sharing food. This is a great opportunity to see something that is so often missed when we look at God’s mission in the world.

The fact that there’s almost always food around isn’t surprising, since our scriptures are written in an entirely Eastern context. In Eastern cultures, food, the home, and hospitality are the center of culture, life, and relationships. Gook, like music, is something anyone can share and enjoy with others, even if they can’t speak the same language. Food is tangible and gives you something to do when you’re socially nervous. Food relieves tension. It brings complete strangers to the same table without any instructions or barriers. Food satisfies our greatest physical need and allows people to show creativity and thoughtfulness. It invites participation and is welcome in any setting.

Furthermore, God uses the banquet table analogy to speak about heaven, salvation, and evangelism. Christ uses the phrase “bread of life” to refer to himself. God even brings back the tree of life found in Genesis and plants it right in the middle of heaven and causes it to produce a different fruit every month!

I’m not sure what definition you use for evangelism, but my favorite has to do with “changing people’s assumptions.” To me, if we can dismantle their stereotypes of Christians, we’re on our way to helping them see the Kingdom in a new light. This is why having fun, enjoying life, and celebrating people, food, art, music, recreation, and rest become so critical in seeing friends find God.

Hugh Halter and Matt Smay, The Tangible Kingdom: Creating Incarnational Community




According to authors Hugh Halter and Matt Smay, it’s normal to feel some tension related to “living out.” Living on mission can be challenging. It isn’t always immediately clear what we’re supposed to do.

For some of that tension, it’s important to remind ourselves that keeping track of the results is not our job. In fact, the only tension we should carry is the tension of responsibility.

Use the following ideas from the authors to get out of your house with the purpose of connecting someone.

  • Spend some time with a friend who is having a rough week.
  • Take your kids to a park or playground where there are other families to build relationships with.
  • Help a neighbor with a project or chore.
  • Using a hobby or personal interest, find a way to make new relationships with sojourners.
  • Invite others to join a personal or family meal.
  • Respond willingly to at least one interruption that comes along this week.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 134-2, released December 2019


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

August Special: When you purchase a SUMS Remix annual subscription during the month of August, you will also receive a PDF containing all seven issues of SUMS Remix that have a “hospitality in the home” theme. The PDF will be emailed to you after purchase.

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<

How Meals Embody and Enact Our Mission

Note: During the month of August, I will be going back to previous SUMS Remix issues relating to hospitality in the home that have not been published here on the Wednesday Weekly Reader. Why? In these crazy times, we could all use a refresher in how to be a better neighbor. I’m also posting these to support an Auxano initiative during the month of August, Building Bridges to our Neighbors.

The heart of God’s purpose for humankind is relationships – first, with God Himself; then, with one another. Arguably, there is no better place to build relationships than at the table with good food and great conversation.

Len Sweet, in his book From Tablet to Table states it eloquently:

Remember God’s first command in the Bible? Eat.

Remember God’s last command in the Bible? Drink.

And everything in between is a table – a life-course meal on which is served the very bread of life and cup of salvation.

It’s time to bring back the table to our homes, to our churches, and to our neighborhoods and the world.

The table is a recurring biblical theme, one that our fast-paced, drive-through, Instant Pot culture finds unfamiliar.

What would happen if we brought back the table as a sacred object of furniture in every home, church, and community?

Are we truly hungry to accept Jesus’ invitation –  “Come and follow” – and to go wherever He leads, even if it means next door?

Especially if it means following Him next door!

What would it take for the table to return to the center of our family lives – and by extension, to those God has placed in our circle and situations?

THE QUICK SUMMARY – A Meal with Jesus: Discussing Grace, Community, and Mission Around the Table by Tim Chester

The meals of Jesus represent something bigger. They represent a new world, a new kingdom, a new outlook.

Tim Chester brings to light God’s purposes in the seemingly ordinary act of sharing a meal―how this everyday experience is really an opportunity for grace, community, and mission. Chester challenges contemporary understandings of hospitality as he urges us to evaluate why and who we invite to our table. Learn how you can foster grace and bless others through the rich fare being served in A Meal with Jesus.


Food matters. Meals matter. Meals are full of significance.

Food connects. It connects us with family. It turns strangers into friends. And it connects us with people around the world.

Our relationship with food is ambiguous. Television chefs have become celebrities and cookbooks regularly appear on bestseller lists. Yet we cook less than ever before. Americans spend over $50 billion on dieting each year – $50 billion to solve the problem of food gone wrong.

American Christians spend more on dieting than on world missions. We spend more on overconsumption than we do feeding the physically and spiritually hunger of the world.

We express who we want to be through food. Guess what? Jesus did too.

How did Jesus come? He came eating and drinking.

This is how Luke describes Jesus’ mission strategy: “The Son of Man came eating and drinking.” (Luke 7:34)

Jesus’ mission strategy was a long meal, stretching into the evening. He did evangelism and discipleship around a table with some grilled fish, a loaf of bread, and a pitcher of wine.

Luke’s Gospel is full of stories of Jesus eating with people:

Meals as Enacted Grace: In Luke 5, Jesus eats with tax collectors and sinners at the home of Levi.

Meals as Enacted Community: In Luke 7, Jesus is anointed at the home of Simon the Pharisee during a meal.

Meals as Enacted Hope: In Luke 9, Jesus feeds the five thousand.

Meals as Enacted Mission: In Luke 14, Jesus is at a meal when he urges people to invite the poor to their meals rather than their friends.

Meals as Enacted Salvation: In Luke 22, we have the account of the Last Supper.

Meals as Enacted Promise: In Luke 24, the risen Christ has a meal with two disciples in Emmaus, and then later eats fish with the disciples in Jerusalem.

So the meals of Jesus represent something bigger. They represent a new world, a new kingdom, a new outlook. But they give that new reality substance.

They represent friendship, community, and welcome.

Tim Chester, A Meal with Jesus: Discussing Grace, Community, and Mission Around the Table


Devote an extended period of time over several weeks to the Bible passages listed above. In your journal or digital notes, create separate pages for each of the passages.

As you spend time reading and praying through them, write down what God is revealing to you, not only in personal growth but also in practical application.

Hospitality involves welcoming, creating space, listening, paying attention, and providing. Meals slow things down. Some of us don’t like that – we like to get things done.

However, meals force you to be people-oriented instead of task-oriented. Sharing a meal is not the only way to build relationships, but it is number one on the list.

Grace, mission, and community are never enacted best through programs, but rather through the equality and acceptance experienced at the common table.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 103-3, released October 2018.


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

August Special: When you purchase a SUMS Remix annual subscription during the month of August, you will also receive a PDF containing all seven issues of SUMS Remix that have a “hospitality in the home” theme. The PDF will be emailed to you after purchase.

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<