Search This Blog

Monday, October 28, 2013

Ready to venture out?

One of the greatest benefits of living in a free society is the opportunity to start a new enterprise. Whether it’s a for profit or not-for-profit venture, giving vision and thinking over possibilities can energize the soul. It’s part of the creative beauty given to us by God.

Not all ideas pan out, of course. And some shouldn’t. But if God plants in you a seed, and you have the passion, good things could happen.

Are you entrepreneurially minded? An article I’ve found on might be of immediate help. It’s titled, 23 Things Every Entrepreneur Must Know.  Like all lists, one must ask … "Is that everything?" And the answer is, "No." But it’s a good list.

I can’t cover all 23, but here are a few of my favorites. Like … the most important decision you can make is "where do you want to spend your time?"  Time. The non-renewable asset. Lose it, it’s gone forever. Find the discipline to determine where your time has the greatest payoff.

Next: The best entrepreneurs don’t come up with great ideas. Okay. Wait for it … They solve market needs. Great ideas with no market value might be fun to dream up, but they have no life. Put your best energy into meeting real needs. 

Here’s another good one. You need to be able to turn every obstacle into an asset. What a difficult truth! Those who venture out in uncharted waters need to be prepared to be overcomers. Naysayers and unseen obstacles await you. THAT is guaranteed.

One more for the road: Here’s the only market research you need. Get your product out in the marketplace and see if it sells. My friend, there are many hours and dollars to be wasted in using research to find out if your ideas are valid. If you have buyers, you likely have something worth developing.

Earlier I stated that this was a good list for both for profit and nonprofit ventures. Ministry leaders of every stripe would be well served learning from a list like this one. Not everything applies, but business done right is about serving customers. And serving them well. We should never lose sight of that core mission principle: to serve others.

If God has gifted you with the desire, the vision, and the passion to start something new, I hope you take the next step. These two words from Genesis, Chapter 1, are powerful: God created. And you have been created in His image.  Use that creativity!

Starting a new venture often has so many challenges, it will drive you to your your knees. Which, by the way, is a reminder the Forbes article missed.  A wise entrepreneur will learn to pray every step of the way.

That’s the way WE work. For Moody Radio, I’m Mark Elfstrand.  

Monday, October 21, 2013

One Sour Blackberry

I never owned a Blackberry device. But when the deals made them so affordable – just $49 – I was able to convince my wife to toss her flip phone and move into the smartphone world. Eventually, she moved on from Blackberry ... as did most of the world. She might now be considered among the addicted class. 

The New York Times piece on "When the Blackberry Reigned and How It Fell" displayed a brief history of the company. Discussion continues as to the future of the former hand held champion. Buy outs. Break ups. Buy backs – perhaps from the cofounders. Will it matter? ( ) 
As the Times makes note … the “co-chief executives missed the real threat: they initially dismissed Apple’s iPhone as “little more than a toy.” And all those apps available were simply too much. Too bad there wasn’t an app for how to fix Blackberry’s problem.
Having started a few small ventures – both for profit and not for profit – I feel badly when a company fails. People lose jobs, feel a lot of stress, and sometimes good products go away.
You know what? Some are predicting the demise of the church. That is not new. But maybe some of the concerns are.
Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hills Church in Seattle put out this vivid description:
"Christians are being ostracized, gay marriage is being legalized, the bandwagon has stopped carrying us and has started running over us. The church is dying and no one is noticing because we're wasting time criticizing rather than evangelizing. ... The days are darker, which means our resolve must be stronger and our convictions clearer. This is not the hour to trade in work boots for flip-flops. You didn't think you were here to kill time listening to Christian music until Jesus returned, did you?"
Ouch! Is he right? This message came from a letter he addressed to “Christian” and was given to participants at the 2013 Resurgence Conference.
As the skies darken in our world in so many ways and so many places, our faith might well be called into question. We will be tested on the authenticity of our beliefs. The world will examine how closely we respond to larger needs than our own.
In other words, our spiritual life is on the line. We need renewal! And Driscoll sees the problem. There are no buyouts available. Hopefully, we don’t sell out. And certainly, there are no apps for that.
That’s the way WE work. For Moody Radio, I’m Mark Elfstrand.  

Monday, October 14, 2013

Billboard Beliefs

I admire well designed billboards. The means of communicating a very brief, yet powerful message to a commuter whizzing along at 70 miles an hour is true advertising art. 
Often, I play my own game of billboard critic … attempting to get the message while driving, but often failing to do so. Too many words. Blurring graphics. Poor color choices. Weak messaging.  Small print. Unfortunately, it’s bad form ... and a waste of money.
Three Christian Post stories of billboards trying to send a religious message have surfaced recently. One promotes a campaign known as "Jesus Tattoo."  Fifty-nine billboards near Lubbock, Texas, depict an image of Jesus clad in tattoos with the words “addicted” and “depressed” along with other negative word pictures. (
The intended message is to convey Jesus loves people unconditionally. Jesus becomes the tattoo artist to help. The group has a website and video to help advance their perspective. Well, it certainly gets attention.
Then, the ministry Answers in Genesis has posted billboards in New York City and San Francisco challenging atheists with this message: Thank God You’re Wrong. They even sponsored a digital spectacular in Times Square displaying the message. Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis, is seeking to respond to atheist billboards being posted in a number of places. (
Not to be outdone, atheists in Michigan have their own billboards. The message?  “Millions of Americans are living happily without religion.” That apparently is to help us overcome negative stereotypes of non-religious people. (
Frankly, those billboards would have no impact on me. I already know atheists can function somewhat happily without a religious faith. I know Jesus's love is unconditional. And I already believe that atheists are wrong in their view that there is no God.
Personally, I think billboards that work connect with ideas like … "McArches … all size drinks. $1."  Or … "Sleep well tonight at Red Roof Inn. Just $49." One life-altering billboard I’ve seen simply asks if you’re pregnant and need help. They give a web site and phone number. Good job!
In my earlier years, I developed advertising concepts for clients. I would advise them not to use billboards if something needed to be explained. And you’d better be able to read the critical piece of the message from a quarter mile away. And here’s the key: meet a need in the simplest of terms.
Communicating our faith needs careful attention as well, regardless of medium. Jesus managed to teach the most important life lessons in short stories. And the impact lasted for mile after life-changing mile. My advice … Go thou and do likewise.
That’s the way WE communicate. For Moody radio, I’m Mark Elfstrand.   

Monday, October 7, 2013

Should “Messies” Clean up?

A while back I watched an interview with a brilliant academic. He may well have been very bright, but his office was a mess! And it made me feel better.
I admit to it. I can work in a messy environment. In fact, that is my "normal."  And a recent study published online in Psychological Science gave me hope.
Researchers at the University of Minnesota wanted to find out if neat environments can produce good habits. College students were brought in for a test and put in adjacent office spaces. One was exquisitely neat. The other … very cluttered. After ten minutes, as subjects were leaving, they were offered a choice of an apple or chocolate.
Remarkably, the apples were the food of choice for most students in the clean room. And this group also seemed to trend towards more socially conscious behavior on such decisions. Score a big point for cleanliness.
But wait! A second experiment claimed a point for those working amidst chaos! In this test, participants in those same mixture of clean and cluttered offices were asked to come up with new uses for Ping-Pong balls. The messy office team proved significantly more creative at this. Yes! Score one for the messies!
In a third experiment, volunteers in the messy space were more likely to take a risk on trying a new flavor of lunchtime smoothie than the tidies. The environment seemed to prompt them to more risks. Score another point for messies.
In fairness, the experiments were demonstrating examples of cause and effect. Regardless of the personal style of participating, their work environment did influence the way they responded in several key areas. 
I am not advocating for either group. But I am refreshed to know that those  – like me – who work among our “stacks of stuff” are okay. And possibly, it helps our creativity. So in your office, give the messies a break … IF you want some creative results.
Any spiritual perspective here? Well, the Bible tells us in the creation account in Genesis that God brought order out of chaos. I’m grateful He did.  The exchange between God and Job also opens our eyes to the way God constructs the world in our behalf. Thirdly, 1Corinthians 14:40 instructs us about worship stating that “all things should be done decently and in order.”
On the other hand, our individual lives are often messy … filled with chaos. But there’s hope. As those created in God’s image, He offers us the wonderful gift of creativity to solve problems both big and small. 
Our grandkids love playing with a bag of foam shapes. We toss them on the floor and then build things. And then knock them over. Chaos … order …chaos … order. Fun stuff.
I’d love to keep going on this topic but, quite frankly, my garage is calling.
That’s the way WE work.  For Moody Radio, I’m Mark Elfstrand.