3 Lessons from Top Gun 2 – Lesson 3

You can read this even if you haven’t seen the movie, and none of the illustrations ruin the movie if you haven’t seen it yet. If you do see the movie and you have another take away, please share it with us.


In the movie, our nation, our military, is facing challenges that threaten the world. Normal protocols won’t work. The mission is high risk, extremely dangerous, and will push the plane and pilots beyond their limits. The institution can’t solve this problem with normal standard protocols. It needs someone who has experience and success in pushing the boundaries or norms. They need a Maverick, buy many don’t want a Maverick and Maverick doesn’t want the institution’s ways, either. This tension is portrayed throughout the movie.

This is a real-life tension in the church today. There is pressure from the institution for everyone to conform to the “approved” synodical standards and ways. Those outsiders are labeled as rebellious, lone rangers, less faithful, heretics, and more. After all, Mavericks are like a nail that is sticking up in the deck that everyone trips over. It disrupts life as we know it, and it is uncomfortable or can even hurt when we run into it. The institution fires back by nailing it to submission until it is back in place.

Maverick has experienced that. He is fearful of it. Colonel Iceman bridges the gap and says, “The institution needs you.” All institutions, companies, and teams need people who are wired to question, push against boundaries, and take risks. We call them entrepreneurial leaders, first adopters, innovators, creative. Without them, the institution doesn’t change, grow, or adapt to the needs, and it dies. It gets stuck in a rut and never gets out.

We need people who pioneer a new path. Who break new ground, take risks, fail and get back at it. This helps us all to learn and grow. This helps us all to fulfill our calling and mission. The institution needs Mavericks because they do what the institution can’t.

On the other hand, Mavericks need institutions. They need the boundaries to push against. It’s what makes them tick. Pushing back, it’s part of the drive of taking the risk knowing 95% or more won’t. Mavericks need institutions to center on. If there is nothing to push against, or that standard, then Mavericks can go too far and fall off the radar. They want and need accountability the institution provides to keep grounded in what is true and unchanging. Institutions need Mavericks and Mavericks need institutions.

by: Rev. Jason Scheler, Mission Executive of the LCMS Southern District

3 Lessons from Top Gun 2 – Lesson 2

You can read this even if you haven’t seen the movie, and none of the illustrations ruin the movie if you haven’t seen it yet. If you do see the movie and you have another take away, please share it with us.


In the movie, Maverick goes against the enemy that has a more advanced plane. It is faster, more moveable, etc. It is intimidating to the pilots. After all, their life is at stake and they have a major disadvantage. Maverick is quick to reply, “It is not the plane. It is the pilot.” Your skills are better.

Comparison is one of the biggest discouragers today. It robs people of who God created them to be and keeps them from pursuing their goals and dreams, because they are intimidated by others who have a better plane (i.e. church, budget, staff, location, logo, larger attendance, etc.). We get intimidated to the point we don’t even try: “We are just a small church.” “We have no money.” Church planting research shows that churches which started with more money and people (better plan) have a greater failure rate because they trust more in their resources than in God and themselves.

A research project that studied student success discovered the greatest factor for student success. Many assumed it was the plane. Factors like wealth, race, intelligence, family background, school size, or school programs. The key factor was grit. Kids that endured failures, were dedicated to overcome challenges, who persevered, and were resourceful. All the qualities you can’t buy or manufacture … and are not the plane. They are the pilot.

We need to stop looking at the planes, and that includes ourselves, and look to Jesus. My favorite quote from the book One at a Time is: “Do for one what we wish we could do for all.” I do not have a huge plane with unlimited resources. None of us do. But I can help one. Jesus didn’t heal everyone, but He did the one that was in front of Him. Let us not be intimidated, but start doing for one what we wish we could do for all.

by: Rev. Jason Scheler, Mission Executive of the LCMS Southern District

3 Lessons from Top Gun 2 – Lesson 1

You can read this even if you haven’t seen the movie, and none of the illustrations ruin the movie if you haven’t seen it yet. If you do see the movie and you have another take away, please share it with us.


I have family in the military, and they all comment on how the military culture lords over you. It is a very defined culture with defined expectations. Success in the military is how well you meet expectations / standards that lead to promotions. This is not necessarily a bad thing unless you are a pilot. The problem with pilots being promoted is: the more you are promoted, the less you fly. You stop flying to sit behind a desk which requires different passion, gifts, and talents. The promotions take most people out of their strengths and passions. But pilots do it because it is the expectation, they want the position, pay, rank, etc., even though they are not fit for the job. Why? Because that is what success is. Many people give up on who they are to go up.

Maverick has all the experience and expertise to be a Colonel, even a senator, but he remains a Captain, a pilot. He stays in his lane despite the rejection, pressure, lower pay, etc. The result is Maverick is truly the best pilot. Maverick stayed in his lane. He knew who he was, what he was passionate about, and stuck to his guns to be the best version of himself that God created.

Like the military culture, our world and church cultures are filled with expectations / standards of what it is to be successful. The world chases success with the thought that I will retire and be financially set and free. It burns itself out on the majority of life to have maybe 10 years of “fun” or “life.” Pastors do the same or they strive to positions or means that are not them in hope for that promotion or even title when it isn’t their calling.

Pastor is a very generic term. There is a great variety of pastors in the church. All are needed and should be celebrated. I want to encourage you to find your lane and stay in it. Define who you are? Define what is success is for you and ministry? Drill down on this definition. At your retirement, what will you look back to as success and what will you carry forward because that is who you are? More later in another blog. Have a little Maverick in you that doesn’t let the expectations of culture and church highjack your calling.

by: Rev. Jason Scheler, Mission Executive of the LCMS Southern District

A Question Every Leader Should Ask Themselves

In an article in the Harvard Business Review, authors Robert Goffee and Gareth Jones share a question they ask when consulting executives. They say that when they confront these corporate leaders with this question, the response is typically silence and squirming! Are you ready for it?

Here you go: “Why would anyone want to be led by you?”

I was asked this question eight years ago, and I was just as stunned. It is a very good question. As leaders, we look critically at our volunteers or staff, asking how they could improve their performance or better meet objectives. But this question flips things around on us.

I like to ask it this way: “What is it like to be led by me?” or “What is it like to be in the pew while I am in the pulpit?”

The answers don’t have to be negative. In fact, answering this question should surface our leadership strengths as well as our gaps. If I want to see my church grow in its competencies and execution, I need to develop myself.

When you grow, it spills over to your congregation and inevitably makes them better. Below I’ve listed some statements that I want those on my team to be able to say because of the way I lead them:

Because I am in this congregation under you …

      • I have a closer relationship with God.
      • I am consistently being challenged and growing in my faith and leadership skills.
      • I get to serve in the areas of my strengths.
      • I feel I am a part of something bigger than myself.
      • I know my voice is heard, understood, and valued.
      • I’m better able to maintain a work / life balance that benefits my family.

This type of leadership doesn’t just happen by accident. It requires a high amount of introspection and intentionality. I encourage you to ask yourself these three questions (and be sure to write down your answers in a journal to reflect on):

      • What is it like to be led by me?
      • Which of the “Because I am in this congregation under you” statements do I think I need to grown in most?
      • What needs to change in my leadership in order to affect the right result?

by: Rev. Jason Scheler, Mission Executive of the LCMS Southern District

Won’t Do That Again


Have you heard that before? We tried it. Didn’t get the results we wanted. Therefore, it must be a bad idea. Let me ask you a question: How many things have you failed at the first time but you kept going and it was worth it? The answer is, several things. Walking, reading, talking, riding a bike, a sport, swimming, first date, etc. When we hear that phrase, the question is, What is really being said? The comment could come from a place of fear, hurt, frustration, or fill-in-the-blank. I think under all that, it comes from a sense of hopelessness. Humans will not do something without hope. We do not attempt things unless there is hope, even with things we enjoy. I enjoy flats fishing, but there are times when I feel like it is hopeless and will stop or not fish at all. I will stay home because it is not worth the effort. Sometimes I go but my heart and mind are not in it. Those are usually the times I get that unexpected bite and I miss hooking the fish. ARRGH!!!

Where are you today, emotionally? Are you …

      • … filled with hope and enjoying ministry, believing God will make a difference?
      • … doing the ministry, but your mind and heart are not really present?
      • … or … staying home or in the office because it is not worth the effort?

After this Easter, I was in the second and third category. We had a fabulous Easter, but I was just empty. Plans didn’t work to go away. I still needed to get stuff from the storage unit to home and get home organized, etc. Then last Sunday, a man came up to me in tears. He said, “You need to know you are touching people that you have no idea you are affecting.” He continued as tears progressively became greater, “You change my life.” I replied, “Thank you, but God did that.” The man responded, “You do not understand. My life was about baseball until I came to your Easter service in 2012. My life changed in that service to be about Jesus. I sold my home on 30a and went to Guatemala to do mission work. I started a sports ministry. God blessed it and gave me favor to be the first American coach to coach in their professional league where I share my faith daily. You need to know you are changing lives.”

I want to encourage you—do not let Satan take you out. We have the sure Word of God that tells us His Word does not return void and that our service is not in vain. This is truly all we need, but sometimes we have the privilege of hearing a testimony and see the fruit of our labor. Keep a file on those stories. I have a file of meaningful letters and cards I have received over the years. When I feel down, I read through them and reflect.

In Leviticus 6, Moses told the priest to keep the fire burning day and night on the altar. It must never go out. This required the priest to gather the supplies needed to keep the fire burning day and night. What supplies do you need to keep burning? I am sure there are more, but I find the following:

        When is the last time we have spent an hour in prayer? Stretch your prayer time. Double whatever it is. Karl Barth wrote, “To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.”

        No surprise here, but make sure you are spending God time for you and not the next talk.

      3. REST
        Rest is a gift from God. When we rest from our labor, we are also activating our faith because we are saying I trust God to build and care for the church, which includes me. It is not all on my shoulders.

        We were created for the garden. We were made to enjoy creation and re-create with activity. Do something outside physically. Bike riding is still my favorite way to recreate.

        Jesus went to Bethany often. He visited Mary, Martha, and Lazarus who, according to the Scriptures, He loved. These were friends who opened their home and hearts to Jesus … who He shared meals and late-night conversations with. They were close and I think His relationships with them were refreshing. What relationships fill the tank for you? Who do you enjoy just hanging out with, with no agenda?
      6. OTHER IDEAS?
        Please add yours in the comments.

by: Rev. Jason Scheler, Mission Executive of the LCMS Southern District

Do You Need Rest?

If you need proof that we need rest, just ask ten people how they are doing. Many times, people will respond with “busy” or, “It has been another crazy week.” People may even say “good” then add “but busy.” How many times do you find yourself running to another cup of coffee or looking for a snack to stay awake? The reality is we are a very busy society. Even if our bodies are not that active, we are busy processing life events in our brains; all of this drains energy from us.

Why are we so busy? Why is it so hard for us to take the time we need to rest, reflect, and enjoy the present? Most of us push ourselves harder than we should; we say yes to too many things, we let our kids say yes to too many things, and we have no margins in life. Why do we push ourselves beyond our ability? Possible reasons could include: addiction to business, fear, illusion of success / faithfulness, over-ambitious, stress, over-emphasized work ethic, and worry.

Now, worry is something almost everyone struggles with. Have you ever taken time to think about why you worry? Why do you let things get you so anxious that you can’t sleep? I know when I worry, it is usually because I desire to control a situation that I have no control over. I worry when I try to make something happen by my own strength. Worry is fed by the illusion that I have some level of control over life situations. What worry really comes down to is that I am not trusting in the Lord. I am trusting and relying on myself to get things done, and not resting in the fact that the Lord is actively being merciful and loving in my life.


God says in Exodus 14:14, “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” The context to this text is Moses told the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the LORD’s salvation, which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians you see today, you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you only need to be still.”

God is good and, like a good Father, He knows we need rest. In fact, He commanded it. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” To keep it holy means to separate it from work. God knows work can run us and start to define us. He commanded a day separate from the others so we can rest and separate ourselves. How can we rest for the Sabbath?

      1. We worship. In worship, our lives are renewed in His grace. Our primary identity, meaning, and value is reaffirmed as God’s beloved child. We are reminded of God’s great faithfulness. Not to mention the incredible benefit of gathering with other Christians who love and encourage.
      2. Reflection: One of my sayings is, “Going 6 days in the wrong direction is too long.” We need to reflect on our life. Are we living the life we believe God called us to? Is what I am saying yes to best for me? What is good that God is doing?
      3. Proflection: It is a made-up term, but it fits. We need to take what we reflected on and move forward with it. We need to make changes or commitments. Plus, we should plan out our week. Block out your calendar and put rest in there too.
      4. Recreation: The word says it all. We need to re-create by actively engaging in some form of recreation or physical activity that can make us feel refreshed. In fact, exercise gives us a greater energy and capacity to handle life. My favorite recreation is bike riding. I often say, “Just give me 20 minutes.”

Here are some more ways to rest. Passive rest includes taking power naps from 6 to 20 minutes in length, or REM naps that are 90 minutes plus. Some of the best advice given to me was to take a power nap instead of the afternoon coffee. It is better for you and it feels great. You can also engage in active rest which includes Physical: deep breathing and stretching; Mental: meditation, gratitude, soothing music; Social: family, friends; and Spiritual: prayer.

5 Tips to Make Rest a Priority

      1. Commit to sleeping 7 – 9 hours. Health benefits of sleep kick in around 7 hours.
      2. Develop a routine for sleep and start it 30 minutes before your set time.
      3. Turn off screens 1 – 3 hours before sleep. This lowers the endorphins in your brain so it can rest.
      4. If married, ask if your spouse can be on the same schedule. This practice is also very helpful in building your bond in your marriage.
      5. As you lay in bed, put every muscle to sleep by flexing it and then relaxing it. Start at your head and work down to your toes. Do this each night and you will never make it to your toes.

Take it a step further and read Psalm 118. Enjoy His rest!

1Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!

2Let Israel say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”
3Let the house of Aaron say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”
4Let those who fear the LORD say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”

5Out of my distress I called on the LORD;
the LORD answered me and set me free.
6The LORD is on my side; I will not fear.
What can man do to me?
7The LORD is on my side as my helper;
I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.

8It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in man.
9It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in princes.

10All nations surrounded me;
in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
11They surrounded me, surrounded me on every side;
in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
12They surrounded me like bees;
they went out like a fire among thorns;
in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
13I was pushed hard,a so that I was falling,
but the LORD helped me.

14The LORD is my strength and my song;
he has become my salvation.
15Glad songs of salvation
are in the tents of the righteous:
“The right hand of the LORD does valiantly,
16the right hand of the LORD exalts,
the right hand of the LORD does valiantly!”

17I shall not die, but I shall live,
and recount the deeds of the LORD.
18The LORD has disciplined me severely,
but he has not given me over to death.

19Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them
and give thanks to the LORD.
20This is the gate of the LORD;
the righteous shall enter through it.
21I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation.
22The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.b
23This is the LORD’s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
24This is the day that the LORD has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.

25Save us, we pray, O LORD!
O LORD, we pray, give us success!

26Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!
We bless you from the house of the LORD.
27The LORD is God,
and he has made his light to shine upon us.
Bind the festal sacrifice with cords,
up to the horns of the altar!

28You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
you are my God; I will extol you.
29Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!

by: Rev. Jason Scheler, Mission Executive of the LCMS Southern District