Words that Matter: Entropy

On The Leader's Notebook this week I am featuring a guest post. I may not do this often but every now and again, I may find something (or someone) I want to introduce to the Notebook's readers.

This week's guest is not only a business/leadership/marketing/management expert; he is also a personal friend and former colleague. Dr. Steve Greene has extensive experience in business and in business education. Dr. Greene was the dean of the college of business at ORU while I was the president of that university. Before his highly successful years at ORU, he provided excellent leadership at a multi-million dollar television company and a major restaurant chain. Today he is a blogger, publisher, speaker and a business consultant with an extensive clientele. Dr. Greene is also a member of the Board of Directors of Global Servants Inc.

Words that Matter
Guest blog by Dr. Steve Greene

Messy ClosetMy closet refuses to stay organized. Where's that tie hiding?

It's all about the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Loosely defined, the law holds that all matter moves toward disorganization.

The process of entropy is what we see in the science of life. Stuff falls apart. Organizations decline. Empires fall. Closets become a mess.

Entropy wreaks havoc on a business. Laws, such as gravity, can't take a joke. What goes up must come down. What is organized today goes poof someday.

Leadership in an Ebola World
Policy, Politics and Public Relations

Case study I:

A large Baptist church in the Southern USA faced a major crisis. The parents of a third grader came to the leadership of the church with the suspicion that the children's minister had molested their child on church property. They did not have solid proof and were not litigation-minded. They wanted help and they wanted to protect other children. After they left the room the church board and the pastor decided to wait until after the Christmas party (three weeks hence) to deal with it. They asked the parents not to go public, allowed the suspected molester to remain in place, and tried to "keep it quiet."

Of course, it did not stay quiet. The parents were outraged. The state ruled that the church's failure to report was criminal and a horrible civil-criminal case ensued.

Tragedy of the Secret Service
A Cautionary Tale of Internal Culture Collapse and Product Deterioration

Every organization, every church, business, company, restaurant and college has an internal culture. Some of these cultures are more distinctive, more readily discernible than others, but there is always a culture and sooner or later that culture will "show up" on the outside, in the way business gets done. The fully integrated, well-aligned organization knows and protects its culture. That culture can become so valued, so clearly articulated, first inwardly and then outwardly, that its "voice" becomes the major marketing instrument of the organization.

A case in point might well be the United States Marines. "The Few, The Proud, The Marines" has been perhaps its most enduring modern marketing slogan, but that expression of the Marine Corps culture did not begin in a creativity

Speed Limit

It is one thing to find success. It is quite another to handle it. Success has ruined at least as many as failure has. The athlete who thinks he is above the law, the starlet who flaunts her body and her addictions in public, and the arrogant CEO who parades his triumphs on talk shows have all forgotten how to stay successful. The key to that is modesty.

Most modern Americans understand the word modesty to have reference only to one’s manner of dress, and even then it is mostly used with regard to

Jerusalem Reservoir

Jebus was an impregnable fortress city, the fortified garrison capital of a warrior nation. The soldiers within its walls were not blind and lame, but even if they had been, they could have kept David out. They had a water supply, the high ground, fortifications; time was on their side, not favoring the Israelis living outside in tents.

It is notable that in both the Chronicles version of the fall of Jebus and in Samuel’s account, the significant word is nevertheless. (2 Sam. 5:7, 1 Chron. 11:5)

There are some wonderful lessons for life and leadership in David’s conquest of Jebus. The first is a word to every believer. With every new opportunity will come both change and challenge. David knew it. Hebron was acceptable for a while, but he foresaw the day when change would come. David waited on the divine moment and welcomed the change. He neither hurried nor hated it.

Stewart Ave

Recently, in a car service on the way to the Atlanta Airport, I found myself with a remarkably talkative driver named Carlisle. Evidently he fancied himself something of a tour guide and social commentator as well as a shuttle driver. Always impressed by folks who add the little extras, I turned off my cell phone and listened. He was jolly, knowledgeable and something of an asphalt philosopher.

"This street here that we on now is named Metropolitan Parkway. That's the new name. It didn't used to be named that. It used to be named Stewart Avenue and it was one of the worst places in Atlanta. Drugs, prostitution, crime; you name it, it was on Stewart Avenue."


A man on an airplane told me his organization was considering hiring on a "brand consultant." This interested me since branding and brand recovery is something I teach on at the National Institute of Christian Leadership. As we talked further, however, I realized that he had several words very confused: brand, logo and tag line. Since that conversation I have come to realize that many folks, even in some sophisticated businesses, suffer considerable confusion in this area. What my friend actually was hiring was a "logo design expert." It was not my job to define terms without being asked and our snippet of a conversation certainly did not afford us the time. What I couldn't help wondering was if the company he was consulting with was confused. Surely the consultants will clarify the terms in the course of the contract. For the purpose of today's Notebook: some brief definitions are in order.

Butler Library, Columbia
Fear of formal education has long existed on the part of some in the Christian world. Unfortunately this has gained and maintained traction because of well-documented "failures of mission" at some major, and shall we say famous, institutions. Their retreat from the values and original purposes that brought them into being have been the subject of broad research and commentary. No one can deny that schools such as Harvard and Yale have drifted far from the dock where they were once moored. Liberals call this drift "maturity." The rest of us see ever so clearly that it is the extinguishing of the lamp lit there at the start.

The Harvard story and many others like it have not made it easy to advocate for higher education, and continuing education, especially in the ministry. Likewise, some in the Christian world, having seen what happened in such schools, have assumed an adversarial posture with ministerial education as a whole. In a culture where education is revered, ministers can marginalize themselves by their lack. I heard someone say recently that, "Letters after your name don't make you any smarter or more anointed." True. Oh, so true.

On the other hand those very letters may open doors. There may be entire populations that prove unreachable by ministers without formal education. Cosmopolitan congregations have a right to expect the pastor to know the difference

Israel Flag

I believe in Israel. It's not just that I'm pro-Israel, which I am. I believe in Israel as a modern historical miracle of the first order. For two thousand years the entire world had written Israel off as a once and never again ancient kingdom. Israel, they thought, had been swallowed up forever by bigger and better nations and had been left on the cutting room floor of history. Persia, Egypt, Rome and Turkey as well as every other ancient empire devoured the biblical homeland of the Jewish people like bread. The Crusaders tried to make Jerusalem into a European capital with a Christian king. Saladin made it a Muslim city, and the Ottoman Empire claimed Judea as a conquered possession.

Every great conqueror from Alexander the Great to Genghis Khan to Napoleon Bonaparte and even General Allenby felt some unexplainable lust to conquer Jerusalem and what had once been Israel. Why? What is the irresistible attraction that compels mighty nations and empires to ache to plant their flag in tiny Israel, especially in Jerusalem?

Chicken Little, the Feds, and "Misleading Ideas"

This week marks the first year of The Leader's Notebook. That means I've posted 52 blogs on a variety of topics from current events to leadership to management to religion. A fraternity (or sorority) of 300-500 regular readers has developed and I am honored that they read so consistently.

Thank you to all those readers. I hope you will stay with me for year number two and PLEASE tell you friends in the real world and in twitter-sphere about The Leader's Notebook.

I thought I would write this anniversary blog on some jolly idea that would brighten every reader's day. Then I read a press release that rocked my day. Hoping it was not correct, or, more likely, that I had simply misunderstood its implications, I was reluctant to play Chicken Little without confirmation and clarification.

Today's Notebook is a plea really, more than a commentary. I am asking someone to tell me that what I'm about to write is not really happening. I'm pleading for exactly that.

A relatively quiet news item caught my eye and after reading it I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Literally. The further I read the more concerned I became. I have not heard one main line newscaster or pundit sound an alarm. Perhaps they are and I'm just not hearing them. Maybe there are sober-minded folks in the media and in politics who are screaming bloody murder and I'm just not in the right place at the right time to hear them. I certainly hope so.


The redemptive grace of loyalty is so powerful that it can literally fill any situation with healing and miraculous blessings. Any force that powerful, however, cannot be violated without dire consequences. There are few virtues in the kingdom more honored by God that loyalty. Absalom’s doom was sealed by his disloyalty to David, but David’s loyalty to an unworthy Saul confirmed his destiny for the throne.

In the household of Naaman, a Syrian general, there lived a young Jewish slave girl. She had been captured by a Syrian raiding party. Stolen from her family, alone in a foreign land, she served as a personal slave to Naaman’s wife, hardly a circumstance to inspire loyalty. Even the most outwardly obedient slave might murder his master mentally. Yet

Two very different events happened on July 31, forty years apart: the first in 1941 and the second in 1981. How strange to me that I was not yet born when the first of these events occurred and I was a married man well into my thirties at the time of the second. The first one seems like ancient history played out by diabolical figures in some kind of horrific and far-fetched movie. The second I remember well as a major news item of my young adult life.

The "huge" and massively-reported event of July 31, 1981 is, by comparison with the 1941 historical moment, so flimsy as to be meaningless. The two events seen in juxtaposition make clear in a quite startling way the difference between famous and important. One event was a secret meeting unknown at the time to any but the attendees. The other was televised, radio-ized, written about, and argued over by talking heads within minutes of its conclusion.

Jesus Feeds 5000
Ok, I want some interaction on this blog. Maybe help is a better word. I'm formulating a list of outrageous theological statements, or statements that at least sound outrageous at first glance. I have come up with a burgeoning list but I want more. Today's Notebook is a tease, or perhaps a plea. Today I will briefly discuss just a few of the outrageous truths on my list in an attempt to prime the pump of public participation. A dear friend of mine, whose day-to-day thoughts are pretty outrageous, has contributed already. What I'm requesting is that you read these and add some truths of your own. I may cobble them together into a small book. I may use them in teaching. I may just amuse myself and some of my more outrageous friends.

The idea is this. Make statements that are right but do not sound right, or may not sound right until they are explained. The more outrageous they sound the better. The thing is, though, they have to be true. Anybody can think up outrageous theological nonsense. The question is, can you think up outrageous sounding truth? Here are a few sample "outrageous truths." Read these and then let me see your contributions. How outrageous are you?

Jesus Feeds 5000

At a diverse variety of organizations, across a span of about forty-five years, I experienced leadership at many levels. Nearly twenty years of that time was spent as a CEO, leading organizations with a combined total of about a thousand employees and combined annual budgets of nearly $200M. Throughout that time I was constantly trying to understand better what my real job was. I know that sounds awful. Am I saying that I never knew what I was doing in those positions? Absolutely not.

I am saying I have dedicated myself to trying to understand and teach the various roles of the senior leader. Not the formal duties written out and filed somewhere and pretty much taken for granted. I don't mean specified duties such as


An interest in physics, of all things, is one of the lesser eccentricities of my life. Let me be clear. I am not saying I understand physics. I am simply interested in some aspects of it in the same way I am drawn to opera, which I am, and which is yet another somewhat embarrassing admission. I am certainly no opera aficionado. It's just something that appeals for reasons I cannot fully explain. Often in a language I cannot understand with absolutely unsingable music, opera is a fascinating display of complex staging, antique-sounding music and bizarre costumes all passionately over-done, way over the top, in a way that somehow intrigues me. You just haven't lived until you seen “In the Hall of the Mountain King.” Valkyries? Oh, yeah!

Physics has become something like that to me. It is in a language I do not speak. I grant you that. But when I hear it spoken, I am drawn to it. Go figure. This is a late in life aberration. I certainly do not cherish happy memories of the

Hamas Rocket

Ever heard the proverbial statement that there are two sides to everything? I'm sure you have. The only problem is that is not always true. In fact, it is frequently not true. Instead the old saying is often used as camouflage by the person or persons in the wrong.

The wife beater tells the arresting officer, “There's two sides to everything.”

No there is not. Not in that case anyway.

When a mutinous associate pastor walks off with half the church and plants a new church down the block, there are not two sides to that. An inescapable ethical reality presides over that story. Any claim of "justification" is silenced.

The old saw about two sides is just plain not always right. In my childhood in Texas I grew up hearing another proverb, a better one. It goes like this: “Right is right and wrong ain't nothing.”

I invite you to go back and read my column, A Parable of Presbyterians and Palestinians dated June 25, 2014 here. It was written before Hamas started its most recent rocket bombardment of the civilian population of Israel. Since 2001,

The Strikeout King

Last night the Major League Baseball All-Stars played. Everybody imagines that at some moment of great struggle they will heroically rise to the occasion and be that shining champion so adored by the masses, tipping their hat to the cheering throng. Every one of us has fantasized of stepping to the plate and "jacking one out of the park" in an All-Star game. Perhaps not in baseball, but in ballet or business or some endeavor or another. No one daydreams of striking out. The Leaders' Notebook today is not for the untarnished winners. Today's blog is dedicated to all those who have ever

Worthy Dreamers

Excerpt from
by Dr. Mark Rutland

The word dream is used variously to mean both that product of the subconscious mind while we sleep and the conscious fruit of the mind that dares actively to envision that which is not. Both are valid uses of the word, and the two are not as disparate as many think.

Joseph dreamed a dream in his sleep, Martin Luther King Jr. in his soul. “I have a dream” is perhaps the most exhilarating, attractive, dangerous, wondrous announcement we can make about ourselves. Intimidated or inspired, repulsed or magnetized, the world responds to a dream received. The power of a dream received can polarize a society, transform a culture, start a work or end an evil.

A dream transmitted, even transmitted by heaven, is useless without a willing receptor. Even so, there are unanswerables. For example, is God constantly granting dreams to the many, and only a few receive? What makes God

Hobby Lobby

The recent decision of the United States Supreme Court in the Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius case is incredibly important and wonderful news for all who love religious liberty. However, some have misunderstood its significance. I am indescribably opposed to the entirety of The Affordable Care Act (read Obamacare). It is arguably the single worst piece of legislation in the USA since Reconstruction. I hope the entire law will be repealed. I am saying all that so that no reader will misunderstand what I say next.

The Hobby Lobby win is important not because the Obamacare law itself is wrong-headed, which it certainly is, but because the section on contraception and, most importantly, abortive prescriptions, is unconscionable and utterly unconstitutional. No matter what anyone thinks of Obamacare as a whole, liberals, democrats, republicans and conservatives should be horrified that that portion of the law was ever passed. Likewise, all who love liberty should rejoice that it was struck down.

This decision upholds again that the government cannot force private parties to buy products which violate their consciences. If this case had failed in the Supreme Court it could have paved the way for the government to force us to pay for anything it deemed worthy irrespective of our conscience. In my opinion the entire Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional but this section was absolutely terrifying in its implications. What if the


Imagine that your next door neighbor, without asking your permission, cut down all the trees in your back yard. In response, you built a privacy fence between your house and his and replanted the trees. Now imagine that he organized others in your subdivision to protest against your fence. The HOA charged you with being "un-neighborly" and demanded that you take down the fence. When you mention the trees, you are told, "Well, that was unfortunate but you provoked it. In theory we are opposed to that regrettable tree-cutting episode but that was then. This is now, and now we demand the fence be taken down."

"What if he does it again?" you demand. "He is still throwing beer cans and garbage over the fence into my yard. Nearly every day. My children are afraid to play in the back yard. If I remove the fence he will just come back in and do worse. What do you say about that?"

"What do we say to that? We say you should move. We cannot condone what he does to damage your yard or endanger your children, but on the other hand, you have a better car than he does, your yard is landscaped much more

Global Servants

Global Servants was founded by Dr. Mark Rutland in 1977 as a worldwide, nonprofit missions and ministry organization. He started this ministry with the desire to see lives changed by the power and truth of God’s Word. For more than a quarter of a century, the men and women of Global Servants have risen to the call and gone into the world to preach the good news and spread the love of God. READ MORE.