I first met Pastor Ralph as a second grader when my mom started attending a new church in town Hope Chapel Kaneohe. Little did I know at the time, this nice man, who let us call him Ralph (not Pastor Ralph, not Uncle Ralph, just Ralph), would 20 years later become my friend and my boss.
A few weeks ago, we said good-bye to him and his wife Pastor Ruby as they left Hawaii after 34 years of ministry in the islands. During that time, it is not a stretch to say, he profoundly changed the face of Christianity in the state and changed the way people viewed churches, the gospel, and ultimately Jesus. This move to California is not a retirement, per se, but a reassignment. He will still be working with a church planting organization teaching people about the value of planting churches and how to raise and disciple new leaders (check out what he’s doing at ralphmoore.net).
In the 10 years I worked for him, I picked up a few things. He was different than traditional pastors in that he didn’t require us to have a seminary or Bible college degree but rather wanted us to actually do ministry and pick up our Biblical knowledge along the way. He read somewhere that the percentage of seminary graduates in full time ministry 10 years after graduating was very low so he really wanted to know if we had the heart for people and the skills for the long haul. He once told me he only wanted people on his staff that had a desire to become senior pastors. That didn’t mean that everyone who worked with him would become a senior pastor, but if they wanted to then he would train, mentor, and launch them. His track record of sending out church planters is unprecedented in Hawaii. During his time in Hawaii, Hope Chapel became a global movement.
We had our usual staff meetings on Tuesdays and here are five of the most important lessons I learned working for Ralph (note: I’m not saying he invented these things, but adopted them as values in the life of the church).
1. It’s better to ask forgiveness than permission. One of the hallmarks of good leadership is empowering the people that work for you. Rather than micromanage everything we did, Ralph allowed us freedom to make decisions and try new things. We didn’t have to check in with him on every choice we made. He trusted that we knew the values of the church and we would operate within them. Of course, if you’re going to allow your staff to run their own ministries, there are going to be wonderful successes and huge failures. Of course, when we failed we were still held accountable, but there would always be correction and grace. One of the biggest blessings was not having to fear failure.
2. See and need, fill it. Along with the first lesson, this is probably the second biggest empowerer. If we saw a problem or a “need” we already had permission to do something about. If it meant raising up a new leader with little experience, it was okay. If it meant grabbing a new guy, it was encouraged. We were always put in a position to act rather then wait for permission to act.
3. If you ain’t reading, you ain’t leading. I always loved to read, but working for Ralph took my reading to a new level. As I mentioned before, in addition to reading Christian books, he also had us reading us business, marketing and financial books. Authors like Peter Driscoll and Patrick Lencioni became new names on my bookshelf as well as subscriptions to Time magazine and Fidelity Insight.
4. Inch wide, mile deep. As the church grew, we were able to wear less hats and start focusing on less things. He wanted us to have a laser like focus. An inch wide, mile deep refers to not spreading yourself out too thinly and rather than do a lot of things and do them shallowly, do one thing and pour yourself in to it. I secretly think he got this from one of his favorite restaurants: In-n-Out. Even though they pretty much offer just three things, burgers, fries, and drinks (with multiple variations), they do those three things really, really well.
5. Just kiss her and find out. Probably my favorite piece of advice and one that I passed along a lot as the Singles Pastor. Whenever people would ask me about dating and how to know if a girl was into them, I would repeat Ralph’s wise words, “just kiss her and find out”. You’ll get an answer real quick one way or another!
Thank you Ralph for taking a chance on me and investing in my life and the lives of my family! Godspeed on your new adventure!