Keith Magnuson died today.

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Keith worked with us on our strategic plan. He was a bold mentor. He pushed me. “Synods are not excellent resources of congregations, Mike. What would it look like for a synod to be laser-focused on excellence in coaching congregations and leadership development?”

He goaded me, “Nothing moves without bold, risky, visionary leadership, Mike. Step up to the plate. Swing the bat.”

He insisted on listening. He insisted on Evan and I inviting feedback from every church council member and pastor in our synod. We got feedback from 400 Gulf Coast Leaders.

He insisted on doing a communications audit with Seraphim Communications. He insisted on a candid appraisal of the synod work by members of congregations in our synod, conducted by Russel Crabtree, author of “The Fly in the Ointment: Why Denominations aren’t Helping Their Congregations and How They Can.” We learned volumes. We heard an excitement for change. We heard where we were dropping the ball.

We heard congregations yearning for a bishop’s office that helped congregations become more vital, helped them connect with their communities, helped them become more spiritually grounded, that grew outstanding Christian leaders, that utilized more effectively the gifts of the people already in our synod. We heard a need for planting new congregations, in a new way. We heard a need to break out of old bureaucratic structures.

This heavily influenced my approach early on. What developed was our strategic plan that has guided our work, including the vision for a leadership organization that was 100% devoted to Christian leadership development: LEAD.

Then, suddenly, he was diagnosed cancer, and we lost him.

Thank you Keith. You pushed me. We’re a different synod because of you. We’ll miss you.