Archives For Leadership

Take Off the Leash

July 31, 2017 — Leave A Comment

I’m excited to invite Alan Briggs to the blog this week! Alan is the Director of Frontline Church Planting, the Multiplying Pastor at Vanguard Church and the Lead Creative at Stay Forth Designs where he equips leaders and teams for health and kingdom impact. He’s a proud dad of four and a missionary to his neighborhood and city. His books Staying is the New Going (2015), Guardrails (2016), and Everyone’s a Genius (releasing in September) help leaders catch a bigger vision for their life. Learn more at AlanBriggs.net.

“We want to do something big for God in our community!” I started to grin as this couple in their early sixties beamed with the passion of teenagers. John has been an elder in our church and Sue has blessed countless people with her hospitality. They had twenty ones years of connection to their community. I’m pretty sure they’ve had half the town around their dinner table.

They shared a Macedonian Call of sorts back to the town they inhabited. They were ready to make greater sacrifices than ever before to see the gospel wreck and rebuild the people right around them. Their passion made me want to do a Tiger Woods fist pump. But I felt a twinge of something else. “Oh no!”, I thought. “Have we NOT already allowed them to do big things for God?!?” The truth is they had already been doing big things, and we all saw it. They had fleshed out a contagious and winsome gospel. They had unintentionally shepherded their town. John and Sue’s story is exciting, but it’s not an anomaly. There are people right under our noses who want to do something big, to take the plunge in the name of Jesus.

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Longing for Home

July 16, 2017 — Leave A Comment

“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.” ~ 2 Timothy 4:6-7

The Apostle Paul wrote the words above in a letter to his protégé, Timothy, as the elder leader reached the end of his journey. He proclaims it with such confidence, so certain in his appraisal of his life. But what did Paul mean when he said he had “finished the course”? How did he know it was finished? How did he know he had fought a “good fight”? What is a “good fight,” anyway?

There’s something that happens in the hearts of those who live long in the Faith, something they may not speak about often for fear of being misinterpreted as morbid or depressed. But every soul long surrendered to God will know what I’m talking about:

You are longing for Home.

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“Spiritual leadership starts with listening for the one true Voice and learning to distinguish it from all the other voices that clamor for our attention.” ~ Ruth Haley Barton

No leader is perfect. Even the best leaders I know (and I’m blessed to know several) regularly flub things up. Some even make huge blunders from time to time. Just like everybody else, really. In fact, the only real difference between a leader and a non-leader in this regard is that a leader’s mistakes get magnified 100-fold because of their position. Their missteps are more readily on display for all to see.

Faith leaders, in particular, face unique challenges because of the split nature of their role as both spiritual and organizational leaders. Because of this interesting dichotomy, some of the mistakes they make can have much more serious consequences not only to their leadership but to the world at large.

Here are three big mistakes that come with far-reaching costs for faith leaders:

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Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” ~ John 6:29

The number one job of a follower of Christ is to believe in Jesus. This belief is not merely an intellectual assent to the reality of Christ, nor is it a dogmatic checklist of doctrinal truths that set you securely in the “right” religious camp. Believing in Jesus isn’t really even about being right in all our doctrines; it’s about being right in our hearts, and those are very different things.

(If that statement sounds heretical to you, consider: Did any of the original disciples have all their doctrine right about God? Was a doctrinal test the measure by which Jesus admitted the thief on the cross into paradise? Did he give a doctrinal exam to the woman at the well, or the lepers he healed, or Zacchaeus, or to any of the disciples before he called them to himself? Has any generation of the Church since the first one been correct in all of their doctrine? Even a cursory look through history shows us that every generation of the Church has missed or even perverted some key element of the truth of God and of Jesus. If right doctrine really were the criteria for being right with God, then no one in the history of the world would make it into heaven save Christ himself.)

The word “believe” in the original Greek goes beyond how we think of Jesus in the abstract. When it comes to the work of faith, what really matters is how much and to what degree we actively trust in him, and entrust our lives to him. In real belief, Jesus is not merely a consultant for our lives, not merely a helper, not merely a comforter, not merely a guide. He is our life. He becomes the air we depend on to live moment to moment, the ground beneath our feet that holds up our very existence.

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“Our culture has accepted two huge lies: The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear them or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.” ~ Rick Warren

Not too many days from now, billions of people around the world will gather with their families to celebrate the holidays. Even in the most ordinary of years, these gatherings can be stressful. In most families, not every member sees the world in the same way. Not everyone agrees on what’s to be done about the common challenges we face. Not everyone likes the leaders we’ve had or have now, or the decisions they’ve made, or plan to make.

In a year like the one we’ve just experienced, these tensions of difference are running particularly high for just about all of us. You’ve probably already wondered just how volatile things might get around the holiday table this year. Even in the calmest of families, the likelihood that somebody will say something that sets somebody else off are considerably higher than they may have been in previous years.

If this past election cycle has shown us anything, it’s that we need a better way of talking with each other. Attacking, judging, shaming, yelling, condescending, hating, breaking off relationship…these approaches may feel justified in the moment, but they’re very unlikely to produce any sort of lasting solution that honors us all.

Thankfully, there is an alternative approach. It’s called “Civil Conversation,” and it’s a skilled way of talking and listening that every one of us needs to learn for the sake of the common challenges we share and must find a way to resolve together.

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SuzannMollnerThis week I’m happy to welcome my friend Suzann Moller to the blog. Suzann is the founder of Beirut & Beyond, a faith-based organization focused on bringing relief, reconciliation and relationship to Palestinian refugees across the Middle East. Suzann has worked with vulnerable populations around the world, including Africa, Europe, Thailand, the Middle East and the US. She has served people living with AIDs, the homeless, refugees, orphans and others marginalized by society. Her passion as a Christian is to be with those the world overlooks and to extend love, peace, mercy and justice to those very people in impossible situations. She’s one of my heroes, and is currently in need of more people like me to join her team. I hope you’ll consider becoming one of them.

I was lying in the bed the other night – OK, 3AM to be precise – with my mind racing. I was trying to put together a plan while I waited for bad news or not as bad news. I thought of an incredible blog post (I do my best creative thinking in the middle of the night) only to wake up a few hours later with the realization that what I thought was so brilliant was utter nonsense. My mind was just too cluttered.

The next day at the gym while on the cross-trainer, I found myself coming up with Plan A, then Plan B, then Plan C. All in sequence: if this happens, then this new plan needs to happen; if that doesn’t happen, then this needs to happen. Can you sense my inner chaos? All because I was stuck in an “unknown situation.” Not having certainty, not having a plan, being in limbo, is the absolute worst for me.

Earlier that week, I was told I need surgery, probably sooner rather than later. That in itself is bad news. I had plans to go back the Middle East this fall, not only for my work plans, but because that beautiful, chaotic, complicated place is where my soul flourishes. When I am there, I feel like I am living out who I am supposed to be and what I am supposed to do with my life. I also was told I needed to get a MRI to rule out cancer. Mother flippin’ cancer. I have been diagnosed with cancer twice, thyroid cancer. Now, thyroid cancer is treatable; it’s not going to kill me but it does disrupt my life. It’s a severe nuisance and it alters my plans. And as you can tell I LOVE my plans! Dang it now!

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guy-baptismprayer

“When patterns are broken, new worlds emerge.” ~ Tuli Kupferberg

Here’s something I hear quite often in my coaching sessions: “I’m just waiting on God to reveal His will to me. I’m willing to do whatever He wants; I just need Him to show me. I don’t understand why He’s waiting so long to tell me what He wants me to do. Maybe I’m just not listening hard enough? Or maybe there’s some lesson for me in His silence? Why isn’t God telling me what He wants?”

Now, let me say up front this kind of situation has some nuance to it. It’s certainly commendable that you want to know God’s will. It’s even more commendable that you are willing to surrender yourself to His direction ~ what Ruth Haley Barton calls the “Prayer of Indifference”. So I’m not saying either of those dispositions of the heart are wrong or undesirable. Far from it! They are awesome.

But for many who pray this sort of “just tell me what to do” prayer, there is something false about it. Something escapist. Something that pretends holiness, but in truth just wants to avoid the responsibility of making a decision. It’s like the young man of 25 years who begs his parents to tell him what career he should choose. He’s not a child anymore. Such a decision is no longer his parents’ to make. Yet he wonders in exasperation why they won’t reveal to him their will for his life.

Somehow we’ve lost touch with this basic truth: the life of faith is inherently developmental. We grow and mature over time ~ at least we’re supposed to ~ and as we do, our relationship with God must grow and mature too. This is God’s will for everyone. His nature is developmental. He is always about the business of growing us up.

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