Category Archives: Character

The Habit of Taking Time to Think.

When we think about the habits of spiritual leaders, we typically think about the spiritual disciplines—the devotional life, studying the Word, prayer, worship, ministry, service, etc. They are important.

But there are other habits often overlooked in our leadership development. For the next several weeks, I am focusing on some of those.

I first talked about reading that which broadens and sharpens us. Last week, I focused on listening to those who challenge our thinking.

Today, let’s look at the habit of taking time to think. Richard J. Foster, in his Celebration of Discipline, devotes whole chapters to meditation, study, and solitude. The input folks love his chapter on study; introverts value solitude.

I know some of us are external and verbal processors. Some of us are more comfortable planning, thinking ahead, and dreaming. Some are reflective, we journal, and we put things in context. Some are abstract and others more concrete in how we learn and process information; some are sequential, others random.

But regardless of your particular preference, if you don’t take time to put the events of your life together in such a way as to see what God is doing in and through you, we can easily fall into the trap of thinking we are simply being tossed about by chance or other factors beyond our control. You must have time to process.

You need time unplugged. And in our world we must be intentional about unplugging. It’s not comfortable, we are afraid we will miss something, and it is easy to elevate our own importance and indispensability.

Three years ago, Chris and her brother received some inheritance money. He and his wife planned to spend a week in Sweden and take a Baltic Sea cruise. Chris is half Swedish and half Norwegian. She asked if they wanted company. Sure! So we spent most of three weeks in a part of the world where wifi is everywhere, but you had to buy a meal or a service to get it!

We actually found ourselves unplugged for a good part of our time. That was an unusual experience for me. Unnerving at first, and then eventually, quite refreshing as I focused on the history and culture, time with family, the travel exper-ience, and time to sit and think apart from concerns back home.

Chris took a number of pictures of me sitting on benches, just sitting. This one shows me overlooking an inlet on the North Sea.

They say that men have a compartment in our brains with nothing in it. However true that may be, a leader develops his or her own way of taking the time to think.

 

Charity Toward Those Who Disagree With Us.

When we think about the habits of spiritual leaders, we typically think about the spiritual disciplines—the devotional life, studying the Word, prayer, worship, ministry, service, etc. They are important. But there are other habits often overlooked in our leadership development.

I talked about reading last week. Christian biographies, the works of Christian leaders, other aspects of the Christian life, and issues facing the church today are important. But so is reading the Classics, history, science, and other academic disciplines. It broadens our minds and sharpens our thinking.

So, also, is the habit of listening and engaging with those who disagree with us. I find that most Christians today are comfortable only with reading or talking with those whom we agree. We, actually, are better when we seek out, spend time with, and befriend those not like us.

My neighbor of some 15 years voted for the other guy in every election that I’ve known him. His views and values differ from mine. He reads and gets his input from different sources than I do. We don’t shy away from those areas of disagreement, nor do they define our relationship. I consider John one of my very best friends. We run together. We watch each other’s dogs when they are out of town. We share meals together. His friendship is most important to me.

But that hasn’t always been the case. I made some mistakes years ago in thinking I could change his mind and have him see things my way. But I had to learn not to focus on the differences but on those things that bind us together. Family is incredibly important to him. John and his wife are great parents. They take pride in our neighborhood and are respectful of others. They attend a different church and have involved themselves in mission and community development.

All that to say, the differences have sharpened and expanded each of us, but don’t define our friendship.

The ability to befriend those who think differently is not all that is at stake. It’s also how we actually discuss those differences that will either deepen a friendship or lead to one fractured. Listening without responding, hearing the position and the heart behind it without being defensive, and acknowledging the unspoken feelings and perceptions without posturing are all critical to building the relationship.

We naturally want to win. And by the time we arrive at a place of leadership, we’ve usually been right a good part of the time. But in my reading the Gospels, I find that Jesus usually answers a question with a question; and especially, the challenging ones.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the lawyer wishing to test Jesus about how to inherit eternal life was answered with a question. He gave the right answer and Jesus commended him for it. But the lawyer seeking to justify himself asked another, and that’s when he told this now familiar parable. Jesus ends with another question, which one was his neighbor? Then finally our Lord says, “Go and do likewise.”

I’m struck by what Jesus did not do. He didn’t argue. He didn’t “one up” or blister him with a zinger. He wasn’t cutting or defensive.

How do others receive us? Do we have an edge? Do we need to be right? Can we be charitable with those whom we differ? Do we immerse ourselves in groupthink? Are we afraid of being tainted, or losing control?

At the same time we don’t roll over and play dead. Being confident with our own thoughts and actions while comfortably engaging with those who live and believe differently is a habit of an effective leader.

Spring Coaching Tips

Acclimatization.

I passed a car today with a bumper stick that read, “It’s not all so ‘bumper sticker slogan’ simple.”

That’s true in politics, business, the Christian life, and, even re-organizational design.

I’m reading the book “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer, detailing the 1996 expedition to the summit of Mt. Everest and the tragedy on the descent.

The month-long process of “acclimatization”, adjusting physiologically to the rarified atmosphere of high altitudes, was far from a straight line up the summit.

Krakauer was asked by the editor of Outside magazine to join an expedition to Mt. Everest, elevation 29,028 feet, and then to write an article about its commercialization. Having never ascended above 17,200 feet, he spent a year in preparation before joining the team in India in late March 1996 who would then take him to the summit.

They arrived at the 17,600 foot high Base Camp on April 12. At that altitude, the oxygen level is 50% of that at sea level. At the summit, it decreases to 1/3 of that at sea level. While the human body will adjust, it can take weeks to acclimatize. To do so they would need to reach various camps spaced about 2000 feet vertically up the mountain.

Krakauer’s expedition ascended and descended to these camps with varying rates and duration:

  • Base Camp to Camp 1, and then back to Base Camp.
  • Base Camp to Camps 1 and 2, then back to 1 and Base Camp.
  • Base Camp to Camps 1, 2, and 3, then back to 2, 1, and Base.

After a series of attempts and days of rest and recovery from different altitude complications, Krakauer reached the summit on May 10, more than a month after arriving at the Base Camp. He only remained at the top of the world for 5 minutes; hardly time to bask in his achievement.

In Romans 8:12-17, the Apostle Paul says, “Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” NIV

Different tenses indicate past facts, present realities, and future outcomes in that passage. Past events such as Christ’s work on our behalf and our response of faith, make a difference in how we live today. And these present realities in our life of faith determine a future character and destiny. They are interconnected.

While time is linear, our walk of faith is not. We take steps forward and back, forward again two steps, then back. Sometimes we experience great strides, but other times it’s really tough slogging. There are moments of clarity, as well as dark perplexity. And we pray for times of rest and recovery along the way. But in all of that, growth is happening, “acclimatization”, if you will, is taking place, and Jesus is becoming both the object of our affection and our source of satisfaction if we take His yoke upon us.

There is joy in the journey. Do we believe that? What we are experiencing in our ministry today has required our own spiritual acclimatization. Only as we submit to His lordship and “keep seeking the things above” (Colossians 3:1) are we able to take higher ground.

And finally, from “The Valley of Vision”, a collection of Puritan prayers and devotions, the one entitled “Openness” reads,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring Coaching Tips

Selected Tips from Fall 2016

 

The Power of Gifts.

The Student LINC and Coaching Center teams are reading and discussing Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? by Seth Godin. It has been out of the box from our normal reading.

We in Cru like to think we’re indispensable, or at least that’s what we tell our partners! The way Godin sees it, to succeed in today’s social and economic situation, we need to look at our role differently, to become linchpins, to make ourselves indispensable.

The chapter on “The Powerful Culture of Gifts.” stood out to me. Here a few excerpts:

“I must have been absent that day at Stanford business school.
“They don’t spend a lot of time teaching you about the power of unreciprocated gifts, about the long (fifty thousand years) tradition of tribal economics being built around the idea of mutual support and generosity. In fact, I don’t think the concept is even mentioned once. We’ve been so brainwashed, it doesn’t even occur to us that there might be an alternative to ‘How much should I charge, how much can I make?’ p. 150.

“You best give a gift without knowing or being concerned with whether it will be repaid…The magic of the gift system is that the gift is voluntary, not part of a contract. The gift binds the recipient to the giver, and both of them to the community…Gifts not only satisfy our needs as artists [that which we offer to others that impacts them], they also signal to the world that we have plenty more to share. This perspective is magnetic. The more you have in your cup, the more likely people are to want a drink.” p. 154.

“I don’t write my blog to get anything from you in exchange. I write it because giving my small gift to the community in the form of writing makes me feel good. I enjoy it that you enjoy it. When that gift comes back to me, one day, in an unexpected way, I enjoy the work I did twice as much.” p. 169.

Erin Brasher, Destino Distance Coach, shared some of her thoughts with me on this topic.

  • I saw a lot of correlation between our work and the thoughts in this chapter. The people I serve don’t pay me for the “gifts” I give them.
  • The closest thing to the Gospel I read in this book is on page 164 where he writes, “A priceless gift has been given, one that can never be valued monetarily or paid for or reciprocated.” It reminded me of Romans 6:22,23 and Acts 8:18-20
  • At the top of page 171, Godin writes, “And this is the challenge of becoming the linchpin. Not only must you be an artist, must you be generous, and must you be able to see where you can help, but you must also be aware. Aware of where your skills are welcomed.” The greatest challenge of gift-giving isn’t having the best gifts, but of others receiving any gift you give.
  • My last thought was a challenge about how we could be better recipients of gifts we’ve received using his “thank you and …” formula from page 171.

Godin mentions being an artist frequently. He defines art as a “personal gift that changes the recipient. The medium doesn’t matter. The intent does.”

The “thank you and…” formula Erin referred to was stated this way. “If you appreciate a gift, consider saying ‘thank you and …’ Such as “…and I dog-eared forty of the pages,” “…and I told your boss what a wonderful thing you did…”

Practically all that we do in the ministry is gift giving. From sharing the Gospel, to establishing others in their faith, to discipling them, to praying for others, to launching movements so that more can hear the Good News, these all relate to giving gifts. Most of us do these out of sheer enjoyment and we know there is reward eventually for our efforts.

But do we ever bargain with God that we are doing such and such and why doesn’t He do such and such? Do we give gifts easily in some areas, but sure want others to know about it? Or do we subtly expect reciprocity?

I have always known the power of words, but I’m trying to be more intentional about speaking gifts to others. Someone really good at this is Lee Cooksey, Chief of Staff for the High School Ministry. He often jots a note, sends a text, or just generally makes you feel like you hung the moon.

Two other gifts of a different sort that I try to give are wiping my paper towel across the counter at the coffee bar, leaving it just a bit cleaner for the next person, and pushing chairs under tables so that the room has a neat, inviting appearance for those coming after. These are small actions, but speak to being aware of others.

What gifts do you want to give today?

Ending the Year Well

APEST

We talk a lot in our ministry about “growing where we are” and “going where we aren’t”.

There are skills for launching a movement, and others, such as evangelism, discipleship, teaching, crossing cultural bridges, coaching, networking, fund development, etc., for building one. Sometimes it’s hard to sort out natural gifting and abilities from what our training has developed in us.

APEST is an assessment that measures ministry motivation and expression. Based upon the fivefold ministry of Ephesians 4, Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds, and Teacher, APEST helps you find your unique ministry contribution.

You can read more about APEST with descriptions of each of the five ministries.

Here is an excerpt from that page.

“The APEST material originated in the writings of Paul. For there to be movement or growth in any context, a team should draw upon the natural energy and momentum inherent in each member. Every person functions in unique ways. It is remarkable when a group allows each member to function out of their natural capacities, thus contributing to the overall movement, direction, and wisdom of a team. APEST™ is designed to help people identify their natural, ministry motivation and expression in a given situation.”

You can view a sample profile report.

You can begin your own assessment here.

In their explanation, they say, “APEST leads one to new areas of learning and integration for increased ministry engagement [and] provides a quantified result to identify one’s current place for influence within a larger community.

With so much that we are trusting God to do, it is so important that we all find our unique contribution to the mission.

Thankfulness and Civility

Is it ever okay to be uncivil in anonymity?
Can I “nail” someone and be filled with the Holy Spirit?

Thanksgiving is right around the corner. As Christians we often talk about the importance of being thankful all year round. Can you post a zinger on Facebook and still be thankful in your heart? Christ-likeness is an essential characteristic of one who walks with Jesus, and even more so for those of us who serve Him. Can I tweet a slam and be considered Christ-like?

I was recently told of someone who received their 15 minutes of fame, not by their own chosing. Peter Greer, is president and CEO of a global nonprofit. He posted a picture that went viral. In three days, it had 18 million views. Many of the comments turned out to be ugly and down-right mean.

Greer shared several lessons from the experience, one was “we need to learn how to disagree.” His blog post is a thoughtful read.
http://www.peterkgreer.com/2014/11/14/the-day-my-photo-went-viral-and-why-it-wasnt-awesome/

For those of us who make our living proclaiming the Gospel, it is even more incumbent upon us to be civil in both our public and private interactions, both face-to-face and from behind a computer screen.

For further reading.
Words.
A Chance to Build Trust.

Caring for those we lead.

My wife and I lead the marriage preparation class in our church. Two young folks, each on the staff of our church in congregational services, are in the current class. Because much of their work happens during our class time, they didn’t think it would work to attend. Their bosses encouraged them to come.

I suggested that it showed their bosses cared more about them than what they can accomplish. They agreed. They indicated that because of that care, they wanted to be the best staff they could be.

It’s been said,
“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink.”
You can, however, put salt in their hay!

I have often told students over the years that I care more about them than what they can do for us.

I was sitting in an elders’ meeting recently listening to two counselors, also elders, share about caring for our people. They said, “The vast majority of peoples’ needs can be met by someone who cares.”

In other words, people that we may think need a counselor simply need to be in a caring community. They called this “soul care” and they described it this way.

L- Love

  • Go to where they are.
  • Are you curious about where those feelings come from?
  • Feelings reveal reality. Explore feelings.
  • Feelings are driven by perspective. Perspective is driven by beliefs.

O- Offer yourself 

  • It’s easy to identify people by sin. But the New Testament refers to people as saints.
  • Requires vulnerability on our part.
  • Helping self-disclosure is healthy.

V- Validate.

  • Most of us want to vindicate.
  • We need to be about valuing others.
  • People need to feel safe.
  • Asking questions. “Tell me more about…”
  • Do we want to fix them more than we want to know them?

E- Encourage.

  • When we know the good, the bad and the ugly and still love them, that’s very encouraging to them.

There is so much more that can be said about soul care. And there is much to consider as we think about it in terms of Win, Build, Send. If you are interested in exploring more, there are free counseling courses available at Christiancourses.com.

This closes out my summer series of tips on being a better minister. Next week I begin another year of coaching tips on making win, build, send easier and extending our reach to more and more.