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Dealing With Disappointment

Every believer deal with being disappointed with God. Recently, I’ve been thinking about being disappointed. Whenever I am faced with an issue–either personal or pastoral–I often come back to the writer who is the source of so much contemporary theology, C.S. Lewis. Cherish these words from The Screwtape Letters: With Screwtape Proposes a Toast‘ (an older demon instructor mentoring a younger).

“Work hard, then, on the disappointment or anti-climax which is certainly coming to the patient during the first few weeks as a churchman. The Enemy allows this disappointment to occur on the threshold of every human endeavor. It occurs when the boy who has been enchanted in the nursery by Stories from the Odyssey buckles down to really learning Greek. It occurs when lovers have got married and begin the real task of learning to live together. In every department of life it marks the transition from dreaming aspiration to laborious doing. The Enemy takes this risk because He has a curious fantasy of making all these disgusting little human vermin into what He calls His “free” lovers and servants–“sons” is the word He uses, with His inveterate love of degrading the whole spiritual world by unnatural liaisons with the two-legged animals. Desiring their freedom, He therefore refuses to carry them, by their mere affections and habits, to any of the goals which He sets before them: He leaves them to “do it on their own.” And there lies our opportunity. But also, remember, there lies our danger. If only they get through this initial dryness successfully, they become much less dependent on emotion and therefore much less harder to tempt.”

It occurs to me that the “initial dryness” doesn’t go away after we’ve been disciples for a while, but re-occurs at every intersection in which we attempt to step out with Jesus into something new.

We are never safe because Jesus makes all things new.

What helps you get through times of disappointment? What has been God’s word to you?

4 Unexpected Leadership Lessons

This past Sunday was my last as the Senior Minister at Redwood Church. It was more than I could have hoped for. My family’s time in California, in the grand scheme, has been brief, yet extraordinarily fruitful. I can’t speak for the congregation, but Rochelle and I are different and better people. We’ve learned much about leadership and loving a church. Mostly, we’ve learned the hard way. And we are eternally grateful for a congregation that allowed us to test, experiment, fail and recover.

Here are a few of our unexpected lessons learned the hard way:

1. Conviction Is Key. In the life of a congregation there are thousands of decisions. In fact, there are thousands of different and difficult decisions to make everyday. This means that leaders need to lead by conviction; knowing what they believe and how to achieve. Andy Stanley says  in Visioneering: God’s Blueprint for Developing and Maintaining Vision that engineering a vision is both knowing what your vision is and having the conviction to bring it to fruition. Leaders who lack conviction will have their vision blown to and fro by the changing winds. In addition, without conviction, slights and criticisms weigh more than they ought. If you’re going to succeed or fail do so under the pressure of your own God-given vision.

2. There’s A Thin Line Between Love & Hate. That’s an overstatement…sort of. In her book Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith Barbara Brown Taylor writes of her leaving congregational ministry. As she exits the pastorate she is reminded of the words of one of her ministerial mentors. He said, “The people who hate you don’t hate you as much as you think they hate you and the people who love you don’t love you as much as you think they love you.” It’s wise counsel. As a leader, you cannot avoid criticism. You will have both detractors and fans. Therefore, you can’t allow other’s opinions to shape your self-perception. And you certainly cannot allow other’s opinions to shape your activities. This is where Jesus’ ministry is key. In the course of a week, our Lord went from celebrated hero to Gethsemane. Crowds are fickle. Always have been.

3. Stay Ahead / Stay Fresh. For a leader to succeed s/he must be ahead of the organization. The leader is hardly ever the smartest person in a group, but they must be the one looking farther down the road. Church world is hectic. And when the leader has to teach and preach each week, looking forward can easily become the first thing to fall by the wayside. It can’t. A few times I struggled to get ahead, to know what was coming in 3, 6, or 9 months. When I stayed ahead, the entire organization functioned better, when I was scrambling we all suffered.

4. Love Before You Lead. I once heard Francis Chan say that he knew he could lead a church, he just didn’t know if he loved his church. That was powerful. And it changed my view of leadership. Recently a friend of mind stepped into a senior ministry position. He called to ask my thoughts. In response I told him that the first thing he should do is make sure that everyone in hos new church knew that he loved them. The apostle Paul was right, the greatest thing you can do as a leader is offer love. What’s more, if people’s hearts aren’t open to you, then you’re dead in the water.

What unexpected lessons have you learned about leadership and church life? What wasn’t covered in class that might help us all lead our churches to greater heights in the God’s kingdom?

Being Conventional (or why I can’t take Boise St football seriously)

Success is rooted in the conventional. There I said it! I know, I know – there’s a lot in this day and age about creativity and innovation and that’s all well and good. But if you’re not careful you can become so consumed with innovation that you forget about convention and the myriad ways it serves your organization. When you fail to be somewhat conventional, you’re compromising your success, and I’ll tell you why.

But first, a caveat: I LOVE innovation, creativity and moving organizations and churches forward in ways we hadn’t imagined before. In fact, the majority of the world’s accomplishments have been made through innovation and many of today’s more pressing societal concerns will be solved through creativity and innovation, but there is a place for convention.There is a wonderful place for innovation and I love it, but there’s a necessary place for convention as well. And it’s a necessary place for success — especially for leaders.

Why do I think this? Boise State football.

For years now, Boise St. has been ascending in the college football rankings, but still, many people like me can’t take them seriously. The reason? They dismiss convention by playing on a blue field. And when your organization completely dismisses convention you put your success at risk. Here’s why?

Continue Reading…

What’s Your Hurricane? Find Your Purpose.

Have you  noticed how the good folks over at The Weather Channel get far too excited about hurricanes! You’ve seen them. Jim Cantore, standing in boots, winds gusting while reeds sway in the background. Alexandra Steele covering the action with eyes glistening. If you didn’t know better, you’d think they were giddy about some beach city on the verge of destruction.
Why are they so exhilarated?

They live for hurricanes!

This is what they got in the biz for; why they went to school. 85-degrees and partly cloudy doesn’t quicken the pulse quite like a Cat 5. So when there’s a tropical depression turned tropical storm turned hurricane, it’s no wonder that they go nut-burgers when the tempests begin to rage.

So what’s your hurricane? Do you have one?

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How One Word Can Transform Your Life!

One word can change the way you do everything. One word can refocus your attention, focus your energies and create a new outlook in an instant.

Since I’ve never been one for New Year’s Resolutions, I decided this year that instead of picking one habit to incorporate, jettison, or enhance, I wanted to do something that would effect my entire life. I wanted something that would effect my church work, community leadership, reading, blogging, writing, speaking, investment in others, marriage, parenting, everything.

I chose one word.

One word to remind, inspire and focus my energies. The word? GRIND! (I know, it’s rife for humor as a word. I get it) Anyway…

Everyday Is A Grind

Grind reminds me that at any time when I feel a lull in enthusiasm or energy, there is something I could be doing – creating blog, sermon, or class content, exercising, returning e-mail, deepening and communicating my vision for organizations I partner with, investing in relationships with my wife and daughters, sharpening my mind or bettering my story-telling through reading and writing, or simply working on some unfinished project around the house. It reminds me that life is work, and to get the most out of it is a grind. All I have to say to myself is, “Grind!” And what was about to become a time suck – flipping channels, YouTube, worrying about something I can’t control, etc… – gets turned into opportunity moment. I then can transition into something that will actually benefit someone. Recently a friend asked me how I was managing to spend time with my wife and kids, say goodbye to friends, pack boxes, make arrangements for moving, blog, preach and launch a new venture. The answer: Grind! It’s my word. GRIND! reminds me that I can be making something in my life better.

You need a word too.

You need a word to agitate your laziness into action.

You need a word to give clarity to moments of fuzzyheadedness.

You need a word to keep you moving toward your goals.

You need a word.

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