Wednesday, April 23, 2014

How do we know if we truly empower our staff?

How do we know if we truly empower our staff or simply pay lip service to the concept. None of us as leaders would want to believe that we disempower staff, but it is often exactly what we do. Because leaders are intent on what they are doing they often do not realize that their actions can be disempowering to those around them. If you lead others, think through these behaviors which can disempower and annoy/irritate those who work for us.

We expect our staff to be flexible with us but we are not flexible with them.

We frequently make last minute changes without explanation that have a ripple impact down the line. An example would be pastors who make changes to the service on Friday after everything has been planned and expect that folks will simply comply even though it means a whole team of people must then respond at a most inconvenient time.

We feel free to be harsh or critical because we can with people who cannot push back. Leaders have an unfair advantage in venting on their staff as they do not have the freedom to vent back. Just because we have the positional authority does not mean we can be careless with our words, emotions or attitudes. In fact, it is precisely because we have authority that our standard must be higher.

We delegate responsibility without full authority. This happens when we give someone the responsibility to solve a problem but we still feel free to change the solution at the last minute. If we feel that we have that freedom we should solve the problem ourselves rather than giving someone else responsibility and then ripping the rug from under their feet.

We tell people what to do rather than dialogue and ask for their input. This feels very much like a parent communicating with a child rather than a colleague talking to another colleague. Every time we choose to tell or demand without conversation we lose valuable relational points.

We make assumptions about motives or actions without first ascertaining the facts. Facts matter a lot. If I hear something and say something without first getting the actual facts which includes talking to those involved I will inevitably make unfair statements that hurt. It is careless and hurtful on our part.

We don't prepare for and lead meetings well. When this happens we communicate to staff who must be at the meeting, "you were not important enough to me to prepare for you." Waste your staff's time in meetings and you create cynicism and irritation. Many leaders are guilty of this one.

We don't spend quality time with our staff. If we ignore our staff, do not engage with them beyond a surface level, they pick up on this quickly. They know what it means: "We are not important to you." "You do not value or trust us." It is a dangerous move because when push comes to shove, staff will only go to the wall for leaders with whom they have a healthy relationship.

We shut down discussion on issues we are uncomfortable with. This communicates to staff that they are not free to interact with us except on those issues we are willing to talk about. If this becomes a pattern it effectively keeps staff from telling us what they think, as if that means that all is OK. It is not. Those same staff will talk to one another and to others if they cannot talk to the leader leading to dysfunctional relationships that the leader is responsible for creating.

We are passive leaders. How does a passive leader disempower staff? By not creating a vision, cohesive mission and the missional clarity that is at the core of leading a team. Passive leadership is one of the most disempowering of all leadership actions. Even worse than bad leadership. Why would I want to invest myself in an organization that is going nowhere? Passive leaders squander the gifts of their staff and should not be in leadership.

Monday, April 21, 2014

From theological foes to personal friends: An example of civil discourse across a great divide

One of my bedrock convictions is that if people of differing points of view would develop friendships and relationships and seek to understand each other, much of the rancor and uncivil discourse we encounter in the church would fade. This is not about compromising our convictions but it is about relationship, a willingness to talk and a willingness to understand rather then to simply throw stones and vilify. 

In my observation, there is a whole cadre of Christians out there whose sole purpose in life is to vilify those who engage in dialogue with the "wrong people." And so the industry on the web to discredit people by their association with other people (Rick Warren's friendships with non-evangelical or Christians display number one). If person A, and evangelical, becomes friends with person B, a "heretic" that must make person A suspect as well. So lets go after person A. 

We have lost the ability to have civil discourse among many evangelicals (see my BLOG on this). This is amazing from my point of view when you consider who Jesus hung around with. What do you think He was doing when He  ate at the homes of sinners and Pharisees? Was He not developing relationships? Was He not developing the relational equity necessary to have a conversation about matters of the heart or life? I suspect that if the blogosphere had been around in His time, Jesus would have been castigated for all kinds of relationships.

So, with that introduction, let me share a recent article on what I wish was the case more often. "Two Ministers who forge a relationship across a church divide." I applaud these two men, who come from very different theological places, who started to talk, developed a friendship and in the process started to bring healing between two congregations. If peacemaking is part of the character and heart of God, these two are demonstrating God's character, while their critics in the blogosphere are often not. 

I wish more of this were happening within the evangelical community and that the professional heretic hunters would be seen for what they are when they demonstrate ungodly attitudes in order to castigate Godly enterprises.

(Posted from Santiago, Chile)

Sunday, April 20, 2014

On this day

On this day:
  • Satan was defeated
  • The Father's face was no longer turned away
  • Sadness turned to joy
  • People could be reconciled to God
  • The Holy Spirit would become available to each of us
  • All distinctions between individuals were erased at the cross
  • The church was the logical outcome as His bride
  • It became possible through the Holy Spirit to walk in the Spirit rather than in the flesh
  • Despair turned to amazed hope
  • The empty cross became the mark of the church
  • Reconciliation between brothers could mirror the reconciliation between God and us
  • All sin had been paid for
  • Jesus' scars would remain forever in testimony to the cross
  • God's D-Day had been won. Now it is just a matter of time before evil is put away for good.
  • A thief was already in heaven
  • Jesus honored all women by appearing to Mary Magdalene first
  • A cosmic spiritual shift took place in creation
  • We could now also look forward to resurrection
  • Every principality and power was defeated
  • Satan realized that his apparent victory was a colossal defeat
  • We live with resurrection hope
  • The law was eradicated and completed
  • The tomb was empty
  • Because His tomb was empty, our tomb will one day be empty
  • "He is Risen" changes everything!

Friday, April 18, 2014

The day after Good Friday

What do you think it was like the day after the crucifixion of Christ? Did Pilot wake up with a guilty conscience and wonder if he had done the right thing? Did the guards who had mocked Jesus and then seen Him on the cross, wonder if an innocent man had died? Did the crowds who had called for His life keep an embarrassed silence in a quiet Jerusalem? Someone was nervous for they asked the Roman garrison to post guards at His tomb. On the day after, Jesus' friends mourned, the Romans were nervous and some who had watched the execution were sure He was the Son of God.

It had to be a day like no other in Jerusalem. It had to be a day of quiet and consideration. It had to be a day of sober doubt after a day of impetuous action. I'll bet there were many disturbed consciences that day. The day between death and resurrection. A day of uncertainty and guilt. A day of hopelessness and sadness. 

We have days like that! I have experienced whole periods of life that hang between hope and despair. Uncertainty reigns. Sadness is prevalent, maybe dominant. It is the time in between life as it was and life as it will be - but not yet knowing what will be. It is the dark night of the soul with all the questions, uncertainties and unknowns.

It is the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It is real and it hurts and all of us experience it just as the disciples did, only in different ways. But there is another day coming...we know and we look forward to that day of hope. Always remember in the day of despair. The morning comes, and it comes with hope and resurrection power and salvation. In the in-between times, we need the words of Habakkuk, "Be still and know that I am God." Easter comes and so does Hope. 

Jews told to "register" in east Ukraine by pro Russia group! What does this remind you of?

USA Today reported this story on April 17. It should give one pause as to the intentions of the pro Russian groups in the region.

Here is the LINK to the USA Today article.

Good Friday: Things are not always what they appear to be!

One of the lessons of Good Friday is that what appears to be true is not always true. On this day the cosmic battle between Satan and God culminated in what Satan thought was his greatest victory. That battle had been waged from the time of the fall (Genesis 3:15) where God made it clear that one day Satan would be defeated. But on this  day, Satan knew he had won. The Son of God is on the cross, alone, abandoned even by His Father who didn't seem able to rescue Him. Thirty pieces of silver was all it had taken, the best deal ever in the history of evil.

The disciples knew it was over. Jesus' friends knew it was over. The Jewish authorities knew it was over - their problem solved, a rival gone. Not only that but for those who cared, evil had won over good and righteousness. For the followers of Christ, this was the ultimate sadness. They had expected righteousness to triumph and instead, evil had prevailed. The one who had called Himself the Son of God, dead on a bitter cross. 

Little did they know that what appeared to be the final chapter was only the beginning of a new chapter because out of the jaws of apparent defeat, Christ would not only be resurrected but in that resurrection he sealed the fate of Satan and evil and unrighteousness for all time and made it possible for the created to have a relationship with the creator. Apparent defeat was only the prelude to total victory! 

Not for one moment had the events of Good Friday been out of the control of the heavenly Father even though it looked like the Father had lost all control. He is sovereign and nothing under His control can ever be out of control. The world learned that on Easter Sunday.

Think about your own life for a moment. Where are the areas that seem to be out of control? Where does it feel like evil has won? Where are the apparent areas where you feel defeat, discouragement, sadness or pain? It is easy to see the Good Friday moments in our lives when it is clear that God has not acted and we need His help. It is harder to wait for the resurrection moments when God shows up as He always does and redeems what we thought was unredeemable - often in surprising and unique ways.

Whatever your circumstance you can be sure that Easter is coming and that things are not always what they appear to be. In the end, nothing that is in His control can ever be out of control and God always prevails. Our job is to walk by faith in the Good Friday moments of life when life is hard and hope is scarce, waiting for our Easter to arrive when He shows up and redeems our situation. The fun thing about Easter was that it was such a surprise. Invite Jesus to surprise you in your situation today.

(Posted from Oakdale, MN)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Why Younger Evangelicals Are Leaving the Church: Some Arguments against the Conventional Wisdom

This is a very insightful article on a very important issue. Click on this LINK to read.

(Posted from Oakdale, MN)