Wednesday, July 1, 2015

You can't control the human heart of another person

How many of us have a plan for the life of someone else? It can be a child, a grandchild, a staff member or a friend. And for that matter, how many people have a plan for our lives? And, there are those who would like to fix others - to help them solve their problems or perceived problems. That fact is that we cannot control the human heart of another person. We can influence them (see my book Deep Influence), but we cannot control them. And when we do we actually try to take the role of the Holy Spirit.

In the role of leader of a mission organization I spend a great deal of time helping others determine their role in the organization as well as potential staff members who are moving our way. It is a delicate role. What I can do is indicate that there is a potential fit but what I cannot do is determine for them whether they either want that fit or feel called to it. Only they and the Holy Spirit can determine that. And the Holy Spirit has a wonderful way of revealing to us where we should be if we listen.

This is also why I hold all staff with an open hand. There are many times when staff resign that I wish it were not so but who am I to question the direction of the Holy Spirit in their lives? What I don't like is when people leave because they don't feel they have a large enough platter because we can generally solve that if we had know about it. But God's call and fit are His issue, not mine. The day will come when God will call me from this job to something else and again, that is His role, not mine.

We need to be careful in our mentoring and coaching of others, informally or formally, not to take responsibility for what is God's role in their lives. We can give feedback, provide counsel and encourage but ultimately we must always give others the ability to decide what is best for them - between them and God. Not to do so is to potentially put them in a place that is not where they belong. Some people will respond to the pressure of others rather than from the guidance of the Holy Spirit. 

God has a plan for my life, and yours. I have insights into that plan for others but cannot play the role of determining that plan.

Posted from Oakdale, MN

All of T.J. Addington's books including his latest, Deep Influence,  are available from the author for the lowest prices and a $2.00 per book discount on orders of ten or more.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Six issues to avoid for those in professional ministry

Professional ministry can be a place of great joy and great frustration. It is the frustrating part that can often cause us angst. My own observation is that there are six issues that those in professional ministry need to guard against.

Cynicism: Let's face it, lots of people are not going to get with the program. I remember people who attended the church I pastored who came once in a while but it seemed that God never touched their lives. At least it didn't seem that way to me. It is easy to become cynical but those folks have always been out there. As have the hard times in ministry when the arrows come from the pew and not from the pagans. There are times when we just need to fight cynicism off because it is not what God wants for us and it won't allow us to minister well. Jesus is our judge and He wants us to be faithful.

Anger: It is a close second to cynicism. It is easy to become angry: power politics in the church, how long it takes to get something done, feeling under appreciated, and any number of things. Anger is often about us instead of other people. Things didn't move on my timetable or in my way. It pops up in unexpected places but when it does, it is time to take stock of myself rather than of others. 

Self-focus: The two issues above are really about allowing ourselves to focus on ourselves rather than on those we are called to minister to. No one said ministry was easy, in fact no one should go into ministry who has something better to do. It is hard, and it becomes harder when our focus is on ourselves. There is plenty to complain about but only when our focus is in the wrong place. Read Paul's list of issues he faced. Yet he did not focus on himself but the mission God gave him. It changed the picture for him.

Professional Spirituality: This is about allowing our work for God to take precedence over our relationship with God. It is easy to do and most of us in ministry have done it. But it is a trap because Jesus wants us, not just our work for him. There is no substitute for our own personal time with Jesus and for our own followership. Just because we may know more than others (and it is often not true) it does not translate into a deeper relationship with Him unless we are deeply intentional about it.

Misidentity: This follows from the last. It is allowing our identity to be formed by our work rather than our relationship with the living God. It is also why many Christian professionals are quick to take offence when people disagree with them. They have not separated their identity in Jesus with the work that they do. 

Arrogance: It can come from knowing too much, having the wrong identity and a professional spirituality. No one in ministry should be arrogant but a lot seem to be. The way to guard against arrogance is to be focused on others and to guard our own hearts against its insidious grip. Other focus, accountability with people who know us and will tell us the truth and an identity in Jesus are all keys to remaining humble.

Posted from Oakdale, MN

All of T.J. Addington's books including his latest, Deep Influence,  are available from the author for the lowest prices and a $2.00 per book discount on orders of ten or more.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

One nation under God. Can we claim to be a Christian nation today?

The Supreme Court decision this past week only clarifies the unfortunate fact that we cannot any longer be called a Christian nation. It is the logical outcome of many seismic shifts that we have seen in our nation since at least the 1960's which brought with it the abandonment of authority and at least a modicum of a Christian world view.

Do you remember John Lennon's song Imagine? A beautiful ballad but have you listened carefully to what he said?

Imagine there's no heaven

It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today...
Imagine there's no countries

It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...
You may say I'm a dreamer

But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

What John Lennon imagined has largely come true. We are living for ourselves and have cast off Biblical truth. The results perhaps were not, however what he might have imagined imagined.

The Supreme Court decision in 1973 in Roe V. Wade led to the diminished view of what it means to be people made in God's image leaving 55,772,015 image bearers to die in the womb. Now with the redefinition of marriage - the first Creation Ordinance God gave mankind - the logical outcome of the journey our nation has been on away from God has taken its next step.

This is not simply a reflection of a Supreme Court that has redefined liberties and in this case the fundamental backbone of any healthy society - the family. Rather we must admit that it is reflection of a society moving away from God and of Christians who have often not upheld the truth of the Gospel. 

Indeed, the mainline denominations have been losing people for a long time because the Gospel is no longer preached or believed, except in a very general "feel good" sense. It is also true that materialism has hijacked the Christian commitment of many who call themselves believers, the concept of any absolute truth is not understood even by many who call themselves "evangelicals" and the legalism of many churches on the other side has led to its own bondage rather than the freedom of the Gospel.

It is easy for believers to point fingers at whoever is in the White House, Congress or Supreme court. But perhaps the real issue is that we the church have not been living out the Gospel in our own lives and bringing those same commitments of truth and grace into our neighborhoods, workplaces and circles of influence. In essence we have not produced disciples of Jesus who follow Him relentlessly and the lack of disciplemaking may even point to a lack of disciples in church leadership in many cases. 

Basic theology is neither widely understood or believed in many "Christian" circles. Just get into a discussion on whether Jesus is the only way to God and salvation and more often than not one will hear that He is one way but not the only way. Individual "believers" have found it easy to ignore those things in Scripture that are not convenient. The inerrancy of the Scripture as the ground of truth has seriously eroded leaving many in the churches that call themselves evangelical to choose which truth is applicable to their own lives and which they can ignore. 

Many of those who are the most vocal critics of the changes taking place in our society ignore the fact that it may be those of us who call ourselves believers who share much of the responsibility. It is easy to point at the sin of others and far less comfortable to evaluate ourselves. When we as the church are not truly salt and light, do not stand for truth (with the graciousness of Jesus) and do not live that truth ourselves, we share in the responsibility for where our society moves. Culture wars have been fought for decades with often vociferous voices that do not reflect the grace of Jesus while we have ignored the inconsistency in our own lives. Perhaps we should have fought fewer culture wars and instead focused on living like Jesus and being Jesus to others.

My conclusion is that we are not a Christian nation and have not been so for a long time. In fact, while we were founded on Christian principles, no nation is a Christian nation. 

But for me that is not a cause of depression. Daniel thrived in Babylon along with his believing compatriots. Esther thrived in a pagan court. Abraham thrived among those countries around him who were totally pagan. The heroes of Hebrews 11 thrived even under difficult and even fatal conditions. Those who follow Jesus relentlessly make an impact on those around them as they live out the Gospel in all of its implications. I often say "It matters more who is in my house (Jesus) than who is in the White House. The challenge for Christ followers is actually to follow Him with all our heart, soul and mind and to love our neighbor as our-self (The Great Commandment). That makes the difference no matter where the society around us is headed.

I want to be a fully devoted Christ follower in what I perceive to be a nation moving further from God. As that happens the difference between those who relentlessly follow Him and the rest of society will become more evident. We will stand out and do stand out when we ask the question Francis Schaeffer did in How Shall we Then Live?

Want to be encouraged? Listen to Larry Osborn's message Thriving in Babylon and then get his book by the same name. It is where we are so lets figure out how to look and live like Jesus in a Godless culture. And thrive as His people.

Posted from Oakdale, MN

All of T.J. Addington's books including his latest, Deep Influence,  are available from the author for the lowest prices and a $2.00 per book discount on orders of ten or more.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Response to the Supreme Court's ruling on gay marriage from the President of the EFCA

Dear EFCA Family,
Today the United States Supreme Court by a 5 to 4 ruling in Obergefell vs Hodges made same sex marriage legal in all 50 states. Although for many of us this ruling was not a surprise it was none the less a significant disappointment as it stands against the clear Biblical definition of marriage and the cultural practices of societies down through the centuries.
The Word of God is clear in both Genesis 1:26-27 and Matthew 19:4-6 that marriage was established by God and is a covenant relationship between a man and a woman. The EFCA Spiritual Heritage Committee in a document entitled “A Church Statement on Human Sexuality,” gives the following suggested definition of marriage:
Marriage is the original and foundational institution of human society, established by God as a one-flesh, covenantal union between a man and a woman that is life-long (until separated by death), exclusive (monogamous and faithful), and generative in nature (designed for bearing and rearing children), and it is to reflect the relationship between Christ and the Church.
(The entire document from the Spiritual Heritage Committee is available and is a significant resource for churches in thinking through these issues from a clearly Biblical perspective. In addition, the National Association of Evangelicals released a statement available and Greg Strand has posted on his blog.)
The reality of the situation for us as the people of God is that today’s Supreme Court decision did not take God by surprise nor does it in any way change the Biblical definition of marriage. Rather it is a call for us to clearly embrace our Lord’s definition of marriage and to respond to this recent development with grace and truth like He would (John 1:14). It will be important that our responses reflect the character and heart of Jesus to the world around us.
We have moved into a time when our perspective on marriage is no longer supported by the law of our nation and is quickly being abandoned by a growing number of Americans. However, this is not a time to wring our hands in despair or to respond in anger. Responses of fear or anger will not honor the Lord nor will they demonstrate the redemptive power of the gospel. Rather this is an opportunity for us to be the church and to live out what we say we believe.
Now is the time for us to commit to pray for the leaders of our nation as Paul wrote in Romans 13:1-7, to be gracious to those who don’t share our views and love them as people created in the image of God, and to engage the world around us on this issue in ways that speak truth and point people to the redeeming gospel of Jesus.
As these events unfold in our nation we must ever more clearly stand on the truth of God’s Word regarding marriage, demonstrate to the world around us the beauty of loving Christian marriages, and commit ourselves to teach and model Biblical marriage to our children and grandchildren who are growing up in a rapidly changing culture.
None of us knows exactly what challenges the future holds for the church and for us as followers of Jesus. What we do know is that the Lord of the church is in charge and He has a plan that He will work to completion to His ultimate glory. It will be important for all of us to be prayerful and wise as we lead the church and our families in the days to come.
Know that Becky and I are praying for you these days as you interact with those in your lives who may not agree with the Biblical perspective on marriage and as you lead your churches to respond to this development with truth and love. May the Lord Jesus be glorified in our lives as we walk this road together.
Kevin Kompelien
President, EFCA

Friday, June 26, 2015

Without this quality you cannot lead well

There is a quality that every leader who is going to lead over the long haul must have. That quality is resilience. Websters defines resilience this way: "The ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens." I would define leadership resilience as the ability to deal with hard situations and difficult people without becoming overly emotional, angry or cynical. It is also the ability to live with a soft heart but very thick skin and not to be discouraged by the inevitable challenges and personal attacks that leadership brings.

Leaders who lack resilience:

  • Become easily discouraged
  • Feel threatened and deflated when attacked
  • Become emotional when things don't go their way
  • Can become subject to depression and moodiness
  • Are often fearful
  • Can easily overact to situations that seem out of their control
  • Crack under pressure
I am an avid reader of biographies and would suggest that individuals like Winston Churchill, FDR, Ronald Reagan or Margaret Thatcher were individuals who personified resilience. Each of these were able to overcome regular difficulties, keep their cool and continue to lead. In the New Testament Paul certainly has this trait.

The test of leadership is not what happens when all is well but when all is hell. That is when the mettle of our souls and resolve is tested and where our resilience or lack of it becomes critical. When I hear leaders complain and feel sorry for themselves, express significant emotions, anger and frustration I often wonder if they have the resilience to lead well. 

Resilient ministry leaders usually have the following characteristics:

  • They have thick skin and have learned how to weather personal attacks
  • They take the long view and know that the irritations of the moment will pass
  • Their self worth is not wrapped up in their leadership role and realize that leaders are often targets
  • Their focus is on the mission of the organization rather than on themselves 
  • They have learned to see the tough times as leadership challenges 
  • They are generally optimists and communicate hope to their team mates
  • They have a good team around them
  • They have a high view of God's sovereignty and therefore are able to trust Him
  • They have learned that anxiety is wasted energy and manage it well
Resilience can be learned and should grow over time as we recognize that the crises of the moment do pass, life does go on, the world does not fall apart and the worst possible case does not usually come to be. It has much to do with our perspective on God, on life, and ourselves. The more we focus on ourselves the less resilient we will be. The more we focus on the mission and on God the more resilience we will have.

Posted from Oakdale, MN

All of T.J. Addington's books including his latest, Deep Influence,  are available from the author for the lowest prices and a $2.00 per book discount on orders of ten or more.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The critical role that deep friendships play in the lives of healthy leaders

One of the key indicators of a leader's success is the depth of the friendships they have.  While not always true, one of the observations I have made in dealing with healthy leaders is that they have a set of deep friendships. On the other hand, many leaders who burnout or flameout do not have those deep friendships. 

I think there is a correlation here and it centers around a leader's willingness to be transparent and truly authentic with other trusted individuals. Those who resist authenticity often resist deep friendships because those relationships are based on authenticity and a willingness to reveal the true us. This is why putting leaders (any leader) on a pedestal is dangerous. Pedestals keep others at a distance and allow a leader to live without true authenticity. 

It is in the context of deep friendships that we allow others to see all of us because we also know that they love us and our shadow side (we all have one) will not deter their love. In fact, the more authentic we are with others, the more respect we gain. Those friendships are also critical in our own spiritual journey because it allows others to speak into our lives on issues that we might otherwise ignore. And all of us have issues we want to ignore.

The authenticity of deep relationships invites counsel, insight, a shared spiritual journey and ultimately the accountability that comes from having friends who love us and will tell us the truth. Those who are afraid of this tend to keep others at a distance while those who value this intentionally develop deep friendships. 

Deep friendships are an anchor in our lives to honesty, growth, the accountability that comes from relationship and the truth about ourselves. Healthy leaders know that they vulnerable due to their leadership position and the fact that their staff will not always tell them the truth. In addition, success can go to our head and it often does. Key friendships are anchors to reality that every leader needs.

Posted from Oakdale, MN

All of T.J. Addington's books including his latest, Deep Influence,  are available from the author for the lowest prices and a $2.00 per book discount on orders of ten or more.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Can you disagree with me as your leader?

As a leader of others I always want to know that those who join my senior team or cabinet are able and willing to disagree with me. Too many leaders define loyalty as agreeing with their position and therefore surround themselves with "yes" people. In my mind this is not loyalty - but disloyalty to the good of the organization. Thus I will not put someone on my senior team who does not have the courage and willingness to disagree with me as their senior leader.

It surprises many people to find out that I do not make unilateral decisions for ReachGlobal. Rather, we say we are team led and team driven and all issues that impact staff go through the ReachGlobal cabinet or the Directional team. People ask, "Do you always get your way?" I say "no." They ask, "Do you care?" I say "no." Then they ask "Why." My answer is that I believe the very best decisions are made when you have the right people in the room and are able to think through the decisions together. It is in the multiplicity of gifts that the best decisions are made.

I find that many senior leaders are threatened when people disagree with them and I find that sad. It is a reflection of their own insecurities and need to prove something rather than truly wanting the very best for the organization. One of our values is that we engage in Robust Dialogue, where "Any issue can be put on the table for discussion with the exception of personal attacks or hidden agendas." It makes for a culture of freedom where together we can work toward what is best for the organization.

This is all done in a collegial atmosphere where are differences are not personal and do not become personal. Rather we have learned how to stay in relationship while differing in our perspectives, to have candid dialogue and then to support the decision with one voice once it is made. The fact that I submit to this process as a leader also means that when I do feel strongly on an issue, it is taken seriously by the team. Leaders actually gain influence when they bring others into the decision making process. I know that when the decision is made that all support it and key people have had the chance to speak into it.

So the actual question is: Can you disagree with me as your leader and stay in relationship with me?

Posted from Oakdale, MN

All of T.J. Addington's books including his latest, Deep Influence,  are available from the author for the lowest prices and a $2.00 per book discount on orders of ten or more.