Monday, August 31, 2015

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Missional and organizational clarity is like a fresh wind of hope

I meet many ministry staff who love what they do and are committed to making a difference but who are deeply discouraged by the lack of direction within their organization. One such individual wrote to me this week deeply frustrated. She indicated that while she has tried to convince her ministry partner on the need for greater clarity the response is always, "If God want's us to have more direction He will provide it." In other cases good staff have left their jobs because of the lack of clarity around direction.

Ministry ambiguity is disheartening, demotivating, discouraging and disempowering. People want to know where we are going and why and how they can make the best contribution to the ministry. 

Providing that clarity becomes a breath of fresh air, a fresh wind for the ministry. I worked this last week with a church that has not had clarity in a long time and by the time we were finished there was a huge amount of energy in the room as participants realized that it was possible to create clarity for their church that was clear, motivating, healthy, Jesus focused and reflected his mandate for the church. One said, I have not been this excited for a long time. Of course a lot of hard work is ahead but there is a target to work toward that is missional, God centered and exciting.

My point is that getting to clarity - understanding where you want to go in ministry and knowing how you are going to get there along with forging a healthy culture is not just a nice thing. It actually breathes fresh wind into the ministry. It motivates and excites and most importantly it gives people hope. Hope that we can make a difference for Jesus. Hope that we have a direction to follow. Hope that we can all be on the same page. Hope that we can develop a God honoring ethos and culture. Hope that God can infuse us with His power to accomplish His work.

Clarity can help us move from discouragement to hope. If you want to understand how your ministry can make that move, my book, Leading From the Sandbox can help you get there. Chapters 2, 3 and 4 are a roadmap to the hope of clarity. 

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, August 17, 2015

Another word for unteachability is arrogance

I am always fascinated when I meet people who are truly unteachable. I have come to the conclusion that they suffer from arrogance. If I am unwilling or unable to receive constructive feedback I am saying "I am right" rather than "tell me more." 

In talking to a senior pastor recently who was involved in significant conflict in his church centered around how he led, I asked him if he would do anything differently. He said "no!" I was amazed. I have never been in conflict where I would not do something different. What he said was that he stood for truth which by implication meant that everyone who saw issues in his leadership obviously did not. Where do you go from there. My guess is that he will take his same issues to his next leadership role because he is unwilling to admit there was anything he did wrong. Or even invite a conversation around it. When we don't learn from our tough times we take our issues to the next place of ministry.

Why are people sometimes unteachable? They are hanging on to pride and in their pride they become arrogant thinking they are always right. It is a dangerous place to be and the longer we live there the stronger our defenses become. Sometimes it takes a truly huge breaking before one becomes teachable. 

In the Christian world, arrogance can take on a spiritual quality. "Not only am I right but I have God on my side." In talking to the individual above I questioned some of his actions from a wisdom and discernment perspective. His answer, rather than at least having a conversation was "I am glad I will be judged by God and not by you." Not only was he not willing to at least explore my proposition but he implied that God would vindicate him. How do you dialogue over that?

One thing I loved about my dad was that while had very strong opinions he was also someone who always wanted to get better, always wanted to learn and grow. All of his degrees did not make him arrogant and unteachable.  I understand strong opinions, I have a few not having fallen far from the tree. But I want to be like him in this regard. It is why I try to live the best I can by a "nothing to prove and nothing to lose attitude." 

A humble individual is a teachable individual. They desire and appreciate constructive words that are meant for our good. A true sign of our humility is our teachable and a sign of our pride is the opposite. As we gain experience and success we need to remember that humility is teachability no matter how successful we are. 

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, August 15, 2015

An eternal perspective on life

One of the keys to a life of impact is to take an eternal perspective on all that we do. Life is to be lived in light of eternity and we have only a limited number of years to leave an eternal legacy. That legacy is invariably left in lives that we have influenced for Jesus and investments we have made in making His name well known and lifting his reputation high.

This impacts all of our critical decisions in life. Take a marriage that is rocky where the easy way out would be to bail. An eternal perspective is that the short term pain of healing can lead to the pleasing of the Father and the ability to help other marriages heal. Those who have endured struggles gain divine scars that reflect obedience to the Father and bring Him glory. 

It also influences our monetary decisions. Think about this. The only three things that pass from time to eternity are our own spiritual growth, the lives we have impacted and the treasures we have invested in the kingdom. Those three things are what we take with us to heaven. Thus our kingdom investments with our wealth are seen in light of eternity.

This perspective also reflects our time commitments. It is through relational investments we make that we are able to share the gospel with unbelievers and influence other believers in their spiritual pilgrimage. Taking a generous view of how we invest in others becomes part of our eternal legacy.

The parable of the talents in the Gospels is all about taking an eternal perspective on our lives and commitments. All of us have a choice to live selfishly for ourselves or generously for God. Unfortunately the materialistic and self centered culture in which we live pushes many believers toward selfishness rather than generosity. I had the good fortune of growing up in a home where Jesus always came first and my parents invested heavily in others leaving a legacy of hundreds if not thousands of people who will be with them in heaven. It is a great legacy for them and for their ten children and their families.

What would be the impact if all believers saw their lives in terms of eternity? It would no doubt greatly impact the ministry of the Gospel in our churches and for His kingdom. Remember, "we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for (each of) us to do (Ephesians 2:10). He made us for Himself and to join Him in His work of bringing hope and help to a world that badly needs it.

We make our lives count when we measure all of our decisions against our eternal backdrop.

Posted from State College, PA

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.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Marks of a gracious church

Church culture can be harsh as many of us have experienced. It can also be very loving and gracious where it is intentionally fostered as what God desires for His family. Healthy churches reflect the character and graciousness of Jesus while unhealthy churches reflect characteristics of our lower natures such as legalism, infighting, unforgiveness, power plays and harsh judgments of others and personal agendas. 

The character and spiritual commitments of the leaders of a church will largely determine whether the culture is healthy or unhealthy. Here are some of the marks of a gracious church that reflects the character of Jesus.

Grace abounds
Just like some individuals exude grace and acceptance so do gracious churches. One feels accepted and loved no matter who you are or what your circumstance. There is no sense of judgement or criticism for those who come. It is a safe place to be who you are and to share your journey. There is no pretense, just grace. You feel at home!

Relationships are healthy
Gracious churches put a premium on healthy relationships. Space is given for differences, conflict is quickly resolved, words are healing rather than hurtful, disagreements are agreeable rather than conflictual and forgiveness is fast and regular. There is not a culture of gossip but one of acceptance and love. In gracious churches we seek to see people as Jesus sees them and love them as Jesus loves them.

Jesus is always lifted high
The secret of gracious churches is that their model is always Jesus. When we pursue our own agendas we create conflict but when we pursue the character and presence of Jesus we get peace and grace. When Jesus is central our own agendas are put aside while when we are central Jesus is put aside. Gracious churches keep Jesus central all the time.

The Gospel is central to everything
We often forget that the Gospel is Good News. Gracious churches major on the Gospel: forgiveness, redemption, healing, transformation and regeneration. The Gospel is the hope that we have to see our lives become like Jesus and gracious churches communicate that all the time. 

Hope is communicated all the time
What did Jesus bring and what does the Gospel promise? Hope for the hurting; hope that we can change and become like Jesus; hope for our futures; hope for relational discord; hope for my own sin and dysfunctions. The Gospel is all about hope because it is about the transforming power of Jesus and the Holy Spirit's work in our lives. The world brings fear while the Gospel brings hope.

Truth and grace are inseparable
It is amazing how harsh truth can be communicated compared to the way that Jesus shared truth with amazing grace. The truth about our human condition is not always nice to hear and there are sharp differences between followership of Jesus and the pull of our lower nature but gracious churches, like Jesus, communicate truth with grace. The gospel calls us to a life with Jesus and radical life change but it does so with love and grace. Think of how gracious Jesus is with our sin and issues. Gracious churches woo people toward God and allow the Holy Spirit to do its work as we encourage people in their spiritual pilgrimage.

Spiritual transformation is the goal
None of this is possible without the goal of helping people become more like Jesus and that is what gracious churches do. They help people discover and live in grace, think like Jesus, align their life priorities with His and see people and love people as Jesus sees them and loves them. In fact it is this emphasis on transformation that makes a church gracious because people start to look and act like Jesus. He is the magnet of a gracious church as His people reflect Him. And that makes it a wonderful family to be a part of.

Posted from State College, PA

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, August 11, 2015

Do you manage others or lead others?

If you are a leader or supervisor you have responsibility for others. The question is how we use that responsibility. Our approach will have significant implications for the culture we create in our organization or team as well as the engagement we get from our staff. 

Many leaders feel it is their duty to manage other people. By that they see themselves as managing what people do, how they do it and the strategies they use. But think about this: do you like to be managed closely? Or do you like the freedom to be given a task and figure out how to accomplish it using your gifts and abilities? In the ministry world there is a whole lot of micromanagement rather than true leadership.

Leadership is the ability to clarity goals, set a course, choose the right people to accomplish the mission and within appropriate boundaries set staff free to go after the goal. This does not mean that there is a hands off attitude but it does mean that we empower the right people to figure out the route to the goal and give them the freedom to do the job.

If we need to manage the process closely it usually means that we either have the wrong people, have not adequately clarified the task and the boundaries or have a need to insert ourselves and out ideas where they don't belong. It is a permission withholding attitude (you cannot do this without my permission) rather than a permission granting attitude (you are free within boundaries to figure it out). Your best staff will always prefer the latter to the former. 

Clarity of goals, roles, and boundaries are keys to leading well. And the ability and willingness to empower people to fulfill their unique responsibilities. Responsibility without empowerment is demoralizing, yet it happens all the time. It is not good leadership and it does not result in happy, healthy staff. Empowerment is harder because it requires us to clarify as leaders. Our job is to clarify and then empower if we lead staff. Leaders always need to be conscious of whether they are managing staff or leading staff.

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.