Saturday, October 20, 2018

It is not the knowing but the doing that is most difficult

"The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity." -Amelia Earhart
What is it that keeps us from acting on issues that we know we should act on? They may be in our personal or professional lives. It is the gap between what we know we ought to do and the resolve to do it. It is not the knowing but the doing. And then when we finally act, if we do, we wonder why we didn't do it a long time ago. There are three common reasons for avoiding action on things we know we ought to act on. Inertia It is easier to live with the status quo than it is to rock the boat and cause disruption. So, we keep an unproductive staff member, don't deal with conflict between two work teams or ignore the need to clarify what we are all about. Inertia is about living in our comfort zone. Not stirring up things that don't need to be stirred up (but actually do). It is about our not wanting to wade into things that will be hard or inconvenient but that we know in our heart of hearts are important to deal with. Maybe if we wait long enough the problem will resolve itself - usually it gets worse not better. Fear The other side of the inertia coin is fear. Inertia is often a result of fear. What will happen if I take a bold step and deal with this issue? Will I get pushback (probably)? Will someone be upset with me (probably)? Will I have to confront a person or issue (probably)? If our fear is greater than our resolve we ought not be in leadership. All leaders have fear but good leaders learn to not allow fear to keep them from acting on known issues. They do the right thing in spite of their fear and don't allow their fear to drive their inaction. Leaders can use their fear to define how they do something but should never use their fear to keep them from doing what needs to be done. Acknowledge you fear, use your fears to alleviate unintended consequences but take the needed action. Resolve Lack of resolve is the reason that many issues are partially addressed but then left hanging. Why? There was pushback, someone got upset or we had to confront something that was inconvenient. It is worse to address an issue and then drop it than it is to not address it in the first place. "Do not underestimate my resolve" ought to be the mantra of a leader. If I need to deal with something I will deal with it completely rather than partially. My resolve keeps me from backing down simply because there is pushback which there almost always will be given people's preference for inertial over action. Leaders not only must know but they must do. That is leadership.
TJ Addington (Addington Consulting) has a passion to help individuals and organizations maximize their impact and go to the next level of effectiveness. He can be reached at

"Creating cultures of organizational excellence."

Friday, October 19, 2018

Smelling Good, Looking Great and Divisive Attitudes

This blog was written by Edmund Chan of Singapore, Leadership Mentor at Covenant EFC and Founder of the Global Alliance of Intentional Disciplemaking Churches

“Oh, for God’s sake, stop it!”

That’s what the Apostle Paul said, with compassionate apostolic authority. And he meant it. Well yes, Paul didn’t put it exactly like that. But I think it captures rather accurately his keen sentiments.
[And by putting it in street vernacular, I don’t mean that Paul was using the Lord’s name in vain! It was quite literally “for God’s sake”, and theirs!]

You see, these were two Christian women. One was named “Smell Good” and the other was named “Look Great”. Both were friends of the Apostle Paul. And both couldn’t get along; such that it was affecting the church. Perhaps you know them by their Greek names: Euodia (“Smell Good”) and Syntyche (“Look Great”)!

With great names like “Smell Good” and “Look Great”, and being persecuted Christians in the first century church (and being friends and co-labourers with Paul), I would be rather surprised if I were told that there was a dark rivalry and relational friction between them.

Fact is, there was!

They couldn’t get along with each other; in spite of the common trials they face and the common faith they share! The Bible is silent on the exact nature of the disagreement. Euodia and Syntyche were probably in some sort of power struggle over an issue that boiled down to influence, or perhaps a preferred comfort zone; simply a personal preference for how something should be done. [Often, big quarrels stem from small things!]

Even though Paul did not treat this matter as he would false doctrine or teaching, neither did the Apostle ignore this fracture within the fellowship. Phil. 4:2-3 “I ENTREAT Euodia and I ENTREAT Syntyche TO AGREE IN THE LORD. 3 Yes, I ask you also, true companion, HELP THESE WOMEN, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.” (emphasis mine). 

The word “entreat” is “parakaleo” in the Greek (used 109 times in the NT). “Parakaleo” is often used to mean “encourage” or “exhort”. But in this case, the ESV has captured the nuance rightly with “I entreat (beg!) you”. 

The point of this passage is more than just about Paul wanting two women to get along. Rather, it about the Gospel. 

The revelation of the Gospel comes with the GRACE and CALLING of God to live and labour as a redeemed and transformed covenant community. This call is vital and congruent with the responsibility to proclaim this Gospel of LOVE. And just how can they do so when there is bitterness and divisiveness? In Philippians 4, Paul asks these women to ‘be of the same mind IN THE LORD’. 

We might disagree but never disengage. Disagreement happens. It’s not wrong. The diversity of views is healthy; it’s the divisiveness of personalities that is troublesome. Neither be discouraged by the diversity not disrupted by the divisiveness. 

The important thing is to deal compassionately (and humbly!) with the differences and be reconciled “with one mind” over what’s important! Whatever the dispute was, it was not to sidetrack them from the work of the Gospel and the unity of faith in it. No dispute is worth the division. 

Euodia and Syntyche had to learn from their apostolic mentor about getting along. About taking responsibility for their part in their dispute. About laying down their pride, without the self-righteous attitude: ‘well, I hope she’s listening!’ We might ‘look great’ or even ‘smell good’.  But if we do not embrace a MEEKNESS that brings a fragrance and not a fracture to the covenant community, they are but empty accolades. Don’t be divisive.

For God’s sake, stop it!

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

When crisis envelops a church personal agendas must go!

Like all institutions, churches can have leaders, staff and congregants who harbor personal agendas. Those agendas are often checked when the church is healthy but when crisis hits they can appear from wherever they have been hiding. In crisis, churches need leaders who will ruthlessly set aside their own personal agendas and seek only God's agenda. Those same leaders must insist that others set aside their agendas as well.

Personal agenda's are dangerous in the church for several reasons. First, they are personal rather than corporate. Second, they often have hidden in them some advantage to the one whose agenda it is. Often that is power, position, personal preference or influence all of which benefit an individual over the congregation as a whole. Ironically, the church as the bride of Christ is all about His agenda but such details are often forgotten.

Times of crisis are ripe for agendas to pop up precisely because the crisis often creates a vacuum of leadership combined with a future that is unclear. Personal agenda's flourish in this environment as something and someone will take advantage of the situation. 

I recently encountered a church going through a major crisis and the agendas are numerous. People who want the senior position, those with a theological agenda, those who are willing to marginalize those who built the church for their version of being relevant, those with power who want to stay on and the list goes on. What is needed here is for all these agendas to be put aside and for the leadership to focus on the health of the church.

In times of crisis, ask all parties to put their agendas aside and to focus on God's will for the Church. Focus on health, not agendas. In fact here is a principle: The more agendas there are in a church the unhealthier the church is. 

TJ Addington (Addington Consulting) has a passion to help individuals and organizations maximize their impact and go to the next level of effectiveness. He can be reached at

"Creating cultures of organizational excellence."

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Some thoughts on caring for fallen leaders

I read this week of another major ministry, Elmbrook Church, that is going through deep pain over the resignation of their senior pastor for infidelity and addiction. I am sure there is a range of emotions including sadness, anger and betrayal - and other emotions and responses. I am sad for this pastor, his family, the church and the reputation of Jesus. 

This blog post may be controversial but I want to address some issues related to how the offending leader is treated in circumstances like this. I know his family will be taken care of, they usually are. I know the church will heal, they usually do. I know it is a time of confusion and maybe conflict in the church, it usually is. I am not going to use the pastor's name since what goes on the internet stays on the internet and can easily get in the way of healing in the future. But I have some thoughts on how he and other fallen leaders are seen and treated.

First, don't forget that all of us are broken. Perhaps he is more broken than some and certainly he is too broken to be in ministry at this time. His life is now open for all to see, even the parts that are really messy. Before you cast stones, gossip or pass on second hand information, think of your own life, your areas of brokenness that are known only to you and to God and ask how you would be faring emotionally if it were suddenly all known. I suspect that the response of Jesus toward all parties here is one of great compassion even as He is making it possible for this pastor to get the help he needs. Whenever a story like this breaks I wonder how many individuals say to themselves, "wow, if people only knew of my own sin and brokenness, I would be in a bad place." Pastors, ministry leaders and church leaders included. We all belong to the society of the bent and the broken.

Second, do not assume that this pastor or those caught up in sin don't love Jesus. I am sure they do love Jesus and they love Him imperfectly. I intentionally used "and" rather than "but" here because the ampersand is a powerful word. I can be broken and sinful in an area of life and still love Jesus. Both can be true. Certainly that love is imperfect but it is for every one of us. I can love Jesus and be a gossip. I can love Jesus and bring division. I can love Jesus and....(you fill in the blank). 

Third, remember that patterns of sin and addiction are often rooted in early childhood trauma that has not been resolved. The sin and addiction is medication for the pain of that trauma. Does that statement excuse the addiction or sin? No. But it can explain it. As our society becomes more broken these situations will happen more often. Family of origin issues and circumstances over which a youngster has little or no control often play a large role in future sinful patterns. I will make a prediction: I bet that this pastor will indicate in the future that the day his sin became public was the best day of his life. Yes, there was a large price to pay but now he does not need to hide, he can get help for the sin, everyone knows the worst about him, the pain he has carried for so many years can be resolved and he can find personal freedom perhaps for the first time. That is a good day!

Fourth. We evangelicals are really good in emphasizing truth and very bad in these circumstances in showing grace. We say we want the Jesus balance between grace and truth but it is much easier to err on the side of truth and judgement than it is to err on the side of grace. What do we typically do in these cases? We vilify the individual, we want them to pay their pound of flesh for their sin, we help their families but rarely the one caught in sin, we isolate them, tell others not to communicate with them, and we push them out of our lives and ministries as fast as we can.

We leave the sinner - alone, isolated, full of shame, without advocates, often without a plan for restoring them, and for many fallen leaders on the verge of physical harm. Well we think: "they deserve everything they got and we owe them nothing." Of course that may well be true from a human perspective but it is true for all of us. We all deserve nothing but God in Christ Jesus extends His amazing grace regardless and every one of us who knows Christ has been the recipient of that grace. 

In the parable of the 100 sheep, Jesus tells the story of a shepherd who leaves 99 sheep to find the one that is lost. It is a powerful passage in Luke 15:1ff:

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
Any one of us could be that one individual who is lost, sinful and broken. Jesus does not abandon them. He pursues them. He rescues them. In fact he "calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. 
One of my convictions is that "Grace is inconvenient sometimes," and showing God's love and grace to a fallen leader who has disappointed many is certainly inconvenient. It is also what Jesus teaches. Under the guise of "We need proof of repentance," we do just the opposite of Christ, pushing people away rather than moving toward them in grace and mercy. None of this means that fallen leaders should lead ministry in the future. It does mean that we should care as much about them as Jesus does. Aren't you glad He cared enough to extend his mercy and grace to you.

Ironically in many cases fallen leaders will tell you that the only grace they received was from Jesus and a tiny handful of friends who did not abandon them. The rest of the body of Christ seemingly abandoned them.

Fifth, Jesus came to redeem and give life and that applies to both non-Christians and Christians. He is a God of Redemption.

One of the most remarkable verses in Scripture is John 10:10. "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."

Jesus came for situations like this! He came to find and heal lost sheep. He came to bear our sin. He came to bring us to true personal freedom. He came to bring us to fulness of life. He came to rescue us from the thief whose only goal is to steal, kill and destroy. The heart of God is a heart of love and redemption. There is no sin and no person who is beyond His ability to redeem.

The central question for us in cases like this is whether we have the same heart of love and redemption that God has. Is our heart full of judgement or redemption? Will we abandon or embrace? Do we wish the worst or the best? Will we restore or denigrate? Do we desire the offender to walk in future shame or freedom? Will we give what the offender deserves or what they don't deserve - mercy and grace? That last one touches close to home for each of us who have received the undeserved mercy and grace of Jesus. 

If you google Elmbrook church there are many blogs with the word scandal attached. Is not the real scandal that Jesus forgives and restores those who don't deserve it? That is the scandal of each of our lives. The scandal is not sin (terrible as sin is) but that Jesus redeems us from our sin through his death and resurrection. And when God's people respond in grace and mercy to people who don't deserve it (do any of us?), that will be the true scandal at Elmbrook, and elsewhere.

I hope that this pastor's experience will be different from what often happens. He too needs grace and compassion and help.

TJ Addington (Addington Consulting) has a passion to help individuals  and organizations maximize their impact and go to the next level of effectiveness. He can be reached at

"Creating cultures of organizational excellence."

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Sorry about that: My board or boss made me do it! Leadership Default

Leaders can be strange creatures. We want to lead but there are times when we don't want to take responsibility for our leadership decisions which we know will be unpopular. So we look for a foil, someone else to blame for the bad news that is coming. Sometimes it is our board (My board said this is what we have to do). Other times it is our boss (I was told that this is what has to happen). Sometimes it is God (God told me to do this). 

In all three cases you will notice who is not responsible for the decision that has been made: The leader who is making the announcement. In essence the leader is saying "They have said we must do this" creating a deadly division between their staff and whoever he/she is blaming for the decision. Good leaders never blame others in the organization for decisions as it sets up a them/us mentality as if the "they" are not part of "us." 

Why do leaders name others who made a decision? It is simple. First, they want to be popular with their staff so blaming others means they themselves were not responsible. Second, when you blame others, what is staff going to say. If it is the board, they have ultimate authority! If it is my leader's boss, what can you say? If it is God, how do you argue with Him? In other words, the strategy is to blame someone who has more authority and is not in the room so there can be no discussion. Let me be clear. This is terrible leadership.

Think about this. How can the senior leader blame his/her board when they sit on the board? It is not "They have decided," but it is "We have decided" including that leader.

How can you blame your boss when your primary team is the team of your boss, not the team you lead. Blaming God is the ultimate strategy to shut down discussion in a Christian organization. What room is there for discussion when God has spoken?

I label all these behaviors as "Leadership Default." I have not taken personal responsibility for decisions that I have had a part in or that I am committed to supporting in my leadership role. In blaming others I am trying to deflect my involvement, shut down discussion and in doing so I create a them/us dichotomy that divides rather than unites. 

Leadership Default is poor leadership. And, unfair to staff who cannot engage in a discussion regarding the decision. It is unfair also to those we blamed who then look like the bad guys when that is rarely the case.

TJ Addington (Addington Consulting) has a passion to help individuals and organizations maximize their impact and go to the next level of effectiveness. He can be reached at

"Creating cultures of organizational excellence."