Wednesday, December 31, 2014

For all those who travel as much as I do, here is what a truthful in-flight announcement might say from the Economist

Fear of flying

Welcome aboard

In-flight announcements are not entirely truthful. What might an honest one sound like?

Looking forward by looking backward

Why the celebration every New Year's Eve? Is it not that we are celebrating the possibilities that every new year brings? As we celebrate, we also should consider the many mercies, blessings and moments of grace that God showered on us this year. 

Mercy is unmerited favor - what we don't deserve. Think of God's mercy in our lives this year. How many times this year did we need his forgiveness, his empowerment, his help or his intervention? Every day of the past year has exhibited God's mercy in our lives. As Jeremiah said, His mercies are new every morning.

Grace is God's favor and good will. Every day of our lives is a day of grace. When Paul asked God to remove his "thorn in the flesh," God replied, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9). Those who have walked through tough times this year understand grace for sometimes the greatest gift we have is the grace to make it through another day. Yet, God always gives it. We live in the grace of God every day.

Blessings are all the ways that God provides for us. We cannot count the ways that God has blessed us in any given year but it is worth considering and recording some of them so that we do not forget. I was blessed this year with a fabulous staff, a wonderful job, great friends, God's provision for our needs, healing, my family, the publication of a new book and I could go on. They are all blessings from a gracious and generous God.

We can look forward to a year of possibilities because we can look back on a year of God's faithfulness. That is why it is always worth considering His goodness. Living with faith and thanksgiving is a product of remembering His amazing goodness in our lives. The more often we take stock of His grace, mercy and blessings in our lives the more we recognize them and live with the optimism that comes from living in His presence.

This is a good time to take stock in God's goodness. By looking backward we are able to look forward.

All of T.J. Addington's books are available from the author for the lowest prices and a $2.00 discount on orders of ten or more.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

"Why I want to live"

Life is precious and severe illness, such as my friend Phil is facing clarify the issues of life like nothing else can. Phil leads one of the most critical ministry teams in ReachGlobal - The Global Equipping Team that equips movement leaders internationally for the multiplication of the church and the training of healthy pastors and leaders. He was recently diagnosed with a deadly brain tumor and I along with many are praying for a total miracle - God's full healing. 
In the meantime, Phil and Peggy must deal with the reality of the diagnosis and the upcoming radiation and Chemo. Phil's latest blog entry puts life in perspective so I asked permission to share it. The blog entry speaks for itself. Would you join me in praying that Jesus would heal Phil? Each of us should answer the question of whether we have clarity regarding how we are using the precious days God grants to us on this earth.

To follow Phil's journey you can access their blog, Good Things from the Hand of God. Here is his latest entry.

Posted: 29 Dec 2014 09:43 AM PST
Brokenness that comes from dire circumstances can do one of two things. It can shelve me, or it can bring about greater clarity and make me more passionate about accomplishing what I’m called to do.

This past weekend, Peggy and I were able to get away together—enjoying nice meals, crunching through the snow on the Centennial Trail that borders the Spokane River, and sharing some tough and very meaningful conversations. These two days have been just what we’ve needed to gain fresh perspective.

Around the world, millions have yet to hear the name of Jesus even once. Their lives are broken and lost. I was also broken and lost the first 19 years of my life. God’s transforming work in me over the past 40 years compels me to help as many others as possible discover Him.

I do not merely want extended length and quality of life for myself and my family. I long to live so that, together with the ministry team I lead, I can equip national leaders to fruitfully reach their own people in the hard places of the world. This will happen with or without me. So whether I have a few months or a few years, this is why I want to live.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Leaders who do not allow free expression of ideas are operating out of insecurity and fear

I run into them from time to time: leaders who demand that their staff think like they do. They are intimidated and fearful of those who freely express their opinions rather than simply agree with their views. Often, they try to find ways to ensure that independent thought is stifled or discouraged whether through intimidation, policies or signed documents (you must agree with me to be in leadership or on staff).

Whenever leaders must try to enforce agreement with their views, they are not only losing a valuable asset (diversity of views and opinions) but are displaying their own insecurities and fears. Let's be real: healthy leaders not only invite their staff to be honest and candid but value their opinions while unhealthy leaders are afraid of views that disagree with theirs. The end result is that leaders who insist that staff agree with them lose both the value of robust dialogue and the best staff who will not stay in a (dysfunctional) culture that demands conformity.

The more coercive the culture (you must agree with me), the more dysfunctional that culture is. Healthy leaders lead out of influence and persuasion, not out of control and policies. When a leader must turn to control and policies to ensure agreement with them it is always a sign to beware!

This is why we (in ReachGlobal) have a policy that any issue can be put on the table - we call it robust dialogue. The only exceptions are hidden agendas or personal attacks. We value the free exchange of ideas and we value the opinions of good leaders. We agree on the philosophic boundaries of our ministry but in strategy we encourage candid and honest dialogue. Does your church or ministry encourage robust dialogue or do you live in a culture of control and fear where leaders insist you agree with them? It says much about the health or dishealth of your leaders.

When leaders start being coercive in insisting that others agree with them they are operating out of insecurity and fear, rather than out of health. The best leaders listen closely to a variety of views and never insist that staff agree with their views.   

Key questions to ask about the upcoming year

Unexamined lives lack depth and richness while well examined lives are fruitful and enriching. God gave us the seasons and the years in order to give us a rhythm of life, including the opportunity to examine our lives on a regular basis. The end of one year and the beginning of another year is a prime time to do this. 

As you consider the coming year and examine the past year, here are some key questions to ask.

1. What did I do really well this past year and what did I not do well?

2. Based on what I did not do well, do I need to make any changes to my life or priorities?

3. Is there any besetting sin in my life that Jesus would want me to address going into this new year? What is my plan to address it and who can encourage me in that journey?

4. Given how busy I am, are there things that I should give up or do differently in order to find margin in my life or make room for more important priorities?

5. Are there things I have not been doing that I should start doing?

6. What is my plan for personal development this coming year? What areas in my personal or professional life do I need to see progress in?

7. Are there any broken relationships that I should mend so that the relational disconnect does not get in the way of my own spiritual growth?

8. What is one thing my spouse wishes I would change this year? (You gotta ask on that one)

9. What areas of my physical health need to be addressed so that I can go the distance?

10. If this was the last year I had to live on this earth what would I want it to look like? (always a good way to live).

All of T.J. Addington's books are available from the author for the lowest prices and a $2.00 discount on orders of ten or more.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Deep Influence is now available

Deep Influence is now available. For those who are getting notices from Amazon that it is not available till January 15 you can get immediate fulfillment from my site and at a lower cost. Go to the TJ Addington Store.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Silence, Chaos, Rejoicing and Holy Awe

The heavens held their collective breath for the Son was gone. The unimaginable was unfolding. The One who had superintended creation was now ready to be born a creature. What could this mean? Majesty of heaven rejected for the poverty of a squalid earth and a people who had rejected truth too many times to count. They had traded the garden for a lie and now the creator traded majesty for obscurity. It was a silence of unbelief, awe, apprehension and wonder!

Nativity scenes are peaceful and neat but this night in Bethlehem was anything but. The tiny town was full of travelers, the inns and taverns were full and noisy and crowed and smelly. Desperately, a man tried to find a place for his wife, swollen with child, water about to break, a place where a child could be born in dignity but it was not to be. Instead, it was the to be with the animals, hay and manure, the sounds and smells of the adjacent Inn intruding on this holy moment.

The silence of heaven gave way to song and praise and rejoicing penetrating the chasm between heaven and earth so that even poor shepherds heard the choir and angelic announcement. This first musical Christmas card came not to the mighty and powerful but to the poor and powerless: A symbol of the Kingdom that was coming - good news for those who needed the same. Good news of a great joy which shall be for all people. Even us, even today! A Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Now there was silence on earth as the shepherds tried to understand the import of the news. 

Holy Awe
There was one who knew that the universe had changed and that what was was not what would be: Mary. Too young to be jaded, faith filled and and in awe of the child that lay at her breast. For she knew that He was not of this earth though she did not know the price He would pay. She remembered the angel who had visited her upon her pregnancy. Now she heard the report of the shepherds who came to visit. All the people wondered at their report but Mary, treasured up these things pondering them in her heart. She knew, not fully, but she knew! 

We know fully for we know the rest of the story. Does it move us as it moved the heavens, the angels, the shepherds, the people of Bethlehem and Mary? This is a day to consider, to rejoice and to be awed at the love that drove a rejected Savior to save the broken, the needy, each of us who have received Him in faith.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Do not neglect to pray this Christmas for the places of greatest persecution of God's people

We celebrate this Christmas season. We can do so because of the freedom we have. There are many who do not share that freedom today but will be secretly celebrating Christ's birth. Check out this list of countries that need our prayer this Christmas.

A story stranger than fiction

No story is better known. No story better captures the heart of a child - small or grown - than the one we celebrate today. No matter how many times we hear the story it never grows old, it never disappoints, never ceases to evoke deep emotions of wonder, awe and comfort. An angel’s proclamation to illiterate shepherds, a teenage unwed mother, a loyal carpenter fiancee, the evil king Herod, a cold, clear, Bethlehem night without a place to stay. A messy birth in an animal’s stall, alongside a dirty alley in the dark of night. Confused cows watching unknowing as the Son of the universe stares back unknowing at the very animals He had created eons before. A mother, a child, a carpenter, a few agitated animals and the pungent smell of manure.

This is a story so absurd that it could only have been scripted by a Divine hand. No other writer would have attempted such a script. If they had they would not have claimed it to be true: fiction maybe, but not reality. This is not how the One whose voice had echoed off of a billion galaxies would make His entrance. Without CNN and Fox News, into a hovel known affectionately today as Bethlehem but then nothing more than a tiny village on the path to Jerusalem. 

His entrance was marked not by a proclamation to kings but to astonished herdsmen sleeping with sheep. The heavens opened with ten thousand voices – not over Jerusalem the ancient capital – but over a tiny grazing field for a handful of insignificant shepherds. They would be the only witnesses of the grand entrance of a King. No other writer would have written such a script. 

No other author would have taken such a chance. For behind this story there are echoes of another story - equally incredulous. Centuries before in the vastness of eternity past – when infinity kissed infinity, The Master of Infinity spoke into being the universe in which we live - 3,000 of whose stars are visible to the careful eye, 30 billion visible from a large telescope, - the other 90% of the universe still hidden from our eyes. Its splendor an eternal testimony to the Author of the story.

Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious, Thy great name we praise.

Great Father of glory, pure Father of light,
Thine angels adore thee, all veiling their sight;
All praise we would render: O help us to see
Tis only the splendor of light hideth Thee.
(Walter Chalmers Smith)

The Author’s heart was restless still, lonely in His perfection. A heart full of love is not easily satisfied. Transcendent goodness longed to give away infinite love. Again the Author spoke: A planet was expertly crafted. One among billions. A people wonderfully created – in the image of the Author. Free to love, free to experience the infinite goodness of the Author. Free to revel in His infinite Love. But above all free. Love cannot be forced and remain love.

We are not the sole owners of broken hearts. No heart suffered such sorrow as Infinite Love rejected. Image bearers rejected the Image Maker. The story’s characters fired the Author to write their own script. Unmatched, searing pain pierced the Author’s heart as the loved jilted the Lover. 

Chaos infiltrated beauty. A planet was hijacked and spun out of control. Poverty of spirit supplanted endless joy. Unfulfilled hearts realized the pain of lost love. Without the Author, individual story lines faltered – and failed. Sadness reigned. Darkness descended in seeming endless gloom.

Truth can be stranger than fiction. For in the pained heavens the grieving Author plotted love’s revenge. An awesome revenge that only Divinity could contrive – that only Divinity would contrive. Having lost His loved, the Lover would send His most loved to reclaim His heart’s desire. The rejected Creator would kiss the unfaithful created. Tender mercy in place of deserved destruction. An astonished heaven broke into unbelieving applause. Image bearers would be reclaimed by the Image Maker. Light would once again prevail over darkness. Brokenness would be made whole. Peace would triumph over chaos.

All was silent in the heavens on the chosen night. Angels held their corporate breath. For nine months the Son had been absent, resident in a young girls womb, coming to us not as a king but incognito, just one of thousands of children that would be born on a lonely planet that night – into the darkness that our word had become. Placenta covered the Son of the universe arriving to claim back His beloved: this time, one by one, heart by heart. Tender mercy arriving in disguise: one of us, one like us. On that night, the Author personally entered our story. 

Such humility our world has never known. A stunning reversal for a world gone astray. A Heart full of love is not easily satisfied. Transcendent goodness longing to give away infinite love, arriving under cover of night in order to “shine on those living in darkness…to guide our feet into the path of peace.” (Luke 1:27).

When an author writes, each character is unique; each has his or her own story-line. We, each have a story – unique, unrepeated, singular. Each story has its own joy, its own pain, its own pathos and unmatched quality. But each shares one singular, astonishing feature. We are made in the Author’s image, and He will not rest until we have invited Him to join in our story. 

More astonishing than the script He has authored, the story we celebrate today is that He also wants to enter into your story. This is the most ancient of stories but it is also the most contemporary of stories. The Christmas story is but one chapter in the Author’s divine script. The Author is still writing. And every person who invites Him into their story becomes a separate and unique chapter in His unfinished book. And into each story He brings His light and peace. 

“For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” (John 3:16-17.)

Have you invited Him into your story?

All of T.J. Addington's books are available from the author for the lowest prices and a $2.00 discount on orders of ten or more.

Monday, December 22, 2014

What are the things a leader needs to communicate to his people to ensure that he is getting the truth

Without truth from others, a leader is left only with his/her assumptions or perceptions and that is a dangerous place to be. So how does a leader ensure that their staff and friends tell them the truth? It is an important question that has huge ramifications. What we don't know will hurt us. What we do know can help us - if we pay attention!

Leaders either encourage or discourage their staff from sharing truth with them. On the negative side, they discourage the truth by sending messages that "You should not go there," or, it is not safe to talk about these things because if you do your leader becomes defensive. Truth is an important commodity that can either be mined or easily ignored.

How do we encourage truth? First, we encourage "robust dialogue" where we tell our team that any issue can be put on the table with the exception of personal attacks or hidden agendas. Second, when people share openly, we as leaders respond with a non-defensive attitude that conveys "I have nothing to prove and nothing to lose." It is the attitude and reaction of leaders that either encourages or discourages honest and candid dialogue among a team.

Leaders can also ask critical questions such as "Is there anything I do that you wish I would do differently," or, "If there was one thing that you wish I did differently, what would it be?" designed to help mine for truth. Ironically, many leaders are afraid of truth when truth is their largest gift. I may or may not agree with what is shared but I would certainly desire to know what people think than not. 

Leaders set the standard for how candid their staff can be with them. I have worked for leaders who did not want honesty and those who did and I will not work for those who don't ever again. As a leader I want to know what people are thinking, what suggestions they have and what their perceptions are. Without that I cannot lead well. I don't have to like what I hear to appreciate it deeply. My expectation is that my staff will tell me the truth whether it hurts or not. Those who don't are the poorer for it.

All of T.J. Addington's books are available from the author for the lowest prices and a $2.00 discount on orders of ten or more.

Bringing a word of hope this Christmas to those who need it

I love Christmas. But there are many whose circumstances do not make this season a happy one. I think of the parents of children who are suffering from cancer and trying to get through each day. I think of those who lost a loved one this year and face Christmas for the first time without them. A friend who has cancer and is on her deathbed. Others who are lonely and wishing that the hope of Christmas was theirs when it is not.

One of the greatest gifts we can give this Christmas season is a word or touch of hope to those who need it. A well chosen word that fits their situation and is sensitive to their needs. After all, Christmas is ultimately about giving hope as Emmanuel did to us and continues to do. Whatever our circumstance, let's not forget those who are struggling this week, who are not as happy as we may be. Give a gift - of love and hope.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Hijacked churches

I believe that leaders are called to lead at specific times in the history of a church. And, that their unique abilities and vision is critical to the next chapter of a congregations success. However, I have also watched with concern a phenomenon of new leaders coming into a church and essentially hijacking it for their own purposes. What are the signs of a church hijack?

One. There is a criticism of the past as if nothing good came out of it. The new leader/pastor talks about the future and implicitly or explicitly denigrates the past. This forgets that those who gave their energy, money and talent in the past made the church what it is today and provided the platform for a new leader to build on the past. Every leader stands on the shoulders of those who led in in the past unless they start something new. And the people who are there when they come are God's flock.

Two. The new leader does not ask and take into account the vision and dreams of the leadership or congregation but rather inserts their dreams as the vision for the future. When we come into a new church as a new leader we do not come into a vacuum. We come into a congregation with a history and a vision, whether vague or focused. It is critical that we take that vision into account and not simply impose our own vision as if the past does not exist.

Three. Being willing to see many people leave so that a new leader can achieve their dreams. I have watched new pastors see hundreds of people leave the church because they have imposed their agenda on it without being at all concerned about the views and concerns of those who leave. It is as if they are willing to sacrifice the past to achieve their vision of the future. As a change agent I fully understand that some people leave when a new leader or vision comes but when significant people leave it is more about the agenda of the new leader than a shared vision for the church.

Four. Marginalizing current staff. Again, there is no question that a new leader needs to build their own team. However, when it comes at the expense of qualified and good staff who have served well it probably indicates that the new leader is anxious to get rid of the past and put their own stamp on the future. It is often a sign of their insecurity rather than security.

Five. Imposing a new vision that is unnecessarily a break from the past. Good leaders don't move faster than their constituency can follow and they honor and give value to those who are there. Sometimes it takes time to get to where we want to go. Jesus never marginalized people in the pursuit of His mission other than the Pharisees. 

Six. Not listening to the concerns of the current constituency. This is one of the key indicators of a leader who is hijacking a ministry for their own purposes. When there is not a concern for the vision, concerns, ideas and issues raised by those who have come before there is an arrogant rather than humble attitude of leadership. And, it usually results in divided, wounded and conflicted congregations because of the agenda of a new leader who does not choose to take into account what has come before them.

When leaders hijack a church, they leave a trail of wounded bodies and hearts behind them. Because it is God's church, many leave or suffer quietly but it does not excuse those who deliver that pain or lack of sensitivity. It is very sad when it happens and often results in deeply wounded congregations. I have a very hard time reconciling this behavior with the values of Jesus and how he treated people - His flock. It also seems to violate the advice Peter gave to under-shepherds in 1 Peter 5.  The question is whether it is ultimately more about them then about Jesus and His flock. Ministry platforms can and are used for personal agendas all the time. Unfortunately!

All of T.J. Addington's books are available from the author for the lowest prices and a $2.00 discount on orders of ten or more.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Painful lessons of Mars Hill from Leadership Journal

The Painful Lessons of Mars Hill

The gift of clarity and the confusion when clarity is absent

"I don't know where we are going" is a common theme in churches and organizations that I work with. Often leaders don't even know the frustration is there because they have an idea in their own mind where the organization is going. Unfortunately in many cases, they have not found a way to communicate that message clearly to those they lead and it is deeply frustrating to their constituency.

Ambiguity around direction and clarity creates uncertainty in organizations and that uncertainty leads to anxiety which often spills out in dysfunctional ways. People simply don't want uncertainty and staff and volunteers want to know how their contribution contributes to a direction and a cause.

Equally frustrating are leaders who give conflicting signals as to where they are going. This leaves staff and constituents confused. Often this happens when leaders really don't know their direction and cast around looking for the "right thing." 

The best leaders give their staff and constituency a great gift: Clarity. This is where we are going and this is how we are going to get there and this is the consistent message every day, every month and every year. It is like having a GPS with the end goal in site even though we are on a journey and cannot see the destination now. 

If you lead an organization or team, how clear are you on where you are going and how clear are your staff? Do not assume that they are clear because you think you are. They may or may not be. I know because I talk to many staff who say to me, "I don't know where we are going."

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

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Four keys to restoring trust when it has been broken by leaders

All leaders make mistakes and sometimes those errors in judgement significantly erode their leadership capital - as well as the leadership capital of those around them. I often work with churches where leaders (pastoral or boards) have either neglected issues they should have paid attention to, allowed staff toxicity to exist, made decisions that were widely unpopular, let a staff member go without due process and the list could go on. No leader is exempt from actions, decisions or words that causes a break in trust with those they lead. The question is, how does one restore trust when it has been broken?

The answer is fairly simple but not easy. Not easy because it requires us as leaders to humble ourselves, admit we missed the mark and are willing to make it right. That is a tough thing for a leader to do. We want to be seen as strong and right. And this requires us to admit that we are often weak and wrong. It is a humbling process but without that process trust will not be rebuilt. Nor will we grow. Here are the four keys.

One. We must admit our error - personally. If we screwed up, it is not a secret among those we lead.   No matter what we do in the aftermath of broken trust, unless and until we personally say we were wrong and want to make it right we will not even begin to rebuild trust. I have seen leaders change course in the midst of pressure but until they admit they were wrong (a hard thing to do) they continue to lose points with those they lead. A heartfelt apology, however, goes a long way.

Two. We need to listen to hard feedback. I remember a situation in my own leadership where I had to take responsibility for something that became a mess. Not only did I need to take responsibility but I then had to listen to some hard things from people who were upset by decisions that had been made. These were not easy conversations and I had to listen with a humble heart. What it did, however, was to begin to rebuild trust with people who were extremely unhappy and it made a huge difference. Leaders are not exempt from hearing hard things and until we are willing to do that it is very difficult to rebuild trust.

Three. We need to tell the truth. It can be exceptionally hard for leaders to simply say, "I was wrong," "this is what I was thinking," "this is why I did what I did," and simply explain why they did what they did. All too often in Christian circles we try to spin the story so that we look OK or better than we are. Here is the truth, our people know that we were wrong and they don't buy the spin. In fact, spinning the truth in any way causes us to lose additional points rather than to rebuild trust. Spin may help us to feel better but it erodes rather than rebuilds trust. 

Let's be honest here. Spin is an attempt to protect our reputations but it is both dishonest and untruthful. God is a God of truth, not lies and the sad thing is that when we try to spin we are not only lying to others but to ourselves. We deplore it when it happens in Washington DC and we ought to deplore it when it happens in Christian ministries. The way forward is to be truthful and candid and honest even when it is a humbling experience to us.

Four. When we have messed up we need to take a posture of humility. It is what we teach and preach to others and it applies to us as leaders as well. People respond well to humility and they spot pride a mile away. All three of the previous keys to restoring trust require true humility. There is no other way to restore broken trust. It is a "nothing to prove and nothing to lose" attitude that models what we want other to live. When we are wrong, we need to live that humility ourselves.

Trust can be rebuilt when it is broken but it will not be without these four practices.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Ten lessons from the Life of Moses on the heart of leadership

Moses is one of the greatest Old Testament leaders but too little attention is paid to how he got to the point where God could use him to do great things. If one looks at his life from age 40 to 80 there are ten instructive lessons that ought to inform our own lives as we think about leadership.

1. God is always on time but is never in a hurry. Think about this. When Moses was 40 he thought that he was something and God could not use him. When he was eighty he thought he was not much and God was ready to use him. It took forty years to perfect what God needed to do in Moses heart before he took on his God assignment. God is always on time but He is never in a hurry. He wants us to be ready above all things.

2. In God's work the heart always comes before leadership. At forty, Moses' heart was not ready for his God assignment. At eighty it was. What do you suppose God did in Moses heart for the forty years he was a shepherd for his father in law? He had forty years to spend time with his father, to live in his presence and the proof of this is the humility that Moses exhibited at eighty that was absent at forty. It took that time for Moses to have the heart material that God could use.

3. Hardship is inherent in the process. Our growth as leadership material does not come easily. It comes hard. It came in Moses' life by needing to run from his adopted father, give up a life of privilege and take up the humble life of a shepherd - as an alien in a foreign land for forty years. It is the humbling process that strips us of the dross that will keep us from being successful for God. It is not easy but it is necessary.

4. God's callings are holy callings. When God appeared to Moses at the burning bush the first thing He said was that Moses should take off his shoes for he was standing on holy ground. Holy because God was present and Holy because the assignment God was giving was a Holy assignment. All God assignments are Holy assignments wherever He places us. That is why we should take our calling and our vocation seriously, whatever it is.

5. God does not call us to do things we can do without Him. We should never be so cavalier as to think that we can do what God calls us to do on our own. Why would He call us to do anything we can do by ourselves? His assignments require His presence and His power and His wisdom. Moses got this which is why he repeatedly said "I am not qualified for the job." Of course he was not qualified and neither are we. God calls us to do those things that require His divine power and wisdom.

6. God reveals Himself to us as we answer His call. The first thing Moses had to do was to accept the fact that God was calling him and to say "yes" to that call. It was as he took a step of obedience that God continued to reveal himself and give Moses the resources he needed to lead the people out of Egypt. It was a "one step of obedience at a time leadership" which is what ours is as well. God did not show Moses the whole plan but He did prove Himself faithful as Moses chose to say yes.

7. False starts are often not failures. Moses had a massive false start. Was it a failure? I choose to think not. I believe it was simply one of the learning Moments that would prepare Moses for his big assignment. We should not be afraid of false starts in our leadership roles. God may simply be teaching us what we need to learn for the ultimate leadership role He wants us to play. Moses probably thought his false start was a failure. God probably saw it much differently.

8. God infuses what is in our hands for His divine purposes. It is a comical conversation that Moses had with God - especially because it mirrors our own inner conversations with God all too often. Moses says to God, how will the people know that I am from you when I go before Pharaoh? God says, "What is in your hand?" Moses says a staff, the most ordinary of instruments. God says throw it down and it became a snake and Moses ran from it....and the story goes on. God takes the most ordinary stuff that is in our hand or skill set and uses it for His divine purposes. We worry about what we have to carry out God's assignments. He does not. He simply takes what is in our hand and uses it for His purposes.

9. He does not call us to do it alone! Moses did not have all the skills that were necessary to carry out God's call and he knew it. Thus God provided Aaron to join his team and his father in law along the way to give him leadership advice. When God calls us he usually calls us to do things with others who have the skills we do not possess.

10.  We never arrive so our hearts need constant attention. Moses learned this in the journey of leading the people out of bondage and ultimately to the promised land. His own heart was tested time and again by those he led and the circumstances he found himself in. But he continued to nurture his heart and cry out to God for his presence and His power. It is all too easy to become complacent and careless, thinking we have arrived. That does not happen until we see Jesus face to face.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Three keys to humility

Romans 12:3-8 gives us one of the best keys to understanding humility in our lives. This is especially critical for leaders whose leadership role can move them toward pride easily.

Humble Service in the Body of Christ

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your[a] faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,[b] do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

The first key is knowing who I am: "Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you." Sober judgment is an important phrase as we are often tempted to think more of ourselves than we should. When I was young I thought I was good at a lot of things. Today I know I am good at about three things and the rest of my portfolio are weaknesses.

The second key is knowing who I am not. This is actually as important as understanding who I am and what I am good at. Jesus chose to give each of us specific gifts and the fact that we have a few and not many should actually engender significant humility. I am always amazed at the things others can do that I cannot. It is a reminder that each of us play a limited role in the grand scheme of things. While I love the gifts God gave to me I also recognize how much I need others when I think of the gifting I do not have.

The third key is understanding who gave us our gifts and why. It is hard to be proud of myself when I realize that the abilities I have were given by God to be used for His purposes. If I take credit for gifts He gave I steal credit from Him. Rather than being proud, we can be deeply grateful that He gifted and wired us the way He did and that we can use all of that gifting for His purposes in the world.

We never need to trivialize the gifts God gave us which is false humility. I know that I am very good at three things. At the same time we cannot take credit for what He gave us. All of this ought to engender a deep sense of humility in our lives. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Critical spirits and the Christian community

If there is one thing that I wish we could erase from the Christian community it is the spirit of criticism. I am not talking about raising legitimate concerns about issues or circumstances but about individuals who consistently stir the pot and whose default is to criticism rather than to encourage. Criticism is not a spiritual gift! In fact it is just the opposite - it emanates from a spirit of mistrust, pride and superiority.

A spirit of criticism is life taking rather than life giving and as such is not from the Father (John 10:10). It emanates from the lower nature. There are congregations that specialize in criticism and it holds them back from being all that they can be. There are individuals whose specialty is criticism and I for one don't want to have such on my staff or for that matter in my circle of friends. I prefer to rub shoulders with life giving individuals rather than life taking. The world is cruel enough and adding critical spirits to it is anything but edifying.

The book of Ephesians talks a lot about the kinds of attitudes and words that should characterize believers and none of them include a spirit of criticism. In fact, we are told that nothing should come out of our mouths that does not uplift those who we speak to. Something to consider.

Before we criticize we ought to ask ourselves these questions:

  • Is this simply a preference for how I would do things?
  • Will my comments encourage or discourage?
  • What is it in me that creates a critical spirit?
  • How would I feel if I had made this decision and was criticized for it? 
  • How would Jesus approach this issue? Would he approach this issue?
  • Do I really want to weigh in on this issue? The more critical we are the less we are heard. Does this raise to the level where it is really necessary for me to be critical?
Leaders are especially magnets for criticism. They make decisions and many love to second guess what those decisions should be. Board members or staff who have a spirit of criticism are the cause of much discouragement for leaders. For those who have such a gift of criticism I wish they could walk for a week in the shoes of a leader. It is easy to criticize. It is much more difficult to come up with real solutions.

Think of the fruit of the spirit. None of the characteristics include a spirit of criticism. We ought to be quick to encourage and slow to discourage. Criticism is the ultimate trigger for discouragement. Even when Jesus confronted sin he did so with great grace (the pharisees excepted). A spirit of criticism is not a spirit that comes from our Savior.

All of T.J. Addington's books are available from the author for the lowest prices and a $2.00 discount on orders of ten or more.

Want to grow your staff or elder/leadership board?

Deep Influence, which will release on Jan 1, 2015 is an excellent resource for your staff and elder/leadership board. If you are a ministry leader these are twelve issues that you wish your staff and board understood. This book with its accompanying questions will help you grow yourself and those who work with you. The chapter titles are as follows :

Forged on the Inside
Choosing a Posture of Humility
Embracing Spiritual Transformation
Suffering and Leadership
Managing the Shadow Side
Emotional Intelligence (EQ)
Leading from Who God Made Me to Be
Choosing Intentionality
Thinking Like a Contrarian
Living with the Freedom of Clarity 
Powerful Transparency
Guarding our Hearts

To order at the lowest price and with $2.00 per book discounts for ten or more you can order from the author's bookstore.

Some of the book's Endorsements
“We get formed from the outside in, but we lead from the
inside out. T. J. Addington explains this process with clarity and
conviction. In an age of superficiality, he will guide you to the
deeper places of influence and change.”
John C. Ortberg
Author, speaker, and senior pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian
Church in Menlo Park, CA

“I’ve been a fan of T. J. Addington for a long time. I’m a wiser
and better leader because of his writings. But Deep Influence is
his most important contribution yet. Every young leader will
gain decades of leadership wisdom forged in the painful trenches
of reality. Veteran leaders will be inspired to finish strong.”
Gene Appel
Senior pastor of Eastside Christian Church in Anaheim, CA

“Any leader willing to offer his story authentically and invite
others to do the same is an author worth paying attention to.
T. J. is a man who has cultivated his inner life around the person
of Christ and allowed God to shape and reshape his heart, mind,
relationships, and priorities. He has led from a spiritual depth
and now is sharing his biblical and transformational insights
in Deep Influence. I’m delighted to encourage Christian leaders
to consider each chapter herein with prayerful seriousness and
godly attentiveness.”
Stephen A. Macchia
Founder and president of Leadership Transformations, director
of the Pierce Center at Gordon-Conwell Seminary, and author
of Becoming A Healthy Church and Crafting A Rule of Life

“My friend T. J. Addington is a wise leadership guru, and
Deep Influence is his most profound book on the subject! A
seasoned, reflective practitioner, T. J. masterfully tackles the most
challenging terrain of leadership—the inner life of the leader—
along with the empowering practices each leader must cultivate.
Few books effectively deal with leadership from the inside out.
This is one of the best!”
Edmund Chan
Leadership mentor at Covenant EFC and founder of
Global Alliance of Intentional Disciplemaking Churches

“As a wife, mother, and educator, I’ve been challenged and
reminded through this book of what it truly means to live an
authentic life in Christ. It begins with humility and honesty—
seeking the heart of God and living out all that He calls us to be.
It is through this personal relationship with Christ that we are
then able to be molded and crafted to become effective in our
leadership roles and to influence others. If your desire is to live
out your calling with great effectiveness as you reflect Christ to a
seeking world, Deep Influence is just the navigation you need!”
Melissa Larson
Adjunct professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at
University of Northwestern

“If you are not yet convinced that the most difficult challenge
you will face as a leader is in ‘self-leadership,’ then read Deep
Influence. My dear friend T. J. Addington sharpened his ministry
leadership out of the depths of life experience even as God
granted and grew him into a major leadership role for the global
church. Deepened by a vital spiritual relationship with God,
he enriches fellow leaders with practical wisdom toward deep influence for God’s purposes.”
Ramesh Richard, ThD, PhD
President of RREACH, professor at Dallas Seminary, and
founder of Trainers of Pastors International Coalition (TOPIC)

“Deep Influence is an invitation to listen to a seasoned leader’s
voice dripping with the life-giving wisdom of Jesus. The
practices in this book will lead to an exegesis of the heart and
guide the reader into the lifelong journey of allowing God to
mold ‘who we are,’ which informs ‘what we do.’”
Tom Smith
Pastor, husband, co founder of Rhythm of Life, and author
of Raw Spirituality: The Rhythms of the Jesus Life

“Deep Influence cuts to the core of leadership and returns
character to the central place it occupies in God’s eyes. I have
shelves full of books on leadership, but this one leaves you
knowing you can be better and lead better. It is significant
without being tedious, direct but not discouraging. Buy it, read
it, mark it up, and read it again. Addington ought to be on top
of the pile.”
David W. Hegg, DMin
Pastor, adjunct professor, and author of The Obedience Option

“Deep Influence, every chapter, was a deep dive into my
motives, methods, mind, mission calling, leadership style, and
relationships that brought me to a place of unexpected and
unconventional light, revealing a clear, fresh, exciting perspective
to press forward. T. J. humbly said it well—‘Depth matters’—
as he carefully and biblically aimed at my life through the person
of Jesus Christ and hit my inner target: the sanctum of my heart.
This book is a transparent, transformational leadership mirror
that leads to intentional joy and freedom. Ephesians 2:10 came
alive in me, and it will in you.”
Doug Fagerstrom, DMin
Senior vice president of Converge and author of The Ministry
Staff Member and The Volunteer

“With skill and clarity, T. J. Addington argues that leadership
is not about technique—it is about character. What matters
most is not how we lead but from what source we choose to lead.
Whether you are a ministry leader or a leader in the marketplace,
this book describes the practices that will enable you to lead
from the inside out. If you want to grow as a leader, this book
is a great place to start.”
George Davis, PhD
Senior pastor of Hershey Free Church in Hershey, PA

“Deep Influence draws an effective map for exploring the inner
life so often neglected by today’s image-conscious leader. T. J.’s
emphasis on personal integrity, authenticity, and emotional
intelligence offers a healthy antidote to the toxic influence
of every leader’s shadow side. His practical, personal counsel
encourages, challenges, and inspires every leader to pursue the
slower, more intentional, inside-out path to deeper, lasting
impact in ministry.”
Russ Kinkade, PsyD
Psychologist and executive VP of Shepherds Ministries

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Give the gift of Hope this Christmas to those who need it

Nothing describes the incarnation better than hope. Yet there are many who need the gift of hope this Christmas. This book was written for those who are walking through hard times - to give them the ultimate hope. If you know someone who needs the gift of hope this Christmas, this is a gift that will deliver much needed hope. To order, just click on the book cover.

From the forward:
Life has come undone. One day life is normal, and the next day our
lives are thrown into confusion and chaos. Like a drowning person, we find ourselves fighting to get back to the surface so we can take a breath.Pain, fear, and uncertainty have taken over. It is hard to even grasp this new reality as our minds and hearts shout, “This cannot be!”

If any of this describes you, a friend, or family member, this book is written for you. This is an authentic experience with life and pain and faith. Ultimately, this book offers hope for what can be after life has come undone, but before we get to what can be we must deal with what is. We must struggle through the emotional turmoil when life’s rules change cruelly without our permission.

No matter how strong our faith, such events often create a crisis of
faith. To not ask hard questions about God’s love and faithfulness in the trauma of life undone is abnormal, maybe irrational. Never is our understanding of God’s love, grace, and mercy more challenged and the answers more important than when life is hard and hope is scarce. We hang on to faith by the tips of our fingers as our minds work to encompass issues we have never had to understand except in a theoretical way.

To all of this there are no easy answers and often just more questions. The life undone forces us to question and reexamine the very core of what faith and life are about. I have asked these hard questions, and I am sure you have as well.

I invite you on a journey toward a life of hope, wholeness, and freedom. You can get there, regardless of how your life has come undone. This is not a journey of easy answers but one of honest realities, unlikely gifts, divine scars, God’s goodness, and ultimately a freedom that you have never experienced before.

There is nothing theoretical about When Life Comes Undone. It
comes out of real life, real pain, real struggle, and real faith. It explores the question, How do we walk by faith when life is hard and hope is scarce? Where is God in our pain? Why does God allow life to come undone when I have served Him and followed Him? There are no easy answers, but there are divine perspectives that can help us on that hard journey we all walk at one time or another.

I have walked this hard path. Walk with me toward freedom.
When life comes undone, having a community of support becomes
crucial. You may choose to use this book in a small group with others who are on this journey. Finding your freedom may involve receiving from others as well as giving your compassion and prayer to others. Use the discussion questions at the end of each chapter in your small group. Each chapter also includes a prayer, as an example of praying boldly. I invite you to prayerfully read through this book, allowing God to minister to your heart and heal your pain.

Listening to voices that make us feel uncomfortable

One of the most valuable lessons I have learned as a leader is to listen to voices and opinions that make me feel uncomfortable. It is not that I need to agree with them but I do need to listen to them and evaluate the perspective I am hearing. 

Think of the complexity of the world in which we live. We have perspectives of men and women (often different), first and second generation immigrants (often different), the outlook of various racial groups (witness Ferguson) and significant differences in the outlooks of differing age groups. It is in this environment that we are called to do ministry and advance the kingdom of Jesus - together.

I think it was no accident that Jesus brought together the most amazing group of disciples that would never have bonded apart from Him. He was making the point that in Him we can become one. In Him there is no Jew or Gentile, male or female, free or enslaved. In Him we  are one. The challenge of course is in living that truth out in the real life ministries we are a part of. Not easy indeed but possible if our vision is on the family God is intent in creating as His family. 

That means, however that we need to listen to the voices that make up the family we are a part of. All of us seen from our own perspective while Jesus desires us to see from His perspective. And His perspective takes in all of His people and their views and unique outlooks on life. Can it be uncomfortable? Yes! Can it help us grow and expand our views on life and ministry? Absolutely! It is our unity in our diversity that makes us the strongest as God's family. In that sense I love to be made uncomfortable because it helps me understand Him in a fuller way and the family of God in its fullness. 

The theology of the priesthood of all believers is a powerful reason to listen to fellow believers and seek to understand their perspective. They like us have the Holy Spirit dwelling in their hearts and it is us together that make up the wonderful and diverse family that is His family.