Sunday, March 30, 2014

A must read CT interview with Kay Warren on the suicide of her son one year ago April

Some wounds never heal this side of heaven. The suicide of a loved one is one of those. This interview with Kay Warren should encourage those who have experienced this terrible loss and should teach those of us who have not.

CT interview with Kay Warren

(Posted from Milwaukee)

Eight dysfunctions of church governance boards

I want to say this gently but straightforwardly! There is a crisis of leadership in the church as it relates to who we put in leadership whether we call them councils, boards, elders, deacons or simply the leadership boards. This crisis is responsible for many of the dysfunctions in local churches. Leadership at this level matters a lot. 

Having served for years as a pastor, board member or board chair I know it is not an easy task. That being said it is vital to the health of the church that we have healthy boards. There is much that I could say - my book High Impact Church Boards is an accessible and readable book for boards. But for the moment let's look at the top dysfunctions of church governance boards.

Not guarding the gate to leadership.
It takes only one or two wrong board members to sabotage the health of a board. See my blog, Eight kinds of people who should not serve on a church board. What this means is that how we select leaders to church leadership matters a lot. There are actually implicit and explicit qualifications spelled out in Scripture that need to be considered. Most churches do not have a safe and effective way of choosing church leaders and it comes back to hurt the board and the church. See The profile of an effective church leader.

Allowing elephants to exist in the boardroom.
Elephants are the issues everyone knows are there but no one will name. They are dangerous precisely because the board is unable to talk about them. And they are issues that usually matter. Dysfunctional boards allow elephants to exist that healthy boards do not and those issues are usually issues that cause harm to the ministry and church body. Periodically I recommend that you ask the board if there are any unspoken elephants that need to be named. Once named, elephants are simply issues to be discussed.

Allowing known issues to fester way too long.
There is a failure of courage on many boards. Either we don't talk about known issues (elephants) or we talk about them but never resolve them until they finally become big issues that must be dealt with. Passive boards who avoid conflict lead passive churches that will do the same. Peter makes it clear in 2 Peter 5 that church leadership is not easy or for the faint of heart. Many boards don't deal with known issues until that issue has caused a lot of damage in the church. Here is a principle. When you deal with an issue in a straight forward way when it appears it is fairly easy to deal with. When you allow it to fester for years it is far messier to clean up.

Substituting business for the spiritual work of leadership.
Boards must do business but it is not the only work that they do which is spelled out in the New Testament as: keeping the spiritual temperature high; ensuring that the congregation is taught; cared for; developed and released into meaningful ministry; protected and led well. Most boards I work with have allowed prayer to become a perfunctory way to start and end board meetings rather than a central priority of seeking out the heart of God. Boards that are devoid of significant spiritual life will lead churches of the same nature.

Not doing due diligence on issues.
I have seen associate pastors fired with no questions from a board on the word of the senior pastor when even a cursory conversation with the affected party would have indicated that what they were hearing was highly skewed and inaccurate. I once interviewed all staff who had left a church over a 12 month period and they all had the same story of abuse and unfair treatment by the senior leader yet no one on the board had ever asked and were living in denial. Where there are patters, pay attention, ask questions and verify. Numerous times I have encountered boards that knew something was going on but chose not to inquire. In the meantime people were badly hurt.

The inability to police their own members.
I am regularly fascinated by the fact that board members want congregants to "behave" and will even sometimes "bully" them into doing so but are unable and unwilling to police their own behaviors. That is a huge disconnect. I tell boards that they operate without a board covenant at their own risk. In some congregations I have worked with, the behavior of the congregation surpassed that of their presumptive spiritual leaders. 

Lack of a plan, intentionality and accountability for results.
Part of the biblical mandate of leaders is to lead. Yet many boards cannot articulate where the church is going and why. That is clearly not leadership but rather babysitting the status quo. Where there is a plan there is often not intentionality about pursuing it and few church boards hold staff accountable for real ministry results but simply spiritualize the issue (the Holy Spirit is responsible for results). There is a reason some churches see more results than others: they have a  plan are intentional about the plan and regularly evaluate how they are doing.

Misusing the authority of a leader.
Some church leaders are frankly bully's and full of themselves because of the title they hold. Most of us have met one. Of course this goes back to the need to guard the gate on the front end so that people with agenda's or lack of humility don't get into leadership. The predominant job of church leaders is to serve God's people in the spirit that Jesus served people during his life on earth. It is about service more than position, example more than pronouncements, living the Jesus life and pursuing His agenda rather than our personal agendas. I encounter too many leaders who through their weight around rather than serve.

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"

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Three distinct kinds of leaders that every organization needs

Most organizations - including churches - have three kinds of leaders: project leaders; influence leaders; and organizational leaders. Knowing what kind of leader you need to move your mission forward is critical. Knowing what kind of leaders you have is equally critical. When each of these types of leaders are in the right leadership spot they lead well. When they are misplaced they cause frustration, and are frustrated.

None of us are "pure" anything but most of us as leaders have a predominant leadership style. It is not unusual for organizational leaders to be able to play the other two roles when needed. But generally one will find that leaders will fit into one of these three categories.

Project leaders love to work with initiatives that have defined outcomes and timeframes. They are wired to move key actions toward results. Usually they focus on tactics and implementation rather than strategy and philosophy. They are often concrete in their thinking and approach as this is what projects need. A good project leader is able to mobilize and work with people to accomplish a specific goal. Their satisfaction comes with the completion of a project. 

Project leaders do not want to manage something long term. Rather, once the project is completed they are ready to move on to the next project. Often they are wired to solve problems and once the problem is resolved the challenge is gone and they are ready for the next. While they can manage people, their motivation for doing so is to accomplish the project, not manage for the sake of managing. In fact, long term management of people and programs will frustrate a project leader.

Then there are influence leaders who lead not from positional authority (often) but they work with people and ideas to motivate growth, change, initiate thinking and new angles of approaching issues. Their focus is on insight and learning and they use their influence within a system or organization to bring change. Usually they work with or for others to impact and support results.

Influence leaders usually are not motivated to manage other but to influence others. They don't want to manage programs but to influence healthy results. They are thinkers and use their analysis, ideas and relational skills to move others in a key direction. A good consultant is often an influence leader as can be trainers. Ironically, many of the most influential people in any organization do not have positional authority but lead out of influence. This is often true in the local church. 

The third category, organizational leaders also lead for the most part out of influencing others but they have the added ability and desire to bring people, opportunities and structure together in an aligned system to accomplish the overall mission of the organization. They have the ability to connect disparate parts into a whole, move multiple agendas with an overall focus on strategy and outcomes. They enjoy ongoing oversight (not control but empowering others) and primarily work through others to achieve results. Thus they have the capacity to lead a team.

The best organizational leaders are organizers, strategists and architects of overall strategy in order to achieve a mission. They are conceptual thinkers, have the ability to hold different options and ideas in tension and are highly flexible. Their satisfaction comes from getting all the puzzle pieces together so that the mission is accomplished and they understand that they must work through others in order to accomplish their goals.

If you are a leader, which of these descriptions is most like you? If you lead others, can you identify what kind of leaders you lead and are they in their proper lane?  

(Posted from Milwaukee)

Friday, March 28, 2014

When looking for leaders how do you evaluate their potential?

Like most ministries, ReachGlobal is always looking for good leaders. In doing so, however, our staff must be able to evaluate the potential of leaders they encounter. Aside from the obvious qualifications of character and Christian commitment there are four areas we evaluate as we interact with potential leaders. The questions below are not a checklist but the kinds of things we are looking for in these four areas as we dialogue with these potential leaders. They may be helpful to you and your organization.

These apply to both volunteer and paid leaders.

If you are a leader in some capacity you might want to evaluate yourself against these qualities.


  • Do they desire to see more accomplished through others?
  • Do they have the ability and inclination to do a critical assessment of people? (Their skills and abilities).
  • Are they likeable and able to engage others?
  • How do they view people? As tools or human beings?
  • Is their need to be liked greater than their need to get something done?

  • Do they have the ability to think conceptually?
  • Do they have the ability to think strategically?
  • Do they ask strategic questions?
  • Are they able to critically assess organizational issues?
  • Are they able to assess situations without placing blame?
  • Do they have the mental agility to see multiple possible causes and solutions?
  • Are they able to live with ambiguity and hold issues in tension without immediate resolution? (Can they think grey?)
  • Are they thoughtful in their response to questions?
  • Do they appropriately question conventional wisdom?


  • Are they aware of their own emotions, wiring, strengths and gifts?
  • Are they able to manage their emotions appropriately?
  • Do they exhibit true humility?
  • Are they able to be self-defining?
  • Are they able to understand with empathy the emotions of another person?


  • Do they have a record of leading others toward some vision or goal?
  • Are they more adept at organizational leadership, influence leadership or project management?
  • What have they learned from failures and successes as a leader?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Civil and uncivil discourse in the Christian community

I have watched closely the comments (thousands) posted on Christianity Today's website over both homosexuality and World Vision's recent decision and retraction. I have also noted how some high profile leaders among Evangelical's reacted and pontificated.

Of course I was not surprised by the outcry of exception to World Vision's actions. What surprised me was the lack of wisdom and Biblical discernment by World Vision's board.

That aside I was truly appalled by the uncivil discourse by Christ followers in the debate. Unfortunately it is not an uncommon thing. We seem to lack the ability to speak to one another and to those outside our community with respect and kindness while disagreeing with the other side's conclusions. 

We often forget that our position (truth - as we understand it) is just as important as how we communicate that truth (grace - the flip side of truth). Jesus was described as one who was full of "grace and truth."

If the words of Paul were applied to the comments on CT and elsewhere a great deal of them would be gone. "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen...Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another...(Ephesians 4:29-32)."

Truth without grace does not reflect Jesus or the fruit of the Spirit. Many outside the evangelical community see us as angry and unloving and they are often right - and that is sad. Is it not possible to speak and write our minds even while demonstrating the heart and kindness of Christ? This applies to controversies like World Vision as well as disagreements within congregations. Angry and unkind believers do not reflect the values or character of Jesus no matter how "right" they might be. And we lose our hearing if our words do not reflect the love of Jesus as well as the truth of Jesus.

(Posted from Milwaukee)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The willingness to say we blew it

While I was critical of World Vision's recent decision to hire "Christians in Gay marriages" I applaud their willingness to acknowledge two days later that they were wrong. Too many organizations and individuals are unable to make that humble statement and it takes humility. They did it and I applaud Rich Stearns and his board. They did the right thing and we should take them at their word and move on.

I have seen elders in local churches do some unfortunate things and on occasion I have seen them own those decisions in front of congregations and say they were sorry. That not only takes courage but it is the right thing to do. I applaud them and their congregations ought to be the first to let go of their anger, forgive and move on together.

As a leader I know that it is not easy to say "I blew it" and sometimes I have had to take responsibility for things that happened on my watch even when I was not directly responsible. But it is the right thing to do - hard as it is. It is interesting that in a few cases, no matter how many times I apologized for certain actions people did not let go of the "offense." 

All of us blow it. All of us need from time to time to own our stuff and ask forgiveness, apologize or make amends. When someone does, we need to celebrate that they did the right thing and move on. The lack of forgiveness among some evangelicals is a sad thing. If I don't forgive, why should I be forgiven and none of us is above that need. So, I hope that believers will not abandon World Vision or the work they do or the kids that are impacted. Let's move on.

(Posted from Milwaukee)

World Vision reverses its decision to hire Christians in Gay married relationships

It took World Vision just two days to reverse its decision to hire Christians in Gay married relationships. It will take years for it to recover its reputation - if it ever does. See the latest here.

(Posted from Milwaukee)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Do fame and notoriety cloud one's thinking?

I have been mulling on a number of situations recently where Christian leaders have made really poor decisions in my view: Rich Stearns and World Vision's new policy to hire individuals in homosexual marriages; Rob Bell and his redefinition of heaven and hell and and the controversy over Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill who tried to manipulate the system to get his book on marriage onto the New York Times best seller list. I have another private list of individuals who have seemingly lost their way when they become Christian public figures. I saddens me and causes me to ask a question:

Do fame and notoriety cloud one's thinking and cause us to make decisions and pronouncements that are Biblically questionable? Does fame tend to give us more confidence in our own wisdom than in God's wisdom? Does it allow us to cross boundaries that we did not dare cross in the earlier years?

Fame and celebrity are a dangerous calling and few seem to handle it well. We see success and that success breeds pride and we begin to believe our own press which leads to the marginalization of those who don't agree with us and soon we become isolated and unaccountable - and eventually crash! Wisdom co-opted by pride! Youthful passion co-opted by ego! Jesus co-opted by us!

I am glad that I am not famous. I never want to be. To those who are I say this: There is never more important a time to develop a cadre who will tell one  the truth than when one is in the limelight. Because when the spotlight shines on us rather than on the One who created us, we have co-opted God and it rarely has a good ending.

To be clear, I don't know the motives or hearts of those named above and am not passing judgement. I am asking a question that their actions prompt. What I do know that when our name surpasses The Name, something is wrong. And when our pronouncements are at odds with His pronouncements, the same is true. 

There is never more important a time to develop accountability and humility and to guard the shadow side as when we become important in the eyes of others. And believe that we actually are.

(Posted from Milwaukee)

World Vision USA will now hire individuals in Gay marriage relationships

In a move that will certainly move World Vision USA away from many traditional evangelical churches they have announced a new policy that they will hire Christian individuals in Gay marriage relationships. This will certainly only add to the perception among many that World Vision, while committed to poverty alleviation, is little more than a secular NGO with a Christian background. 

Internationally it is well known that World Vision hires unbelievers in its development efforts. I find it ironic that just as World Vision is courting evangelical churches for partnerships it is choosing to make a statement about Gay marriage that runs against the grain of the vast majority of evangelicals in their understanding of what marriage constitutes and its implications for society.  

I am not anti-gay, some of my best friends are gay! What is at stake is the institution of marriage and what it means and how God designed the family and defined it. When major "Christian" organizations agree to redefinitions implicitly or explicitly we have a problem. I suspect that World Vision will discover that it is not ahead of its time but that they have literally put a "hole in the Gospel" to use a phrase they use. Gospel holes can be those things we neglect or those things we re-define.

See the Christianity Today article here

(Written today from Milwaukee)

If you want to understand the issues between Russia and Ukraine read this report from BBC

As you read the news please pray for Christians in Ukraine and Crimea who are directly impacted by this conflict.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Jesus and leadership

No, this is not another blog about Jesus as a CEO. Rather it is the proposition that the best leaders have Jesus at the center of their leadership. This applies to leaders in the marketplace or ministry!

How does Jesus change the leadership paradigm? Consider these factors.

When Jesus is truly at the center of our leadership we treat people differently than when He is not. Jesus cares deeply about people and leaders who have been transformed by Christ naturally want the very best for their staff. Jesus never used people, rather He served people and the same is true for those leaders who live with Jesus at the center of their lives.

When Jesus is truly at the center of our leadership we create transformational cultures in the workplace that are life giving rather than life taking. I am passionate about this because I encounter many ministries with toxic or unhealthy work cultures. Either our own workplace is seen as unimportant - after all we are doing ministry, or the dysfunctional nature of the leader shows itself among their staff. Transformed leaders, however, should be committed to life giving work environments and if Jesus is at the center of out leadership that will be the case. 

When Jesus is at the center of our leadership, we create teams committed to a common mission rather then building ministries around ourselves. In general, personality driven ministries reflect the hubris of the leader while team driven ministries reflect the humility of the leader. Even Jesus, the creator of the universe was intent on sharing his ministry with His disciples as He developed, coached and mentored them.

When Jesus is at the center of our leadership we live with humility. We apologize when we need to, tell the truth when news needs to be shared, give away credit for success and take responsibility for failure. In addition, we manage or dark side carefully knowing that when it shows up it hurts those we lead. Our goal is always to be a life giver rather than a life taker (John 10:10).

When Jesus is at the center of our leadership we fill our hearts with His truth, and seek genuine transformation of our own lives knowing that what is inside is what will spill out into our leadership. That means that our leadership is not the most important issue for us. Rather our relationship with Jesus is the central thing for without that our leadership will be shallow and life taking rather than life giving and transformational for those we lead.  

For believers, Jesus has absolutely everything to do with our leadership: it's quality; its focus; its motives and it's life giving quality. 

(Written from Oakdale, MN)

Five questions that can help you deal with almost any issue

My good friend Edmund Chan, former pastor, ministry leader and a coach and mentor to many recently shared these five questions with the senior staff of ReachGlobal. They are brilliant! Take and issue and apply them to the five questions and see where you end up.

1. Why is it so important?
2. If it is so important why is it so neglected?
3. What is it all about?
4. What makes it so difficult?
5. How can it best be accomplished?

(Written from Oakdale, MN)