Sunday, November 10, 2019

Every church needs a big dream

We talk much of needing clarity in any organization. I write and teach and help organizations find that clarity. But one of the pieces of clarity is a dream - a big dream that captivates, inspires and in some way changes the world for the better. There is something deep within the human heart that desires to make a difference. Give people that opportunity and they will run with you. Too many of our plans and dreams are small and uninspiring. Every organization needs a big dream.

Every church needs a big dream. Something rooted in the Gospel that changes lives and communities and regions of the world. One church I am aware of trained evangelists and pastors in rural India but discovered that their mode of transportation - bikes was terrible. They dreamed of building a bike that would be tough, strong, and navigate bad roads well. Challenging their congregation resulted in $300,000 raised in one day and thousands of bikes are now traversing India for the sake of Jesus. Oh, and they started a company to build the bikes through a 501.C3.

Where there is no dream, there is little incentive for people to invest their lives, finances and energy for something that has eternal value. Too often the local church leaves the big dream to other organizations. The dream to change a child's life fuels Compassion International. The dream to provide clean water fuels part of World Vision's funding efforts, raising massive amounts of money through marathons. These are big and meaningful dreams that change lives.

Why should the church not be at the center of big dreams? Where that dream exists there is a vibrancy and opportunity to see the Gospel change lives and communities. Does your congregation have a large compelling dream to bring people together for the sake of being the love and truth of Jesus. 

The local church has massive potential to impact lives, local communities and society but it takes a dream, a vision to see something important happen. To bring people together around the gospel. When that happens we put aside our petty conflicts and politics to focus on Jesus issues and dreams that Jesus inspires.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Leaders and their ability to speak truth to staff

Many leaders struggle with the desire to be liked by those they lead. It is after all a basic human need and none of us want to be disliked. Leaders often try to be "one of the boys or girls" with those they supervise. And while collegial relationships are a huge plus on any team or or in any organization, there is a subtle but critical distinction for those in supervisory roles. Kevin Kruse says it this way in "Great Leaders have no Rules."

"In friendship, your relationship isn't tied to anything other than the pleasure of the social interaction itself. When you're the boss, your relationship with a subordinate is about achieving specific goals. Whether that goal is closing a million-dollar sale, or finishing the new software module, or assembling a thousand smartphones, having an objective in your relationship changes everything.

"If you're the boss, its easy to say that you and your direct reports are 'equals' or peers. 'Hey, I'm just like all of you, I just have a different job.' It's easy to believe that you're the same as your team members and your role is just to coach. But it's just not true."

The desire to be liked keeps leaders from having tough conversations that need to be had, to making changes that need to be made, and from holding people accountable for results when they are lacking. When a leader cannot be honest with staff or deal with issues that need attention because they don't want to disappoint those they lead - they have lost the ability to lead.

I have watched divisional leaders blame senior leaders when they had to make a tough call because they didn't want to be seen as the bad guy. Senior leaders, likewise can blame the board for decisions they need to make but don't want to be seen as violating the "friendship." Our desire to be liked can directly impact the quality of our leadership.

Here are some things to remember.

One. All of us should be likable in that we treat those around us with respect and dignity. That is not driven by our desire to be liked but by our commitment to treat others with honor.

Two. Not everyone will like us and that is OK. The drive to be liked is an addiction to please people rather than to lead well and leading well will always mean that at some junctures we will make some people unhappy. 

If everyone you lead always likes you, chances are that you are not leading well. Leaders make decisions for the sake of the organization which are not always universally accepted or liked. 

Three. The goal of leaders should be to be respected rather than liked. Leaders who are clear, honest, direct and fair will be respected even when their actions are not always liked. They are respected because they are leading with clarity, fairness and truth. 

To lead well, one has to be willing and able to speak truth to staff without their desire to be liked getting in the way. Leadership is a stewardship to a mission, an organization and staff. Not all will be happy with all leadership decisions but all will be healthier when leaders lead well. Any time a leader puts off critical conversations because of their fear of disappointing a staff member, they are allowing their desire to be liked to get in the way of their responsibility to lead. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

The society of the Bent and Broken

We live in a broken world. Some of us know it better than others. In many churches there is a Celebrate Recovery ministry which ministers to those who know they are broken. Ironically, many others in the church are also broken but they hide behind a facade of "respectability" - pretending and posturing to prove all is well. 

Those who are broken but choose to hide that brokenness not only don't get better but they live double lives, torn between who they want to be and who they know they are. Unfortunately, the very place that was designed to be the place of transparency and healing is most often a place of hiding and judgement. In many churches grace is very hard to find - if you are broken. 

Without grace, there cannot be healing. Without transparency and the safety of sharing ones brokenness there is no healing. We are great in the evangelical world of shaming the broken which is a defensive mechanism to keep people looking at others rather than looking at ourselves. Why is there Celebrate Recovery? Partly because it is a safe place to admit brokenness. Most of the church is not safe and many are hiding those places where they are bent out of fear of what people will think. And say. And judge. And shame. And shun.

The pharisees were like many in the church. Yes, there are many pharisees in the church. They objected to Jesus spending time with prostitutes, tax collectors and the general riffraff of his day. Why did he spend his time there? Because these people knew and admitted their brokenness. Leaving Jesus to say that he came for the sick, not the healthy. Of course, the pharisees of that day or this are not healthy either but are good at pretending. And when a woman poured expensive perfume on his feet and someone objected at the waste of money, Jesus looked at him and said those who have received much grace appreciate that grace. Those who don't think they need it don't appreciate.

There are churches here and there that break the mold: places of safety, transparency and healing. Having worked with many churches, however, I believe them to be a small minority. I no longer expect churches to play the role of healing. Rather, those who know their brokenness and have found healing reach out with amazing grace and come alongside those who need love, help and grace. 

Read the Gospels and see how Jesus interacted with sinners. Ironically the only people he was judgmental of were those who refused to admit their brokenness. Again the pharisees.