Leaders, Buck Up

There is a pressure on leaders that many don’t understand. And that’s ok. We signed up for this. And when I mean leaders, you are responsible for a group of people. You don’t necessary have to be a Pastor. Maybe you are a team leader, coach, coordinator, Father, Mother, etc.

Many may scoff at this notion – that leaders have an elevated level of expectation; a heightened sense of ‘we have to get this right.’ Of course the obvious reason is everyone is looking at us. But the not so obvious reason is that God is looking at us.

In Jeremiah 5:4-5 God is looking at a nation that had rebelled against Him,

“4 I thought, “These are only the poor;
they are foolish,
for they do not know the way of the Lord,
the requirements of their God.

5 So I will go to the leaders
and speak to them;
surely they know the way of the Lord,
the requirements of their God.”
But with one accord they too had broken off the yoke
and torn off the bonds.

God was looking at the nation of Israel, disgusted at their spiritual state, and ready to pass judgement – exercise punishment for their deeds and lack of moral restraint. But He hoped that at least the leaders were where they were supposed to be with God. I think (which is dangerous, I know), that just maybe God would have spared Israel exile if the leaders had been spiritually solid. Furthermore, the verse reads that the people didn’t know the requirements of God. So God went to the leaders to see what was up. And that wasn’t good at all!

My point is, if no one else gets it, if no one else follows hard after Christ, it is still our responsibility as leaders to be the remnant. At least WE must get it right. Because God had setup this system of leadership that the people are more apt to go the way of the leader. And if the leaders get it, at least there is hope for those they lead.

If God was to come and examine your team, and if the only hope for your team fell on your spiritual status as a leader, how would you fair? Would your team be honored or would they be exiled?

Nice Nasty

Ever heard of nice nasty? It means someone is nice but their intent is not nice – its really just nasty. Kinda like getting a lollypop that is covered in hair. Oh that’s happened to you too?

It is really maddening though. How do you confront a compliment that, to you, seems to drip with venom?

In John 12:4 we see the story of Mary coming to pour a pint of expensive perfume on the feet of Jesus, anointing Him for his coming death. It was an act of worship that the disciples hadn’t yet seen and probably hadn’t experienced themselves.

And one disciple brought up such a noble objection. “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” Oh how his heart broke for the despondent! Oh how many sleepless nights this person must have spent thinking about the less fortunate! Oh the wisdom, the purity of heart, the essence of the Gospel that poured out of his voiced concern! What about the poor!!! I mean, Jesus was always talking about taking care of the less fortunate!!

But we see just one verse later that this disciple, Judas, had no concern for the poor. “He did not say this because he cared abou the poor but because he was a thief…” And, as always, Jesus found a way to counter this ‘noble and pure’ concern. “LEAVE HER ALONE!” His ‘nice concern’ was simply fruit of a ‘nasty heart.’

Just because you have people around you who say the right things, doesn’t mean they are the right people to be around. I recently heard Kevin Gerald say “just because someone is good to you doesn’t mean they are good for you.” 1 Corinthians says “Bad company corrupts good character.”

Evaluate the relationships in your life. Look past the words of their life. Look at their fruit – their actions – that show they have your best interest at heart and the heart of God.

It’s not easy. Feeding the poor was a really good concern. But Jesus saw the heart; one that was full of evil intent despite the pious words.

Allow Jesus to guide you in the God assigned connections in your life.

Why Healthy Conflict Is Healthy

One of the books we make every new employee read at Lifepoint is “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni.  Why?  Because we realize that if we are going to have a great, cohesive, creative staff, they must not shy away from a challenge.  And funny enough, I have been using this ‘business’ book more an more in marriage and pre-marital counseling sessions.

The problem with many people is they think conflict is bad.  Fighting is bad.  We should all be pacifists.  I mean, even Christ said ‘blessed are the peacemakers.’  Can’t we all just get along!

Here is why we think conflict is bad… we’ve always seen it done the wrong way.  People attack people instead of issues.  We see people thrown under the bus.  Feelings are hurt.  Egos are boosted.  Ladders are climbed at the expense of the less vocal and more passive.  Personalities end up manipulating, controlling, and bullying the situation.  This not what I mean by healthy conflict.

What is healthy conflict?

  • It begins with trust.  If we trust each other – that we have the best interests of the organization and each other at heart, we can trust that the brutal facts we hear are in love – and for the betterment of the organization.
  • It maintains HONOR.  Romans 12:10-11 states “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.  Honor one another above yourselves.  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.”  There is a way to be passionate and yet HONORING AND RESPECTFUL at the same time.
  • It involves everyone in the room.  We are always asking for the last 5%.  Everyone is willing to tell you 95%.  What you need is that last 5% to make an informed decision.  Those who sit silently in a staff meeting with valuable information are just as guilty as those who bully.
  • It works towards a resolution, not a victory.  Conflict within an organization should be for the betterment of the organization, not our advancement.
  • It is done through proper channels.  Disagree privately, not publicly – again that is an honor thing.  Think of the dichotomy of a restaurant – you have a very loud and boisterous kitchen, and a nice calm organized dining room.  Keep your conflict in the kitchen.

What is NOT health conflict.

  • It is not a guarantee.  Just because you get to voice your opinion within a healthy structure does not mean you get your way.  It means your opinion was taken into account.
  • It is not consensus.  Church isn’t a democracy.  And conflict should not be a means to find a way to offend everyone equally.  Because that is what consensus really is – everyone getting disappointed equally.
  • It is not a gripe session.  If you have the guts to engage in health conflict, you better have the guts to engage in the solution-finding.  The worst thing in an organization is a negative ‘can’t do anything right’ culture.  It’s easy to be a critic.  It’s difficult to be part of the solution.  Take the road less traveled.
  • It is not a hammer.  Think of conflict as a ladder not a hammer.  Don’t use it beat people down.  All you are trying to do in conflict is get the best possible perspective.  Health conflict is gaining healthy perspective.

Now here is the hard part.  When you are able to voice your opinion within the proper channels, in the proper way, and the leader makes the decision –  you then go with the decision.  And once the decision is made, everyone must be held to the same standard.  But I promise, if you don’t get this conflict thing down, you wont’ live up to your organizational potential.

Its just like a marriage.  Show me a marriage with no conflict, and I’ll show you a marriage with no passion.

Get In The Game

Two weeks ago Wyatt, my oldest son (nearly 4), had his first day out with soccer.  It did not go so well.  He was overwhelmed by the amount of kids and cried and stuck to my leg the entire time.  Last week was better.  Small steps, right?

One day I thought, wouldn’t it be great to just get all of Wyatt’s friends together to have soccer each week.  We could teach them the fundamentals and he could hang out with his friends.  But then I realized that there was no fun in that at all!  There would be no games.  Just practice.  What is the point of practice if you don’t get to play?

But isn’t that like the church?  We practice, practice, practice.  But most just choose to sit on the sidelines.  We don’t serve anyone.  We don’t build authentic relationships.  We don’t invest in a person who is far from Christ.  We practice a lot.  But we never enjoy the thrill of the game.

Why?  Are we scared?  Are we lazy?  Are we comfortable?  I don’t know.  Maybe yes to some, no to others.  I’m sure it is different for all of us.

But Hebrews 12:1-2 says:

1 Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us,

2 keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.

I’m proud to be part of a church where 50%+ serve in some capacity.  But it doesn’t end in serving.  If you haven’t already, get in the game this Easter.  Get on a team and serve.  Drag your neighbor with you to church.

Get in the game.  It’s there that you experience the thrill of victory – not sitting on the sidelines.

9 Ways to Improve Your Email

I use email all of the time.  We are in an email society.  And I’ve heard that email is going away to make room for tools like Twitter and Facebook…. we’ll see.

But I think email has the potential to be a very very bad thing.  In an email, it is almost impossible to ascertain the tone of the one writing.  Everything is very concrete, blank and white, and soulless.  Because of this, the recipient receives the message, “this person is mad at me,” “they are grumpy,” “they are so cold,” “why so terse?”

I understand this and do my best to swing the other way.  There are times to be business like.  But if I am emailing to people I have a relationship with, I do my best to make the email as happy as possible, especially with volunteers on my team.  I want there to be no question that I’m not in a good mood.  Here are some tips:

  1. This isn’t grammer school.  Lighten up.  It’s ok to use words like ‘ARGH’.  If Charlie Brown can say it, why not I?
  2. ‘!!’ is your friend. ‘Good morning!!!’ comes across a lot differently than ‘Dear Bob,’.
  3. Convey that you are in a good mood!  They say to smile when you are on the phone.  Somehow smile while you type.  Use emoticons if appropriate.  :0)
  4. Communicate internal dialogue.  “Hey Bob!  I was thinking the other day that the system we are using to setup might be outdated (sometimes I think too much – but I’d rather think too much than too little).”  People don’t know what your thinking unless you type what your thinking.  Maybe they’ll be able to hook that brain thingy to our heads and link it up with our computers – but we’re not there yet.
  5. Humor.  I always try to lighten the mood with humor.  Make sure you have a sense of humor before you try this.
  6. Type how you talk.  The best advice I ever received from a teacher is ‘type how you talk.’  That took me out of “how do I write this mode” into “just type how I would say it to them in person.”  In a fluid conversation you don’t just regurgitate facts.  Why then do that in an email?  You have side-bars, you have ‘by the ways’, you have almost a controlled rambling going on.  If that is how you talk, then email that way.  It portrays a more personable person on the other end.
  7. Match the email tone to the recipient.  I would never do any of these things if I was emailing the president of Bank of America.  But the more personable the relationship, the more you can use the tips.
  8. Read the email before hitting send!!!  Have someone else read it if need be.  Google Mail has an ‘undo send’ function that has saved my toosh many times.  It’s under the ‘labs’ portion of settings.
  9. If the email’s tone is one of rebuke or accountability, probably not a good idea to email anyway.  Pick up the phone.

I hope this helps free you to email in a more friendly way.  Of course, use common sense.  Probably not a good idea to sound that happy if you are emailing a friend who’s dog just died.

My Thoughts On Backpacking

Jennifer, I, and two very good friends went on a recent backpacking trip to the Shenandoah National Park.  We hiked 16.7 miles in 2 days, staying 1 night in the backcountry.  Here are my thoughts:

  • When I was 20 I wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail
  • I’m no longer 20
  • I no longer want to hike the Appalachian Trail
  • For the first time in my life I felt 35
  • I’m not 35…. I’m 34
  • God’s nature is absolutely amazing.  Beautiful trip!
  • Next time less hiking – more camping.
  • Enjoy some pictures!

Galatians 5

We like to focus on the dramatic sins in Galatians 5:19-20: sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, drunkenness, & orgies.  Very dramatic indeed.  Man, we must be doing good!  But those are less than 50% of the list.

Here’s the rest: hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy…. ok, maybe we aren’t as blameless as we’d like to pretend.

Interesting that half of the list has to do with purity, the other half has to do with unity.