Back in 1985 evangelist, teacher, and leader, John Stott, gave four messages to the staff of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students in Quito, Ecuador. Thankfully Inter Varsity Press recently published these messages in a 95 page book titled The Problems of Christian Leadership.
As a reader of many of the Stott’s books I wasted no time in picking this one up and diving in. I was not disappointed. Stott address four common problems, or challenges, Christian leaders face in their work –
The Problem of Discouragement
The Problem of Self-Discipline
The Problem of Relationships
The Problem of Youth
Though I must admit, before I started the book, I wondered if these four problems were still the most pressing challenges facing Christian leaders today. But as I read and reflected on my leadership experience as well as those of others, I realized these issues are as real today as they were 30 years ago.
But the best part of Stott’s teaching isn’t just identifying these seemingly timeless problems it’s in the wisdom and practical advice he brings to each. The book is simply a leadership guide for tackling each of these four problems. For example, the reminder in the chapter titled The Problem of Self-Discipline, of the importance in making regular time away from daily work for prayer, reflection, and tasks requiring quiet and focus caused me to act. I’ve now blocked out a day a month in my calendar to make this focused time a reality.
So, if you’re looking for or in need of a solid, practical and inspiring book on authentic leadership, read The Problems of Christian Leadership. You’ll be blessed with 300 pages worth of insight and inspiration packed into a 95 page book.43.928283-85.286682
To avoid becoming a victim when working in an unhealthy organization a person needs to decide whether to stay and try to rise above the unhealthiness or go and get away from it. If a person stays, they’ll need to be in a place where they can protect themselves, assuring they don’t become a victim. Typically this isn’t a good long-term strategy because organizational health is contagious and at some point a person will catch the same disease affecting the organization. So the best option is to move on.
But when the cause of an unraveling career and life is the person’s own unhealthiness then they’re at risk of losing their job. You see, unhealthy people typically do not take responsibility for the consequences of their decisions and actions. They begin to blame others, including their employer, for their messy life. When this happens a person becomes a victim, and since people don’t like to work with victims, they slowly lose their influence in the organization and ultimately lose their jobs.
And the reason people don’t like to work with victims is because they’re either a downer to be around or they begin to act like a martyr. Martyrs find self-worth by believing their sacrificing more for the organization than anyone else. They believe their sacrifice gives them a special dispensation to do and say what they want to people they perceived to be less committed (which is pretty much everyone else). Sometimes victims and martyrs will rally together against all the perceived injustices done to them which only alienate them further from the rest of the organization.
So don’t let yourself become a victim, take responsibility for your life and career, and you’ll never leave an organization because of someone else’s decision.43.928283-85.286682
My good friend, Terry Prisk, recommended (or more accurately he insisted) I read Mark Batterson’s book The Circle Maker. If you’re not familiar with it, The Circle Maker is a practical and inspirational book about prayer.
Now I’ll admit I wasn’t sure the world (nor I) needed another book on prayer. I wondered to myself “what could someone possibly say about prayer that hasn’t already been said before?” But both because Terry insisted and because I set a personal goal to spend more time this year in prayer I picked up a copy of The Circle Maker and moved it to the top of my reading list.
And now that I’ve finished it, let me just say that I’m deeply thankful for Terry’s insistence and for Batterson’s insight. The Circle Maker shows the powerful connection between our dreams and goals and the spiritual discipline of prayer. As a goal driven person, this was the fresh perspective I needed and, more importantly, the inspiration my prayer life required.
Now, before you jump to the conclusion that The Circle Maker is a book that teaches a form of “name it claim” theology, let me assure you it’s not. Batterson doesn’t take us there. Instead he insists that “Bold prayers honor God, and God honors bold prayers. God isn’t offended by your biggest dreams or boldest prayers. He’s offended by anything less.” Yet he also is crystal clear that “God is not a genie in a bottle, your wish is not His command.” Then he goes on to say “His command better be your wish. If not you won’t be drawing prayer circles; you’ll end up walking in circles.”
So let me be a little like my friend Terry and ask you to consider skipping you traditional summer paperback and instead pick of a copy of The Circle Maker, it may be just the inspiration you need to take your prayer life to a new place.43.928283-85.286682
Sunday evening of Memorial Day I had a blast. I joined 5 other SpringHill leaders plus other staff and volunteers and we grilled steak and chicken for nearly 1000 campers at our Michigan Memorial Day Family Camp. It was a riot being with these folks, exhilarating serving and interacting with our guests, cool working on a big and awesome grill, and it was just plain fun doing something outside my regular work.
These few hours reminded me of something I’ve said to our staff over the years and, unfortunately, have recently forgotten myself – “we work for SpringHill, we’re supposed to have fun, and if we’re not something’s not right”.
Yet when our vision is to accomplish something personally and organizationally significant for people and Christ’s Kingdom, it almost always requires discipline, focus and lots of resources. And all of these things can squeeze out the space in our work to do something just for fun. Yet it’s in having a blast that really good and unexpected things can happen, most of which, somehow and some way, moves us forward in fulfilling our vision and goals.
Such surprises include the opportunity to build into key relationships, hearing first hand from our customers and guests, learning something new, or gaining a new perspective about our work, organization or life. Often one of the best things is we gain a new appreciation for our job and the people we get to do it with.
And frankly, it’s this last surprise that caused me, as I walked home Sunday evening, to give thanks for the privilege I have to do what I do and for the opportunity to do it with people I love.43.928283-85.286682
At the end of 2012 I had a physical exam. And as I expected everything turned out fine except my cholesterol levels. I anticipated that my LDL cholesterol might be high because of our family history and because, over the last few years, I’ve committed the two sins of managing cholesterol – eating whatever I wanted to and not exercising consistently (thus my weight was also at an all-time high).
So when the doctor suggested I go on medication I told him I wanted six months to straighten out my eating and exercise regimen to see if I could correct my high cholesterol naturally. He agreed, so I have until June to see if I can improve my cholesterol levels.
Now, even though I won’t find out until June if my cholesterol has lowered, I have had other, more visible, gains. For example I’ve lost 18 pounds and reduced my mile splits (running is my exercise of choice) by minute and a half. As a matter of fact it seems that the more weight I lose the faster I run and the faster I run the more weight I loose.
You see my physical health is now experiencing positive momentum. But before I started to focus on my health, its momentum, I have to admit, was steadily, but discernibly, going in the wrong direction.
This got me to thinking; my health momentum parallel’s an organization’s momentum. And just like my health, organizations are either going forward or going backward, they’re never standing still.
And like taking charge of my health, a leader’s job is to build the organization’s forward momentum.
But as I’ve learned over the last few months, reversing downward momentum is hard work. It requires goals, investment, focus, discipline, constant and timely feedback on performance, and the tenacity to stay with it until the momentum’s reversed and beginning to go in the right direction.
So what’s the momentum of your health, your life, the organization or team you lead? If it’s headed in the wrong direction maybe it’s time to do what’s required to get that positive momentum going again before you have to take the hard medicine.43.928283-85.286682
And that’s exactly what Denise and I just did this past weekend.
We attended A Journey to Generosity retreat, hosted by our dear friends Bruce and Sue Osterink and facilitated by Brad Formsma a former business owner and now staff member with Generous Giving, an organization dedicated to “encouraging givers to experience the joy of giving and embrace a lifestyle of generosity, according to God’s Word and Christ’s example.”
It was a powerful retreat, life transforming in many ways.
So let me give you a glimpse into what made it so powerful by passing on some of the wisdom I walked away with.
“Wealth tends to isolate, yet we need to be together”
“Are we Tickle Tithers or Generous Givers?”
“It’s more fun to be a giver than a consumer”
“Concentrate on what’s important and the rest will follow”
“Christ came to rescue and restore, thus our responsibility is to do the same”
“I use to fear failing at what’s important, now I fear succeeding at what’s not”
“People can be a gift of inconvenience”
“Listen closely to those you want to help”
“Giving is not just for wealthy people, it’s for everyone”
“We’re really good at wasting money and we’re really good at disguising it”
“There’s a difference between discernment and judging. We’re called to discern but not to judge”
“We start with nothing and we even worry about losing that”
“We put pressure on our children to have what we have”
“We’re to Give – Save – Live, in that order”
“It’s easy to fool one of us (husband and wife), but it’s not as easy to fool both of us”
“God’s calling is not the same as God’s timing”
“Go where you’re celebrated not where you’re tolerated”
“Giving is adding something to your life, not taking something away”
“What’s our motive to be debt free? Is it to get more or to give more?”
“Giving is the only antidote to materialism”
“Giving is not a once and done deal, it’s an ongoing journey we’re on”
“Keep it simple and just give”
By the way check out some inspiring videos about people who experienced generosity by clicking here.43.928283-85.286682
Last week three SpringHill staff and I taught seminars at the Christian Camping and Conference Association’s (3CA) Great Lake’s Regional Conference. It was a chance for us to share with other Christian camping professionals some of what we’ve learned over the years. Teaching in this context clearly aligns with our vision of being an “influential ally” of other like-minded and kindred spirited organizations.
But the truth is teaching is also one of the best ways to learn and so, to be honest, it’s also another reason we were willing to invest the time of four people to teach at this conference. You see when you teach (and do a good job teaching) it requires a number of things from you that benefits you as a learner.
First, it requires you to know your subject well enough to confidently stand before people to present and to handle any questions and disagreements that arise.
Secondly, teaching forces you to be able to communicate what you know in a clear and compelling manner. And the more clearly you can communicate something the more clearly you actually understand it.
Finally, teaching requires further learning because you always discover the gaps in your knowledge and understanding which leads to the need to fill those gaps before standing in front of a crowd.
So I’m a big believer in teaching as one of the best ways to learn and take every opportunity I have to teach. And every time I do I always walk away better for the experience.
So will you consider teaching at a conference, class or other venue if offered an opportunity? You’ll be glad you did, and so will the people who’ll benefit from all that you’ve learned.43.928283-85.286682
On December 28, 2012, retired General Norman Schwarzkopf died. In the early 1990’s General Schwarzkopf led coalition troops in Operation Desert Storm to free Kuwait from Iraqi invasion forces. Because of his plain speech, clarity of conviction, love for his soldiers, and his skilled work as a general, those under his command as well as the public, including me, admired, respected and loved “Stormin’ Norman”.
At the time of the war I was working for Steelcase, assigned to their wood furniture division. As American troops were preparing for war word spread throughout Steelcase that General Schwarzkopf’s staff, in putting together the General’s command center in Saudi Arabia, had bought up the inventory of Steelcase Breton chairs from a Saudi Steeclase dealer (a chair manufactured by our division).
This meant that “Stormin’ Norman” would be leading and directing the war against Iraq sitting in one of our chairs.
It also meant, because I too had a Breton chair in my office, I now sat, and led, from the same chair as General Schwarzkopf. So as strange as it sounds, sitting in the same chair of this great American general inspired me. I somehow believed that if General Schwarzkopf could lead from a Breton chair, then so could I.
As a result I never gave up that chair. When I left Steelcase I asked if I could take it with me. They kindly gave it to me as a gift. And ever since then that Breton chair has traveled with me to every assignment and office I’ve been in, including the past 15 years at SpringHill.
Now I believe God loves irony. He uses it to make us stop and think. Which He did once again because, within a week of General Schwarzkopf’s death, my beloved Breton chair broke, sadly the chair literally snapped off its base.
But this irony has given me a reason to pause and reflect on this great leader, reminding me of my continue responsibility to speak plainly, have clarity of conviction, love my “troops”, and to plan and lead our team in a way that ends in victory.
And what is that New Year’s resolution? To read the entire Bible – every book, chapter, and verse.
Now before you dismiss my suggestion, think about this for a moment, if the Bible is God’s Word, His actual words, the true message of the God who created the entire universe, created our earth, and created you and me, doesn’t it make sense that we should want to read His words and make them a part of our life?
And one more thought to consider before dismissing my suggestion – if we believe that God loves us, cares about us and wants to have a relationship with us, then it’s not surprising that He has something to say to us about this love.
So if you’re now convinced that making this resolution is something you want to do, below are a few things I’m making available to help you make your resolution a reality.
- Down load to your e-reader, free, my Reading the Bible Through in a Year devotionals by clicking here.
- Subscribe to my Read the Bible in a Year blog by clicking here. Each day of 2013 you’ll receive an email of the daily reading schedule and thoughts to help you get the most out of that reading.
- Follow me on Twitter (by clicking here) and receive a “tweet” with a link to each of my Bible reading posts.
- Simply go to my Read the Bible in a Year blog.
Now may 2013 be a year of great positive transformation in your life through the power of His Word.43.928283-85.286682
I can be a bit obsessive about goal setting. I feel as though I have no clothes on if I’ve no goals and I’m not working towards something in my life. It’s why, during the Christmas season, I always sit down and set some “New Year’s resolutions”, things I want to accomplish in the next year. This is important because, once I have goals set and have a plan to make them a reality, I feel better about the clothing I’m wearing entering the New Year.
So, as I’ve been working on my 2013 goals, I’ve mulled over what I’ve learned over the years about goal setting (most of which I’ve learned the hard way) and thought you might find my lessons helpful.
First, set goals that will lead to big changes. Don’t set goals for regular, routine or mundane things. This leads to the next point…
Decide the areas of your life that you need or want the biggest change to occur and only set goals in those areas.
Third, and I know you’ve heard this before but it really works, use the “SMART” method of goal setting, meaning all goals should be Specific-Measurable-Attainable-Realistic-Timely.
Fourth, beware of the trap of being too optimistic about what you can accomplish in a year. Set only 3 to 5 goals, remembering that the closer to 3 goals you can be the better.
Finally, if you have goals that may extend beyond a year, break them up into steps and make the first step your first annual goal.
When I follow these lessons I also get to spend some of my time over the Christmas season looking back at what I’ve been able to accomplish in the year that’s now ending.43.928283-85.286682