Friday, August 16, 2019

It’s Sunday, but Monday’s Coming

“What we talk about here on Sunday morning has very little to do with what I do on Monday.”  The Sunday school class member who said this during a class session was not mean or angry; he was just stating the truth as he saw. Although he caught me off guard, I tried not to take offense and understand what was going on in his life.

Since then, his comment has stuck with me as a Bible study leader.  Does what we talk about on Sunday really make a difference on Monday morning?  The question challenges me as a teacher to consider several things.

First, do I take seriously the types of challenges class members face each day?  Not everyone is in their dream job and may have to struggle to get up and do to work on Monday morning just to pay their bills and care for their families. Some find themselves in stressful situations that may be not only physically but morally challenging.  A reality for many is the possibility that their employment may end at any time due to down-sizing or reorganization.

Second, do I understand the family concerns that my class members face?  Families come in all types--married with children, blended, single parent, empty-nesters, and sandwich folks caring for both children and parents.  One size does not fit all when it comes to dealing with families.  Each family has its own joys and hurts.

Third, do I really believe that the Bible has something to say that will make a difference in the real world?  It is helpful to remind myself that Jesus did not preach and teach within cloistered walls but in the marketplace, along dusty roads, and in homes of all types. He was immersed in the real world. He was addressing people with real needs.  As a result, I do believe that the Bible is meant for real people with day-to-day concerns.

Fourth, do I seek to help class members apply the Bible and make the connection with weekday life? This is the biggest challenge of all since everyone has their needs and concerns as well as being at different places in their spiritual lives.  If Bible study is to be relevant, I must ask good questions so they can find places of connection and listen carefully to their concerns.

Does what we say on Sunday have any real impact on people’s lives on Monday?  Only if we seek to make it so.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Creating a Rule of Life

A rule of life provides a framework or pattern for a group of believers to walk alongside and encourage each other to pursue those practices that lead to spiritual health and faithful service.  Here are few things to consider as your faith community works together to articulate a rule of life.

First, the process requires spiritual preparation and discernment.  Believers become more focused and aligned as they spend time in prayer individually and corporately.  One approach would be to ask those who are developing a rule of life to set aside a specific time every day to pray using Romans 12:1-2 as a guide:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters,by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world,but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. (New Revised Standard Version)

Second, although it is informed by Scripture and Christian tradition, a rule of life is contextual.  God has placed your community within your particular time and place and gifted you to do something that no other group can do. What is the unique vision that your community embraces?

Third, avoid the tendency to think in terms of survival rather than growth.  Too often we approach church life from the standpoint of organizational growth rather than spiritual growth as disciples.  For example, Christian stewardship is important, but do we define it primarily in terms of finances and buildings rather than thinking about the gifts, time, and talents of individual believers? A rule of life relates to developing a community rather than an institution. 

Fourth, how can a rule of life help someone move from being a “church member” to a “disciple of Jesus”?  Disciples serve out of a sense of grace rather than of obligation. A rule of life encourages that sense of living and serving out of God’s love for us.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Global Leadership Summit: The Subtext

Although I never heard it mentioned from the platform this year, the Global Leadership Summit continues to rebuild its credibility after the sexual harassment charges against Bill Hybels, former pastor of Willow Creek Community Church and former leader of the Willow Creek Association (now Global Leadership Network).  Allegations about Hybels’ inappropriate relationships with female staff members, church members, and business associates have negatively impacted the church, the association, and this event.

Even though this history was not on the printed agenda at the Summit, planners chose several speakers who addressed the issue of harassment and power in very clear ways.

In an interview with Paula Faris, guest Bozoma Saint John talked about her work as Chief Brand Officer at Uber, a corporation whose culture of discrimination and misogyny is well known. She discussed the challenges of working in that situation and seemed relieved that she no longer has a connection there.

Social entrepreneur Liz Bohannon described the challenges that women in Africa face in finding worthwhile employment with their hiring often dependent on providing sexual favors to employers.

Speaker Todd Henry reminded participants that leaders must engender trust among the members of their team, or they will nurture insecurity.  Leadership consultant Pat Lencioni listed the characteristics of a leader who is not willing to take the responsibility for having hard conversations on difficult subjects or building a team.

In short, speakers reinforced the need for leaders to have integrity in all of their relationships with those whom they supervise.  Failure to embrace integrity as a key component of leadership leads down a dark and dangerous path.

Whether they intended to or not, the planners of the Global Leadership Summit enlisted speakers who practice and articulate what integrity looks like in leadership.  This is what makes a person a good leader.  It is sad that it took the fall of a leader to remind us what a good one is.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Global Leadership Summit--Still Alive

As is my annual custom, I attended a satellite presentation of the Global Leadership Summit last week. My primary reason to attend is to be introduced to new speakers in the field of leadership development and be exposed to some cutting-edge ideas in the field.  About a third of the participants are church leaders, one-third business leaders, and the rest are not-for-profit leaders, educators, and others.  The mix is ministry meets marketplace, and it is done well.

The Summit still originates in South Barrington, Illinois, from the facilities of Willow Creek Church, but there is a bit of distance between the church and the Network since accusations arose about former church pastor Bill Hybels who was also a key player in the Willow Creek Association, now rebranded as the Global Leadership Network. Although the Summit was broadcast to hundreds of sites across the United States with about 135,000 participants (and will be re-packaged and translated for subsequent presentations in over 135 countries), I found myself having to drive over an hour to attend a location in the Nashville area.  

The new pastoral face of the Summit is Craig Groeschel, co-founder and pastor of Life.Church.  He has been designated as “the official champion of The Global Leadership Summit,” undoubtedly an effort to bolster its legitimacy for church leaders.  Groeschel is energetic and likeable, combining the insights of a creative CEO with the enthusiasm of a skinny jeans wearing preacher.  In other words, a young Hybels without the baggage.

Although the lineup this year was a bit short on preachers, everything else was about the same--creative and upbeat musical presentations, thoughtful leadership gurus, dynamic business leaders, and inspirational speakers who have experience in world-changing ministries. 

The social entrepreneur who stood out this year was Liz Bohannon, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Sseko Designs, a company whose products are made in countries such as Uganda and Ethiopia, empowering women to earn their own incomes, lead in their communities, and continue their education.  Bohannon is a lively speaker who obviously is committed to her work and is a role model for young women.  Her presentation was built around her new book, Beginner’s Pluck.  Her key quote was, “Nobody needs or wants you to be their hero. The role of leaders is not to be the hero...but to help others become the hero of their own story.”

Best quote of the Summit was made by Bozoma Saint John, Chief Marketing Officer of Endeavor:  “Diversity is being invited to the party.  Inclusion is being asked to dance.”

Several of the leadership gurus were new and one favorite, Patrick Lencioni, was back.   They covered topics from generational change to negotiating.

Ben Sherwood, a journalist who has had leadership roles at Disney and ABC, was not charismatic but very informative.  His key quote related to survival tactics was,“Always maintain your point of reference. No matter how hard you get hit you will stay on course. When leaders lose their point of reference, they get lost.”

Jason Dorsey is president of The Center for Generational Kinetics which does research on generational characteristics and tries to verify or debunk myths about Gen Z, Millennials, and other cohorts.  His key insight was that research is perceiving an emerging split among Millennials about age 30 between the “mega-llineals” (engaged and prospering) and the “me-llenials” (still defined by a delayed adolescence).  His book will be out next year.

Chris Voss, a former FBI hostage negotiator and founder of The Black Swan Group, shared some ideas about negotiating that overlap with leadership coaching.  Jia Jiang, author of Rejection Proof and a trainer in what he terms Rejection Therapy presented strategies for overcoming the fear of rejection.

One of the best of the new presenters was Todd Henry, author of Herding Tigers:  Be the Leader that Creative People need.  Henry pointed out the leadership tension between challenge and stability.  One of his important ideas was, “Trust is the currency of brilliant teams.”

Patrick Lencioni was as manic and entertaining as ever.  He began with a conference-stopping quote: “Fewer people should be leaders!”  He explained that too many people are leading for the wrong reasons--they are seeking reward rather than responsibility.   From Lencioni’s perspective, responsibility-based leadership is servant leadership.  His next book, The Motive (due out in 2020) is based on this idea. His key quote: “My hope is that someday people will not talk about servant leadership because that will be the only type of leadership that exists.”

Craig Groeschel provided the bookends of the Summit, as Hybels often did.  I was particularly taken with his emphasis in the final presentation on the value of story and storytelling.  “Stories stick.  Facts fade,” he said.  “When you use a story, you connect the heart of emotions to the strength of logic, igniting powerful action.”  This is a great leadership insight for ministers, business people, and not-for-profit leaders.

Although I enjoy the Summit, this is an event best experienced with a team.  For several years, Central Seminary allowed me to offer this as a class and it was great to process everything with a group.  If you lead a team, plan to participate next year on August 6-7, 2020.  I plan to attend, the Lord willing, and I hope I won’t have to drive as far.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

2019 Global Leadership Summit: Recommended Books

As usual, I attended a satellite location of the Global Leadership Summit this year. I heard some great speakers and will share more about them and the Summit in a subsequent post.  In this session, I want to share the books that I bought as a result of hearing several speakers and why I purchased them.

The first is Never Split the Difference:  Negotiating as If Your Life Depended on It by Chris Voss, former FBI hostage negotiator and CEO of the Black Swan Group.  After serving with the Kansas City, Missouri, police department, Chris Voss joined the FBI where he moved from SWAT team member to hostage. Negotiator.  He eventually became the FBI’s lead international kidnapping negotiator. 

What caught my attention in Voss’s interview was the intersection of negotiating and coaching.  He talked about actions such as being genuinely curious, asking “how” not “why” questions, using open-ended questions, and “mirroring helps people know they are heard.”  This sounds a lot like coaching to me.  I want to pursue this idea as I read his book.

by Todd Henry, founder  of Accidental Creative. If you find yourself as the leader of creative people, how do you go about nurturing rather than stifling their creativity?  Henry discussed the delicate balance between challenge and stability required to produce a thriving team.  His three key ideas were:  earn the right to be followed every single day--be trustworthy; loosen your grip--lead rather than control; and take care of number one--if you burn out you won’t be leading anyone.  What a challenge!  I want to learn more.

The third book is Beginner’s Pluck:  Build Your Life of Purpose and Impact Now by Liz Forkin Bohannon which was released at the Summit and will be available for sale elsewhere on October 1.  I bought this because Bohannon is such an engaging, optimistic, and energetic speaker.

She is a social entrepreneur with a mission and the kind of person I would like my granddaughters to be.  Bohannon encourages her readers to follow 14 principles including embrace your Inner Beginner, dream small, and choose curiosity over criticism, among others. This should be a fun read.

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

The Beatitudes as a Rule of Life

One of the processes we provide through Pinnacle Leadership Associates is called Making the Shift.  As we talk about the shift from being a church member to being a disciple, we encourage congregations to consider developing a rule of life to challenge participants in their discipleship.

A key theme in Jesus’ teaching was the Kingdom or Reign of God.  His hearers often asked him, “When will this come to be?”  N. T. Wright observes, “The crucial question is not so much that of the kingdom’s timing as of its content.”

One point where Jesus addressed the content of the Kingdom as well as the conduct of the life of the believer is found in that portion of the Sermon on the Mount that we call the Beatitudes.  This might well be seen as a prototypical rule of life for believers.  Speaking of the Beatitudes in his book Living the Sermon on the Mount, Glen H. Stassen writes, “All of these are rewards of participating in God’s reign. This experience is already beginning in Jesus.”

Stassen’s translation of the Beatitudes communicates effectively how they might provide a guide for the life of the believer:

Joyful are those who are poor and humble before God,
             for theirs is the reign of God.
Joyful are those who are deeply saddened to the point of action,
             for they will be comforted.
Joyful are those whose wills are surrendered to God,
            for they will inherit the earth.
Joyful are those who hunger and thirst for restorative justice,
             for they will be filled.
Joyful are those who practice compassion in action, 
            for they will receive God’s compassion.
Joyful are those who seek God’s will in all that they are and do,
             for they will see God.
Joyful are the peacemakers,
             for they will be called children of God.
Joyful or those who suffer because of restorative justice, 
            For theirs is the reign of God.
Joyful are you when they criticize, persecute, and slander you
            because of me.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in God.
            For in the same way they persecuted the prophets before you.

Those who acknowledge these truths and attempt to practice them in their lives will both see and be part of the emerging reign of God among us.  This is part of what it means to practice a rule of life.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Leadership: Control or Collaboration?

The 20thcentury industrial model thrived on a tight command and control model. It increased production, but it often fostered an “us” versus “them” approach--industry versus labor union, employer versus employee, “boss” versus workers.  

In his New Leadership Paradigm, Steve Piersanti picks up on this in calling for a shift from the old paradigm of control to one of collaboration.  The control approach depended on coercion, dominance, and secrecy to “keep people in line.”  The new paradigm calls for collaboration.  Piersanti describes collaboration in this way: “Leadership is exercised through invitation, request, dialogue, persuasion, respect, openness, kindness, integrity, and partnership, without compulsion.”

This is the way that the church was intended to function.  In Romans 12:4-8, the apostle Paul writes,

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 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, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

A similar approach is presented in 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4.  The church is an organic whole with interdependent parts, all of which have a function and perform that function to the best of their ability.  They do this because it is their purpose, what they are called to do.

The 21stcentury church will be at its best only when it effectively calls out, equips, and empowers every believer to do his or her part in pursuing the mission of God in this world.  This is the leadership model for the Kingdom.