I am reading Crucial Conversations–moving very slowly through it and it is excellent. They provide video links to illustrate what they are saying in the text (a bit awkward if you are reading on a kindle) and have even sent me other articles to read. I just finished their Eliminating Cultures of Silence, a position paper by Crucial Conversations and have clipped a number of sections out of it into Evernote. Following are some four reasons they suggest in this paper as to why a culture of silence may exist in your (or in my own) organization.
1. You observe a potential problem, but you figure the possible calamity isn’t a sure thing. It’s not like death or bankruptcy is imminent; they’re just possibilities.
2. Nobody else seems concerned and you don’t want to sound like an alarmist.
3. You figure even if you do speak up, nobody will actually change anything—the organization is too mired in bureaucracy.
4. Finally, it seems like a sure bet that saying something will damage your career. You would be delivering a really unpopular message (“I think you need to re-examine the launch—at the cost of fifty million dollars.” “I think we need to confront the senior execs and maybe send them to jail.” “I think the doctor is wrong and needs to follow my ideas.”). And messengers get shot.
This inability to bring up touchy, controversial, or unpopular issues lies at the heart of every culture of silence.
Which of these is most problematic for you and your organization.
I wrote a blog post a few weeks ago about learning what it means to live locally. This followed after I began to read Zack Eswine’s book, Sensing Jesus: Life and Ministry as a Human Being. Eswine writes, that we are “merely human and only local.” We forget that only “Jesus is human, but not merely. Jesus is local, but not only” What then are the implications for me (us) if we admit that we are merely human?
This requires a choice. To be merely human means, in contrast to Jesus, that we are not God. Most, if not all of us know this theologically but many of us resist this practically. To be human means that we accept that we have limits. It means we cannot do it all, we cannot know it all and we cannot be everywhere. Eswine’s writing should liberate us, “Being human does not mar greatness; it informs it and sets its noble boundaries.” 351
Sadly for ourselves and for those we live with and minister to, our refusal to accept and live within these limits only creates insurmountable problems, “Trying to be an exception to the human race encourages arrogance among most of us and burnout among many of us.” 246 We have bought into the serpent’s lie in the Garden, “You will be like God” (Gen. 3:5). Our grasp for attributes that only belong to God gets us into trouble and in the end prevents us from loving others. Again Eswine nails it, “As ministry leaders we endeavor to give of our lives in such a way that every neighbor we minister to will know that we are not God. The Serpent’s invitation to celebrity, immediate gratification, and using people to advance ourselves as if we are God poisons the air.” 652
We can only be at one place at one time. “We will resist and want to act like we are omnipresent. But he will patiently teach us that as human beings we cannot be, and this admission will glorify God. Others will likewise resist Jesus and want you to be omnipresent. They will use his name to praise or critique you accordingly, but they too will have to learn that only Jesus can be with them wherever they are at all times. This fact is actually good news for them and for us.” 766
We cannot do everything that needs to be done. “Jesus will teach us to live with the things that we can neither control nor fix. We will want to resist Jesus and act as if we are omnipotent, but we will harm others and ourselves when we try. Others will also resist Jesus. Using his name, they will praise or critique us according to their desire that we fix everything for them and that we do it immediately. But they will have to learn too that only Jesus can fix everything and that there are some things Jesus leaves unfixed for his glory.” 771
We are unable to know everyone or everything. “Jesus will teach us to live with ignorance, our own and others’. In other words, we are not omniscient. Jesus will require us to stop pretending that we are. Others will resist Jesus and in his name praise us or critique us on the basis of their estimation of what we should know. They will have to learn that only Jesus knows everything they need; his invitation to faith and to trust in his knowing is a good one.” 777
In what way are you most tempted? Thinking you can do it all? Thinking you can know it all? Thinking you can be everywhere? Eswine asks us, “What do you feel you will lose if you stop pretending in these ways and entrust yourself to Jesus?” 782
Many of you out there may know about the recent melt-down of Jason Russell. Apparently, Jason is a Christian activist who produced the viral Kony 2012 and co-led the group Invisible Children. Julie Barrios has written a powerful blog post about what Russell’s breakdown can teach all of us who are driven to succeed. A couple of quotes from her post follow.
When our varied kinds of deep disorientation and insecurity go unprocessed, it becomes an energy in the soul that is so strong that it can accomplish tremendous things, for better or worse. The need to repress the pain and reorient oneself becomes the driving force of life.
Consider Russell’s breakdown an invitation. It is an invitation to all of you, to all of us, to explore the internal minefield in which our ministries are tangled. It is the minefield of our childhood traumas, our need for approval, and our attachment to our own perceived goodness. As we explore this minefield, bombs go off, but may we not lose heart, for our explosions are no more than jarring, forthright, and insistent invitations to experience the prevailing and preeminent power of Christ and His cross.
Indeed, when we are feeling pain and disappointment, we have an opportunity to process those desires deep within. May God give us all grace in this journey.
I guess it was one of those cracked pot days. (2 Cor 4:7)
Someone recently told me, “David you have a need to be wanted.” A friend helped me to process the conversation and said to me, “In the context of that conversation, that was a vicious attack.” He encouraged me to see the hand of God in the wound. Not that God is viscious or mean but even in the hurtful words, God was present with me.
My questions: Why? To what end? For what purpose? Now those are questions that can’t be answered at this stage of my journey or maybe not ever.
Perhaps the most hurtful part of the discussion was the following comment, “David, you have a need to be wanted. And so I am not going to tell you that I want you.” Ouch!
A word given to me was, “Assyria is a rod in my hand.” To punish/discipline but also as a reminder that God has not abandoned. In the middle of the pain, God is there—what a challenge for me to see that—to believe that—to love that.
Back to needing to be wanted. Actually, I acknowledged that I do need to be wanted. Just as I need to be loved. David Benner says our longings, our desires are pathways for our journey with God. He think he would say that intimacy with God is impossible without desire being present.
Here is a quote from Benner’s Soulful Spirituality,
Despite how it is sometimes presented, desire is right at the center of the spiritual life. A sense of obligation may sometimes be enough to keep you going to church, but only desire will keep you open to God and still seeking when your experience in church is filled with frustration and is irrelevant to your deepest spiritual longings. Guilt may be strong enough to motivate religious behavior, but only desire can lead you ahead on the spiritual journey. The absence of desire means the absence of spiritual life. 335
At age 56, I am much more aware of my own neediness than I was at age 23 or 32! For that I am grateful. I recognize the truth of 2 Cor 3:5, “who of us is capable of such things?” Not me, that is for sure. Not by my own strength and power. My sufficiency is only found in the Lord Jesus! I possess a neediness, a longing for more that will not be totally fulfilled until I see the Lord Jesus face to face—the transformation that is currently in process will one day be complete (2 Cor 3:18; 1 John 3:2).
I am aware that much damage has been done in the name of ministry by people who are needy—who need to be wanted, liked and loved. But I suspect the damage is done more by people who are unaware of their neediness or deny it. I wonder if more damage has been done by those in ministry when they think that they have no needs! So for today, gratefully I accept that yes, I am David, a man before God who needs to be wanted and loved and I am thankful that God wants me, loves me, has chosen me to be his beloved and has brought many people into my life who walk with me and are courageous enough to love me and walk with me on this faith journey. Thank you God.
Here is a song that seems to express well my heart tonight.
Amazing how suffering and glory run together as I read 1 Peter 5:1-10. Some thoughts that fit well with life right now.
Love the juxtaposition of the words, “witness of the sufferings” and “partaker in the glory.” How closely suffering and glory seem to be related in Scripture–for the Lord Jesus and for me as His follower and as one of the leaders in his church. Shepherding–willingly, not because I have to or should do so, not domineering but being an example, with humility not with pride. Surely there is suffering in the midst of the shepherding–my experience teaches me this and because when my shepherd appears he comes in glory and with glory for me, glory that comes after the suffering. Taking advantage of the suffering, my enemy wants to devour me with discouragement and despair, yet I have one who cares for me in the midst of the struggle and promises me after the suffering, eternal glory will come—He himself will restore, confirm, strengthen, establish–words that give me life, hope and reassurance I am not alone in the battle. Thank you Lord.
Saw the following in Ken Royers’s email newsletter that he sends out (for free) to personnel involved in missionary member care. In his January letter, he passed on “Good Listening: Three Before Me,” an article by Steve Karum of NTM. Although Karum does not use the word spiritual direction, what he is suggesting is a way of accompanying fellow missionaries in their journey with God as we listen to their stories. Is that not a form of SD? I suppose he is offering a little bit of SD and a bit of coaching He suggests we ask the following three questions as we listen to another’s story:
1. “In light of this how are you and God doing?”
2. “What strengths do you have that will help you meet this challenge?”
3, “Whom do you know who could help as you face this challenge?”
Following is Karum’s article in full:
“Three before me” is a little self-reminder, like a string tied on my finger, to stay focused on the one with whom I’m conversing by asking three important questions.
Currently our ministry is with missionaries on home assignment. We find that while all missionaries have a story to tell, telling the story is just half the experience. If “telling the story” is to be effective, the story-teller needs to have a good story-listener. Therefore the main question: How good a story-listener am I?
Has this ever happened to you? As the story-teller you’re deeply engaged in relating an incident when all of a sudden, out of the blue, your story is intercepted, hijacked! Somewhere in the course of your story telling the listener grew bored and took over the conversation! It might have happened in a short millisecond in which you paused or you said a word that triggered a story or memories, or even a hobby horse the listener insisted on relating. It’s hard when that happens. How do we handle it? Do we speak “Readers Digest Condensed” the next time we’re the story-teller?
As much as I don’t like it, how many times as a story-listener have I hijacked another person’s story? Have I adopted the un-golden rule, “Do unto others as they have done to you?” Seeking to encourage while interacting with the story-teller (without hijacking their story), I aim to ask three important questions to bring perspective into a difficult story.
We recently met with a couple en route to PNG. Since they had started “Partnership Development” they had several setbacks. After I heard of these events I asked them Question #1, “In light of this how are you and God doing?”
Although it may seem silly to do so I like to ask this question even when everything is going well. Maybe this is a question that should come later but I ask it first because we are spiritual beings and I believe it is best to start with the most important relationship we have — God and me. Question #1 pulls our attention to God. He knows all about our struggles and just as He knows about battles so He also knows the way through.
It is not uncommon to hear a challenge / struggle / disappointment woven through a missionary’s story. The missionary may not be sufficiently aware of the struggle to put it into words but I believe it’s there and it’s causing them stress, emotionally, physically or spiritually. Therefore I like to ask Question #2 in a positive way, “What strengths do you have that will help you meet this challenge?” This question focuses on our God-given strengths. These strengths will with His direction help us overcome the problem and grow stronger. It is a question that hopefully will draw the heart toward hope.
Humans are part of a social network and missionaries have several networks: friends, relatives, churches, mission organization, the ministry country or location, local believers, and co-workers. Within some networks missionaries feel very safe to the point they will reach out for help. Therefore Question #3: “Whom do you know who could help as you face this challenge?” This query points them toward another who can come alongside. Suffering is a given but suffering in solitude can seem intolerable.
Of course every conversation has a life of its own. It’s never the same as the previous one and that makes listening enjoyable. By utilizing these questions, each conversation will tell of one’s relationship with God — the questions, the blessing, and the challenges — the strengths they never knew they had, and the strength they drew from the rich wisdom of their friends.
Sometimes the “three before me” doesn’t seem to fit. The surroundings are important. Is it quiet? Is the topic safe to talk about publicly? How well do we know each other? These all need to be considered. So with that in mind here is what I try in conversation with missionaries.
It all starts with their story. I realize that is so “duh,” but I really believe missionaries, actually all people, feel honored through good listening. Through engaged listening the listener communicates respect, safety, and love to the missionary. Billy age 4 is quoted on the Internet, “When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different! You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.” I’d like every missionary to say, “I know my name is safe with Steve and Patty.”
In order to subscribe to Ken Royer’s newsletter, email him at email@example.com
In a recent meeting, we led a discussion on the needs of missionaries and asked the following question. Thinking about missionaries from the time of recruitment to the period of retirement, what do they need in order to survive and thrive? Following a brainstorming session in small groups, we compiled a list and then asked the small groups to identify what basic category (that we had pre-selected) each need had fallen into.
Since this is a work-in-progress, I would appreciate if others out there could add to the list.
- Mission agency
- Schooling options and TCK care
- Welcome back
- Money and supporters
- Medical care
- IT and Technology
- Retirement plan
- Adequate sleep and rest
- Ownership of Vision/Mission/Values
- Debrief and listening
- Appropriate organizational exit
- Good relationships
- Family support
- Peace makers
- Sense of competency
- Sense of empowerment
- Challenges with support
- Cultural advice
- Good examples and mentors
- Ongoing training
- Godly effective leaders
- Permission to take initiative
- Member development
- Daniel learning
- Clear expectations
- Meaningful work
- Studies and training
- Good communication
- Contingency plans
- Monthly Information Sheet
- Identity security: A strong sense of who they are in Christ
- Deep relationship with God
- Faith in God
- Strong sense of call
- God’s word
I am always amazed at what topics keep popping up in my blog. Here is yet another one on narcissism!
According to McIntosh and Rima, Narcissism is one of the five dark sides that can surface in leaders. For the others, read my post here on the dark sides of leaders. Does involvement with Facebook help or hurt this narcissistic tendency?
Found a fascinating article by Corey Seibel, “It’s All About Me, Jesus: The Narcissistic Worship Leader” All of us have some narcissistic tendencies but Seibel provides us with traits of those with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). He says those with NDP have five or more of the following:
- Have a grandiose sense of self-importance
- Are preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty or ideal love
- Believe they are “special”
- Require excessive admiration
- Have a sense of entitlement
- Are interpersonally exploitative
- Lack empathy
- Are often envious of others or believe others are envious of them
- Show arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes
Anytime a church leader is narcissistic is a problem but Seibel explains how the problem is magnified when the worship leader is the narcissist:
- First, authentic worship focuses upon the person, attributes, and work of God. However, narcissistic worship leaders see corporate worship as an opportunity to display their grandiosity,
- Second, authentic worship gatherings encourage participants to examine themselves and offer them the assurance of grace. Narcissists, however, tend to lack the capacity for introspection and thus commonly possess little self-awareness.1
- Third, authentic worship invites participants to respond to God’s gracious activity with praise, thanksgiving, and surrender. However, because of their lack of awareness of grace, narcissists tend to be plagued by “an incapability for gratitude.”
Seibel then explains why it is so hard to work with a narcissistic worship leader:
- First, worship leaders commonly work cooperatively with other members of the church’s leadership toward the achievement of a larger vision. However, narcissists do not see themselves as just members of the team. Their vision centers in the pursuit of a personal legacy of great achievement.
- Second, the development of healthy worship teams is crucial to contemporary worship ministry. However, an inability to trust others seriously distorts the narcissist’s ability to contribute to the formation of healthy worship teams. The narcissistic worship leader will demand the undivided devotion of team members.
- Third, worship leaders should contribute to the building up of the body by encouraging others to develop their gifts, talents, and leadership capacity. However, the excessive investment that narcissists make in themselves prevents them from investing in others.
- Fourth, a commitment to evaluation and improvement plays an important role in the up-building of the church. However, despite their tendency to drive their teams toward perfection, narcissists often are so self-engrossed that they fail to engage in self-evaluation and self-criticism.31 They are more concerned with their image than with results. What they desire is to be perfect enough to be beyond criticism. In pursuit of this, narcissists tend to become rigid, repetitive, and predictable.32 They commonly lack personal creativity and choose to avoid unfamiliar situations.
- Fifth, conflict inevitably occurs as a by-product of change and growth within the church. Thus, it is essential that worship leaders be able to respond constructively to conflicted situations. Narcissists, however, are intolerant of disagreement. They have a stunted ability to understand another person’s perspective.33 They do not listen well when they feel attacked and often grossly misinterpret others.
Seibel does not really offer much hope for churches who find themselves in this situation other than to say that the narcissistic worship leader must be held accountable. This reminds me of a few other posts I have made–easy to identify narcissism but hard to deal with. For more reading, check out the following:
Great post from Michael Hyatt on what to do when you may not know what to do. He suggests:
- Forget about the ultimate outcome
- Focus on the next right action
- Do something now
I will add that sometimes, the next right action may be to set aside the decision or discussion and to spend some time waiting before God.
One of the most helpful things we have done this year was revising our job description. We eliminated a number of things that we were not doing or did not need to be doing and highlighted a couple of key areas important to us. We feel like we now have received permission and blessing to operate in our areas of strength.
My revised job description does tell me what I do not need to be doing. However, Michael Hyatt’s post on making “Not to Do Lists” may be an additional tool necessary for me to stay focused.
What are the most important life lessons you have learned recently? Two important lessons I have learned (and am continuing to learn?) in the past few years:
1. I am not in control.
2. It is not all about me.
Amos Lee sings one of my favorite songs of the year, Learned a Lot in which he says
Oh and darling, instead of running
I think it might be time you sit down
And deal with the pain
Adam Donyes provides the following list of top 15 lessons learned in a guest post on Michael Hyatt’s blog.
1. The most important person you can lead is yourself.
2. Nothing is more valuable than relationships.
3. Maximize the moments with your children.
4. Listen—you will never find the pulse of your family or organization if you don’t learn to listen.
5. Worrying is temporary atheism. Rid yourself of worry.
6. Become a better steward of your financial resources through investments and wise decision-making. The older you get the more you’ll want to give away, being able to do so begins with the financial decisions you make today.
7. Balance—the words “No” and “Not now” are empowering when accompanied with wisdom.
8. Spend time reading and receiving the Truth every morning, because the world will only lie to you the rest of the day.
9. Saying “I’m sorry,” when spoken from a genuine heart, has great healing power.
10. Character should always trump talent.
11. Retreat and Rest—if ships don’t come back to the harbor, they’ll eventually sink.
12. Don’t stop learning—you’re not as smart as you think.
13. Learn to value patience. You’re likely to learn more while you wait.
14. Time management—without it time will control you.
15. Develop authentic and deep relationships with men who will sharpen you and see through you.
What are the important life lessons you have learned lately?
In a most unusual post, Brett and Kate McKay write about how to lose with dignity and celebrate with grace. Beginning with the gracious way the American Civil War ended between Generals Grant and Lee, ending with the victory of Churchill over Chamberlain in 1940 and with American football in between, the Mckay’s come up with the following principles.
Accept responsibility for the loss.
Bow out gracefully.
Acknowledge the winner.
But a failure to acknowledge the victory of your fellow competitor shows a lack of respect for him; a man can be your rival, but you can still admire his courage and his fight, and the fact that on this day, he fought harder. Sulking away also shows a lack of discipline on your part—you are so overwhelmed with anger and grief at your loss that you cannot think of anything else but your own pity. Being able to control your feelings in that moment is the mark of strength and self-control, not to mention perspective.
And in some cases, even support the winner.
Learn from the loss and move on.
- You are sick and in the hospital
- You are sad after facing a disappointment
- You are rejoicing after celebrating a graduation/engagement/acceptance
- You are afraid because of you have been attacked/threatened
What does a ministry of presence in the following job description mean?
“Provide a regular ministry of presence by timely visits to all areas of the field in coordination with respective Ministry Leaders.”
In what way do the following people experience the presence of God?
- Gen 26:3 Abraham “Live in the land”
- Gen 31:3 Jacob “Return to the land”
- Exodus 3:12 Moses Lead the people, I will bring you out
- Joshua 1:5 Joshua “No man shall be able to stand before you
- Judges 6:16 Gideon “Strike the Midianites”
- Others: Exodus 29:45-46; Isaiah 43:2; Heb 13:8; John 1John 14-16
Reflect on the ways God is present with his people in Psalm 46.
What is NOT necessary in a ministry of presence?
What are the barriers to having a ministry of presence?
What is necessary in a ministry of presence?
In what way or area of your life do you need to know the presence of God?
In what way can you offer a ministry of presence to others you serve?
“God’s presence sends us into the heights of joy and sensing his absence is unbearable.” Mike Wilkerson Redemption
For more information you might want to look at this free edition of Brother Lawrence’s classic Practicing the Presence of God
“If God’s glory has captured your vision and His grace now owns your heart, you are unreservedly committed to the same thing that God is utterly devoted to–magnifying His glory and extending His grace to the peoples of the world through the gospel of Jesus Christ. If this is true, God will make your story a part of His story, and whether seemingly large or small, prominent or obscure, powerful or weak, your story will matter. Your life will make a contribution. You will be a part of God’s plan. That is all any of us could ever ask, expect or hope. God will make it true.” (208)
From Long Story Short: God, Eternity, History and You by John Kitchen. Apparently, the theme of Kitchens’ book is the following: “The goal of everything is the glory of God, and the means of everything is the grace of God.” (22)
Found this in one of David May’s book notes. A resource well worth the free subscription.
If the glory of God is the driving force behind missions, is God a narcicssist? God desires (hopefully as do we all) that there be a worshiping people before his throne from every tribe, tongue, nation and people (promised by Rev 5:9 and 7:9). John Piper has been one of the most vocal proponents that God is fully deserving of this glory from all. Missions involves gathering together worshippers so he gets more glory.
But for others, God’s concern for His own fame and glory seems to be “vain and egotistical”. Paul Copan tries to answer this question in an article, Divine Narcissism, in Philophia Christi (8:2:2006), “Why does God desire for us to worship, praise and glorify Him? Why is it wrong for us–but not for God–to be so self-preoccupied?”
His article is subtitled “A further defense of God’s Humilty”. Valuable thoughts for anyone with a passion for the glory of God.
Copan says that God should not be thought of as proud. “Rather, he has a realistic view of himself, not a false or exaggerated one. His view of himself isn’t distorted or unnecessarily lofty. He is God, after all!”
Speaking about praise, Copan says, “Praise is called for by creatures caught up with God’s greatness, power, goodness and love. Praise is the climax of realizing God’s excellencies, and creatures fittingly erupt in praise, spontaneously beckoning the rest of us to do the same. “ Amen and Amen!
What is the difference between a Texan, a hillbilly, and a missionary?
- A Texan anywhere in the world is still a Texan.
- There are hillbillies everywhere, but in Canada they are called Noufies. In Oklahoma, we called them Okies. They are the same everywhere but they have regional names.
- Missionaries are people who, when they are in Africa are from America, and when they are in America they are from Africa.
Donald M. Joy quoting Pastor Dan Wayman. on p. 144 of The Family in Mission in “Structural Developmental Strengths of Adult MKs”
To be honest, the first time I read this, I didn’t like this joke. It made me sad and mad at the same time. It didn’t seem fair and it seemed to be making fun of missionaries. And making fun of hillbillies, Noufies and Okies–but that part didn’t bother me. As I read it now six months later, the sting is gone a bit and I realize that the joke does have a point. Missionaries may feel homeless at times but heaven is our true home and the world is our playground. Jesus offers much for those who have gone out for His sake and for the sake of the gospel (see Mark 10:29-30). Although we get confused at times about where we belong here on earth, we always remain clear about where we are headed!
How do we make disciples? As important as is this question, maybe we should also be asking, what does not make disciples. Heard a devotion out of Romans 12:1-2 on discipleship. A true disciple is one who is
- Surrendered to God
- Separated from sin
- Sanctified mind
- Seeking to know and obey God
In the first point, the speaker started to merge surrender with service and so I came up with the following:
Disciples will never be made when there is attempted
- Service without surrender
- Freedom from sin without separation
- Transformation apart from sanctification
- Obedience without knowing the will of God
Michael Hyatt provides the three common mistakes new (and I would add even old) leaders make
- Ineffective communications skills
- Weak relationships
- Failure to clarify expectations
and suggests three solutions
- Meet and Greet
- Listen More, Talk Less
- Find Out What Success Looks Like