Henri Nouwen, towards the end of his life, articulated a core struggle for every leader. He described the two different voices that come to each of us. One voice constantly pushes us to succeed and achieve, and comes from below. It was the voice he spent most of his life heeding. It led him to make decisions and plans without God. He taught at prestigious Ivy League universities. He wrote a book a year. He kept an active speaking and ministry schedule. But his spiritual life was suffocating. He was praying poorly and living isolated from people. The other invites us to listen to God’s voice. This voice reassures us we are loved without conditions or performance. We have nothing to prove. Our primary goal is to recognize the Lord’s voice, his face, and his touch in every person we meet. Only in the last ten years of his life, Nouwen said, did he. Read more.
It is hard to be a Christian at Christmas – especially for pastors and leaders. Why? We can blame the culture, the powers and principalities that want to cut us off from Jesus, or the unrealistic expectations people place on us. While these are indeed factors, the primary responsibility rests with how we understand our role as leaders. These are 5 common mistakes we make: 1. We skimp on our time with Jesus in our work for Jesus. As a result, we preach revelations about the eternal Word of God assuming human flesh without the time to swim and worship in the wonder of it all. The pressure of too much to do, in too little time, causes us to push a button into an “autopilot” spirituality. We speak of profound spiritual realities, but our hearts slowly shrink. What can we do? Follow Jesus by going off “to a solitary place and pray” (Mark 1:35).. Read more.
Jesus said we must lose our lives to find it. One essential way we do this is by learning the art of interior silence. This choice to turn away from internal and external noise in order to be with Jesus is work…a difficult work. Externally, we face the unrelenting pressure of our culture– the noise, the clutter, the grasping, the confusion, the distractions, the excessive amount of information – all of which make it difficult to hear ourselves think. Internally, our stillness and silence muscles are weak. As beginners, we have problems focusing attention and facing the normal distractions of body and mind. Just like we cannot simply read a how-to book on running a marathon and run, so we must build up muscle and stamina slowly over time. Maggie Ross, in her Silence: A User’s Guide – Volume 1: Process, argues that the tradition of silence was handed down unbroken from the time. Read more.
I like to read more broadly than usual in the summer months to stretch me and to open up doors for God to speak in unexpected ways. The following are my top 10 picks for the first half of 2016: 1. Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age – Sheryl Turkle I consider this the most important leadership book I’ve read so far this year because of the implications of her research on how digital technology is impacting our culture. I find myself returning to her insights in discussions on building community, discipleship, preaching, and developing next generation leaders. Click here to read the blog I wrote on this book. 2. When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi At the age of 36, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. A brilliant neurosurgeon and excellent writer, he records for us, with penetrating insight and clarity, his process of. Read more.
A great book is so powerful that you stop reading, lower the book, and simply linger in the words for a moment. You ask God, “What might you be saying to me through this?” Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Sherry Turkle, was one such book for me. Turkle, a professor at MIT, has been studying people’s relationship with technology for 30 years. In Reclaiming Conversation, she looks at the first generation of children who grew up with smartphones now that they are graduating college and beginning to enter the workforce. She also examines the impact of technology on relationships with our families and friends, dating, teaching and education, and the workplace. My concern, like many of yours, is how this intersects with our work as pastors and leaders in the church. I do hope that you will read this 362-page work as it expounds on profound challenges before. Read more.
Elijah understood that silence and listening are the starting points for true, authentic spiritual leadership. Without it we lead from our own mind and ideas. But the only way to listen is to deeply engage the radical spiritual disciplines of silence and solitude – the most challenging and least experienced disciplines in the church today. Elijah lived in the desert for years – dependent on God alone for food and sustenance without projects or programs. The silence and solitude positioned him to listen and be formed into the leader God desired. The longer he remained in the silence of the desert, the more free he became to follow God’s direction. Studies say that the average group can only bear silence for 15 seconds. Most of our personal lives and church services confirm this. Yet it is essential that silence and solitude become a regular and normal part of our days and weeks. How else. Read more.