For the first 17 years of my Christian life I grew in knowledge and leadership experience. I worked with university students full-time, graduated from seminary, and started a church. My leadership gifts blossomed. The size and impact of the ministry expanded. The problem was that growing in love was not my number one aim. I focused on bigger, better, and faster – like most of the leaders around me. I wasn’t asking myself: Am I meeker, patient, soft, safe, approachable, courageous, kind, and honest this year than I was last year? Am I less easily triggered under stress? Am I breaking my bad habits from my family of origin (e.g. stuffing resentments, lying when hurt, resolving conflicts poorly, not being attentive)? Are people close to me experiencing me as loving? A revolution took place in my life when I read Jonathan Edward’s sermons on 1 Corinthians 13:1-3. His exegesis and insights launched a Copernican. Read more.
The great temptation in social media (e.g. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook) is to exploit every experience as material to teach others, to speak of truths we don’t live, to present ourselves as someone we are not. This shrivels our souls as we stray further from what is authentic and true. It damages our integrity, widening the gap between our outer and inner lives. It is easy to “remain all our lives on the threshold, never entering into the banquet, but always running back into the street to tell the passers-by of the wonderful music (we) hear coming from inside the palace of the King” (Thomas Merton). How then do we guard against this temptation? We want to lead (e.g. tweet) out of a deep place of being with God, saying like David: I love the house where you live, O Lord The place where your glory dwells. Ps. 26:8 One thing I ask of the. Read more.
All work — paid and unpaid — is good, but it needs to be boundaried by the practice of Sabbath. The problem with too many leaders is that we allow our work to trespass on every other area of life, disrupting the balanced rhythm of work and rest God created for our good. Sabbath is a twenty-four-hour block of time in which we stop work, enjoyrest, practice delight, and contemplate God. 1. Stop. Sabbath is first and foremost a day when we cease all work — paid and unpaid. On the Sabbath we embrace our limits. We let go of the illusion that we are indispensable to the running of the world. We recognize we will never finish all our goals and projects, and that God is on the throne, managing quite well in ruling the universe without our help. 2. Rest. Once we stop, we accept God’s invitation to rest. God rested after. Read more.
The Emotionally Healthy Leader was my most challenging writing project to date. It required 6 ½ years of journaling, pondering, and prayer, and 1½ years of intensive writing itself. By the time it was over, I wondered if I would ever write again. (My first draft of over two hundred pages, for example, ended up mostly in the trash. So I reread two of my favorite books about the art and vocation of writing– Echoing Silence: Thomas Merton on the Vocation of Writing and The Writing Life, by Annie Dillard. Their insights offered me, once again, both perspective and vision. They put words on the complexity of the writing experience for me. My top learnings: Why do I write? I write to become clear (Merton, 10). I find that it (writing) helps me pray because, when I pause at my work, I find the mirror inside me is surprisingly clean and deep and serene. Read more.
Located in the Tigray region of northeastern Ethiopia is the Abuna-Yemata-Guh Church, rightly called the world’s most inaccessible place of worship. (I also call it “the world’s least seeker-sensitive church” as well). My daughter and son-in-law visited there last month and returned, like many before them, struck with wonder at the vitality and richness of the church and her ministry. The church is carved into the rocks (from around the 6th century) and located at the top of a mountain. The 2-hour hike involves climbing barefoot and walking along narrow cliffs. (I am told, however, that people from the village can do the hike in around thirty minutes). Consider the pictures below: Evangelical Protestantism has a very short history compared to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church that traces her history back to Philip’s encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-40). Perhaps you can help me with the question I am holding before the Lord: How. Read more.
To quit overfunctioning is foundational to our leadership. In fact, unless we take up this biblical challenge, it will be nearly impossible to raise up healthy, biblical communities that effectively engage the world with the gospel and deeply transform lives. Overfunctioning can be defined as: doing for others what they can and should do for themselves. This is a key task for every leader that requires discernment, courage, and at times, wise counsel from others. The following four realities motivate us to make this a regular topic for prayerful discernment: Overfunctioning perpetuates immaturity. In Exodus 18, Moses mistakenly believed his self-sacrifice was serving the people. Moses became the largest obstacle, the bottleneck to the people’s growth and maturity. In Numbers 11, the Israelites demanded a rescue from their pain. Moses accepted the role. In doing so, he ensured their continued immature behavior. Overfunctioning prevents us from focusing on God’s unique call for our own. Read more.