It is hard to be a Christian at Christmas, especially if you are a pastor or leader. These are at least five mistakes that we often make: We skimp on our time with Jesus in our work for Jesus. We speak of profound spiritual realities, but our hearts slowly shrink because we have so much to do. We become perfectionistic. We forget that to be human is to make mistakes. Eugene Peterson says it well: “Perfectionism is a perversion of the Christian way. To impose it on either oneself or another…is decidedly not the way of Jesus.” We do more than God asks. When we do more than God asks, we open the door for all kinds of disorder and chaos. We engage in faulty thinking. Mark Twain once said, “It isn’t what you don’t know that hurts you; it is what you know that isn’t so.” We forget our greatest gift is who. Read more.
For several weeks, I have been crafting a list of the most common shortcuts we take as leaders. (This growing list now stands at 24!) I realized, finally, that our lists will vary, depending on our particular vulnerabilities and shadows. So I decided to list the top ten shortcuts that I have struggled with over the years. In each of these I have discovered J.R.R. Tolkien’s words to be very true: “Shortcuts make long delays.” Not leading myself first. To clarify our goals and values in the midst of the innumerable demands and pressures around us is a great challenge. The easier route is to get busy, running around and checking off our to-do lists. I’ve discovered it takes a lot of time to get clear within myself on how God intends that I steward my gifts, time, energy, and limits. Rushing. Rushing is an oil light in a car dashboard indicating something is. Read more.
A number of years ago, a friend who had quit attending church asked me privately, “Why is it that so many Christians make such lousy human beings?” In other words, why are so many of us judgmental, defensive, unapproachable, and touchy? A large part of the reason is a faulty, compartmentalized understanding of what it means to follow Jesus. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were passionate about holiness and purity in their relationship with God. They memorized books of Scripture, fasted twice a week, gave generously, evangelized, prayed three times a day, attended worship without fail, and kept Sabbath. The problem was that in their zeal to love God, they were not equally zealous to love people. This put them on a collision course with Jesus. A Pharisee in Jesus’ day would say, “First, complete your worship to God, and then be reconciled to your brother. God is more important than humans.” Jesus. Read more.
One of the most challenging tasks of leadership, and life, is perspective. Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best: The years teach much which the days never know. I spend much of my time with pastors and leaders from around the world. The surface questions vary, but the underlying ones are similar: “Where is God in all these difficulties? Why is leading so painful and slow? How do I make it long-term?” In this podcast I attempt to give a long view of leadership around God’s process of making us “great” leaders. (“Greatness” refers to remaining faithful to become the person God has called you to become, and do what He has called you to do.) Highlights include: Illusions we must unlearn; The most significant book that helped me stay the course in my most difficult years; Great counsel given to me that has stood the test of time; Practical tips for young leaders in. Read more.
I am a great lover of books. I am also a believer that reading broadly and deeply is foundational if we are to offer good leadership in a rapidly changing and global context. Reading offers unique opportunities for us to grow, expand into worlds beyond our own, and to be mentored by people we will never meet. Here are my top 10 books from the last six months that you may want to consider adding to your list: 1. Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis – Robert D. Putnam Putnam, a Harvard social scientist, has written a classic that I believe is a “must read” for church leadership teams. He explores in penetrating detail how rich and poor Americans are now living, learning, and raising children in increasingly separate and unequal worlds. Moreover, he shows convincingly that we are facing a crisis in that kids from privileged backgrounds are starting and finishing further and further. Read more.
I don’t know. Only God can judge and sort that out. But I do know that our obsession with getting people to make a decision for Jesus has led us to a reality where we have large numbers of severely under-developed, stunted, nominal Christians filling our churches. This two-tiered USA gospel, unlike the witness of the New Testament, supposes that a person can become a Christian and not follow Jesus. A disciple follows Jesus, allowing Him to change him/her for the sake of the world. A “believer” assents intellectually to what Jesus and Scripture says. But their lives are not directed by Jesus or oriented around Him. A disciple, however, is characterized by the following: A first-hand, personal relationship with Jesus A commitment to listen to Him for direction A love for Scripture Self-awareness–reflected in the ability to take their feelings and lay them out before Jesus and themselves Silence and stillness. Read more.