Monthly Archives: April 2013

whose people?

It’s Friday, we’re gonna make this early and short!

I read an article from a leader who talked about walking around the office and talking to his people. His people? That got me to thinking. As I thought about it, I began to see that the idea of talking about “my guys” is a way that I am endearing me in my own head to them. But, what am I really saying? Am I not giving my self credit that I don’t deserve? This is a top-down way of thinking. Is that a biblical way of thinking in the Kingdom of God? Maybe. Maybe not.

I once visited a school which had huge morale problems. The problems began at the top, the head principal had been rejected by the faculty in a vote (don’t ask) and his tenure began under a cloud. He kept his door closed most of the time. This was a government school, he was not a follower of Jesus. But I think his approach should be instructive to those of us who are followers of Jesus, who He has made into leaders. This guy cared about his power and his mission, not his people. He didn’t have any people. He had no relationships with the people with whom he served. He certainly didn’t have their respect. Because he had no relationships.

Do you cultivate relationships with your people? How ’bout God’s people… among whom you are?

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pressure to please, produce, perform…

Sweet Anna was telling me about some girl’s engagement diamond. They seem to be getting bigger, these diamonds. Why? Then it hit me. At least in some cases, the pressure to produce the reaction (pleasing her is at top of his list) causes the boy to go as big (or bigger) as he can afford in this all important diamond purchase. Pleasing her is number one.

Leaders fall into a similar trap. Pleasing people.

Whether it be her board or among major stakeholders, leaders find themselves trying to  measure up to someone’s idea of what they should be or do (recently dubbed ‘metrics’). My contention is that when we look just at outcome not at progress, the tasks can cause us to lose sight of people. Measuring up to stakeholder’s expectations and the meeting of board directed objectives can become all encompassing. Sound familiar? Well, its even worse if you have no oversight, then you’re not sure who to please.

Now, this is not to say that objectives aren’t important (I value Peter Drucker as much as the next guy), but my question is based again on kingdom building. Did our board (or our elders, or deacons, or the vestry, or the session) prayerfully come to these objectives that drive the leader to her decisions? Are those objectives decided upon prayerfully? Really?

Does our oversight body really pray together and with us and seek relationship with us to know heart, gifts, “calling”? Really? If not, how can we know if we are building God’s kingdom or ours… or theirs?

Where there is God directed, God based relationship, leaders get together and invest significant time in prayer.

Let’s think hypothetically for a moment. Let’s say that at a given meeting or gathering of leaders, we were to invest more time praying together prior to talking and before deciding… what do you think might happen to the discussion process, to the decision making process? If leaders and their leaders were to practice this, how would that impact the relationships among them all? Do you think there would be more unity and unanimity? More peace? Clearer direction?

Oh, I’ve heard the other side… “I’ve been praying, its time to act!!!!!” You’ve been praying? Really? See its just you here, you and your conscience… oh, and God. He’s here too. You’ve been praying?

Sorry, I digress.

How would this idea of a significant time invested in prayer together affect the leader’s pressure to produce? See, if we are united in seeking God, God guides our work and then… then, wouldn’t we be better guided by Him?

Time????? If I ask if I have time to pray, whose kingdom am I building? Who is the real boss? God? or me?

If our companies, institutions, organizations, churches, schools or whatever find ourselves in a hard place, in a crisis. I ask us, how much and how often is our leadership praying together? How much and how often are the leaders of the leaders investing in prayer? Asking God to guide our minds and hearts toward decisions that build God’s kingdom, not ours, this should be our first (and perhaps out most time consuming) task.

I would suggest that the deeper we are connected to God, the better our decisions are going to be. We might then put people above tasks and we will find more unity than disunity when we pray together.

If there is disunity, if there is gossiping, if we are fighting a battle over decisions and goals and mission and strategy, we may need to reevaluate how much time we are investing in listening to and talking to God about these things.

I once heard some statistics about leaders and the time they devote to being with God, …just to be with God.

(Actually it was pastors not generally about leaders, but I apply it here anyway).

44%  –   less than 7 minutes per day

37%   –   7-35 minutes per day

19%  –   35 min or more

(Don’t ask me, a friend got them from a conference speaker citing some survey, I’m just illustrating a point here.)

<7 minutes

7-35 minutes

>35 minutes

Where am I?

Where are you?

I know where God is.

He’s right there, waiting to give us direction toward building HIS kingdom.

His kingdom.

C. S. Lewis said that “If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire. If you want joy, peace, eternal life, you must get close to what has them.”

“I want wisdom!”

Where did Solomon get it?

I was talking to a pastor recently who was struggling with all that was on his plate. Could it be that this is because he is working in his own power without deeply connecting to God on a daily basis? Luther famously said, I have so much to do that I must pray and extra hour today. Spurgeon, Mueller, the reformers all talked about the need to cultivate the deep abiding relationship with God.

“Abide in me.” He said.

Remember?

If we invest significant time with God as leaders, or as groups of leaders whether formally (as a board) or informally (as a group of friends), we will hear God better. We will see people differently, we will find tasks easier. We will build HIS kingdom, not ours. We will stop performing.

Who am I performing for today?

Whose kingdom am I building?

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“progress – part 2” or “What is the cost of a well run railroad?”

My post Tuesday, about my friend who lost his job, has me thinking about the cost of a well run railroad.

On my just-completed trip abroad I noticed something. The already well run railroad was being run better (I like like trains, it’s my opinion – its my blog).  I noticed that the people in the ticket windows (I still buy my ticket from the person in the ticket window not from the Internet, thank you) and the conductors on the trains were younger and, in my opinion, a bit more professional.

I noticed it over a couple of weeks and then mentioned my observation to a friend of mine who keeps up with these kinds of things. He told me there was some sort of forced early retirement that had opened up a lot of jobs for the younger folks, cost savings you see. Airline flight attendants have been striking about similar actions for years (and we flying public, pay a price too, I might add). When I first heard this, about the jobs thing, and considered the fact that my own experience had been improved, I was satisfied…

Then Tuesday happened…

Now I wonder.

I wonder about my desire for expediency.

Look, I am glad of the increased professionalism on the trains and am glad that those younger people have jobs… but I wonder. I wonder about moving older people out of the way (who are my age – just to be clear and objective) for the sake of younger people. And I wonder most of all about my own “ends justifies the means” position I had a few weeks ago when I learned about this.

All of us, especially I, need to be very careful of thinking that we have it figured out.

We also need to be careful not to put our “vision”, our “movement”, our “cause” or “calling”, ahead of people.

I do not believe that in God’s eyes, vision, movement, or calling, no matter how important the cause, comes before people. He said we are all precious.

I don’t want to be that guy who cares more about my mission than I do about a person. I’m not sure that is actually building God’s Kingdom.

I think, when I put my “cause” ahead of people, I may very well be building my own kingdom.

I need to be careful.

I need to put people ahead of my “cause.”

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“no expectations” – somebody gets it!

Over the years I have developed a list of rules, tips, whatever… for traveling abroad… AT LEAST one of my friends actually gets it… read these words…

“Expectations often determine how difficult the shock will be and how long it will last. What I’ve found is that when those expectations are kept in check, Croatia has a lot of pleasant surprises.”

These are the words of Jeremy Bohall, who I wish I could write like…

YOU can read the rest of his awesome essay HERE!

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times change, progress or…

I received a call from a friend this afternoon, he is losing his job. 

He has faithfully served his employer for over a decade. A more helpful, encouraging soul one could hardly ask for. Indeed, as I reflect on his character, I realize what a Christlike character he has. Indeed, before I began thinking my way through this post, I had not really considered that before.

Consider the Fruit of the Spirit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” Yup, these are a fair sketch of my friend. Oh, he is not perfect, far from it, none of us are. But if the fruit of the spirit is a measuring stick, he measures up better than I. 

Time rolls on and things change, companies change direction, institutions change course and, if you, as a member of that organization, don’t change with it, you may find that you have to step aside. It seems my friend will have to step aside. In the last few years this has happened to many people and happens around the world all day, every day… progress or…

It is a sad reality. For his character is such, that his soon-to-be former employer and all who are associated there will miss this kindly gentleman. Indeed, if ever I have met a gentleman, this friend certainly does befit the modern use of the term. He is truly a gentleman.

Sadly, my friend, who is about my age (you know, older than dirt) may have difficulty finding new employment with things being what they are in the world these days. I certainly hope this is not the case. Indeed I will be praying for him and I ask you to pray for my friend as well. Pray that God would give him trust and would provide for my friend. 

It was interesting, when he called, he was filled with such grace. As he told me the story, there was no harshness, no bitterness. I can’t say that about many people. I certainly know that can’t be said about me. Indeed, this friend may be one of the kindest souls I have ever met. 

In the annals of life my friend will go down as one who was kind and thoughtful, admired by many, beloved even.

Yes.

Beloved.

Perhaps moreso than any human I have had the privilege to know during my years travelin’ this sod.

For my kind, beloved friend, as he begins a new chapter, I offer my prayers for a bright future and my profoundest respect for such a gentleman.

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last night tradition

image

Since I’ll be down in DelPest tomorrow night, I offer the last pic this evening… now to pack.

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home soon

Just updated the trip plan which is more a report of God’s faithfulness than anything else now. In 48 hours I will be in the air over the northern Atlantic headed home!

Here’s the final prayer letter:

Greetings from Budapest.

This will be my last update on this trip. I am grateful for your prayers. God has answered. He has shown himself faithful as always.

This faithfulness has been seen in the way he has met us along this journey. On numerous occasions he has worked through his people, through the Scripture and in the inexplicable.

When I had the flu in Zagreb, the timing was such that Anna was with me and we found a doctor, thanks to our Croatian partners, who spoke English and gave us peace of mind that it was just the flu. Though the hotel was full, we were able to keep our room for the extra day we needed. I’m always thankful for God’s excellent sense of timing.

Your prayers for the March Gathering of our ministry partners were answered, as these dear friends who serve so faithfully had a weekend of rest and encouragement.

Your prayers for the pastors retreat were answered as these brothers came away with a sense of rest and the reminder of God’s grace. One of these brothers and I have begun a disciple relationship using Gospel Centered Life. He and I are planning my visit to his city in Serbia in July.

This week we were blessed that Ruslan, who is one of CEO’s ministry partners from Ukraine, who is an expert in developing ministry partnerships to benefit orphans, came to speak to Hungarians who are interested in orphan ministry last night. It was a positive first step in a conversation geared toward developing further collaboration in Hungary.

Faithfulness in provision, faithfulness in open ministry doors, that is our God. Of course there have been lots of good conversations and a fair amount of preaching! I am grateful for the opportunities He gives us.

Thank you for your prayers to our faithful God!

I head home in two days. Please keep up the prayer support as the last days are always packed with last minute meetings, packing, teaching and preparing.

Peace from Grace,

Tom

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