I often get stuck thinking about what I cannot do. I think everyone has those moments and I get there more often than I would like to admit. I was reading and praying this morning and I had a few minutes of asking God to intercede for me and I got stuck listing why I was not able to do the work(s) He has called me to do. After a few minutes of listing all the weaknesses, faults, bad circumstances, and impossibilities, I was confronted with this question, “So What, Josh?”
If you have walked with Jesus for any period of time, you realize how the Holy Sprit answers our questions with questions. It was a line drawn in the sand, if I believe God asked me to do something should I do it, despite the impossibilities? The Christianese answer is, “Yes, your obedience has your next blessing!” While it is true, we often misinterpret blessing.
I was about 3 years into ministry and I was a youth pastor at a location in California. With the advice of wise Christian leaders and answers to prayer, I felt God told me to resign and go. I had so many questions and too few answers to make an educated decision. I kept hearing how my jump of faith would find me caught in the arms of Jesus with great blessing at the end. So, I jumped! I resigned my ministry position, moved in to my parents house with my wife and our one daughter, and began to look for work, ministry, opportunity, just about anything.
Three months later and with offers like being paid for ministry with fresh fish in Alaska, I could not get a real job to save my life. I felt helpless, hopeless and despair began to hit me. Why? Well, I had a notion that Jesus catching me, blessing me and seeing me through meant money in the bank account, fulfillment in my career or popularity and opportunity. Can those things happen and will they? You bet, but Jesus catching us in our faith jumps means more than the material. It was at my lowest point where I could not see much light ahead, that I write this in my journal.
“God, why is it that you see to my destruction and humiliation? I know I deserve nothing, but I am desperate and have nowhere else to turn!”
Like a lament psalm I got real before the Almighty God, and I then wrote this down a paragraph later:
“Josh, Your blessing, fortune and progress is solely based on the calling I have for you. You are so busy seeing what you cannot do or accomplish that you are missing the table I have set before you.”
This was 2002, and the crux of the story is that my mom was dying of cancer and I thought she was coming out of it. I finally settled down stopped searching endlessly and spent time with my mom, I repaired relationship with her and created memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life. I was in the valley of despair, and fearing all evil, until I woke up that day and I was introduced to the table set before my enemies (Psalm23). My marriage was rocky, credit was broken, my finances demolished, my gifting/calling was hibernating, and my closest friends silent. Oh, but that table! Once I recognized who set it up, who put it all together, I focused on the mission at hand, my mom, my marriage and my family.
Soon after that I was back in ministry and repairing the temporal things, but having a restored and shame free perspective to being in the waiting room. Perhaps you are in the waiting room, you are looking for the blessing and missing the table set before you. All you hear is, “You Can’t Do That!” and I pray that you can answer, “I sure can’t, but He can!”
I was reading this morning from Nahum, and something caught my attention. Our influence will be a matter of great responsibility.
And all for the countless whorings of the prostitute,
graceful and of deadly charms,
who betrays nations with her whorings,
and peoples with her charms.
Behold, I am against you,
declares the Lord of hosts,
and will lift up your skirts over your face;
and I will make nations look at your nakedness
and kingdoms at your shame.
Ninevah was under judgment, and sexual immorality was what was pointed out. Ninevah was receiving a judgment from God because they were not only involved in sexual immorality (whorings), but they influenced a large part of the Near East with their immorality. It was their influence and how they used it that brought such judgment from God. We should know that with influence comes great responsibility. When we ask God for influence, we ask Him to give us the burden of judgment that can come with it. The yoke is easy and the burden light when we carry it with Jesus. Without Jesus, the burden is too big, and our pride will bring destruction eventually.
I am not huge title guy, so, if someone wants to call me pastor, great. I believe that my being a pastor is displayed in the life I give to others and I do not need a title to do that. Why do I mention this? We are human, and it is easy for us to strive for recognition, title, and affirmation not realizing the weight of it all. God does not judge us based on our title, He judges us based on our actual influence.
Everyone to whom much was given, of him, much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more. – Luke 12:48b
Influence is not given, it is earned. One cannot claim ignorance when confronted with their own influence, and so we are responsible. Influence grows, titles stay the same. Nations, empires, and communities have seen destruction due to their respective influence. So what? Why does this matter to me?
You and I are people of influence, and how much influence may vary, but the responsibility is like in kind. Perhaps your influence is your children and family, or you lead in a corporate environment. It does not matter; we need to take inventory and observe how our influence is impacting others. God takes influence very seriously as we see in Nahum, but Jesus gave us this to chew on:
Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. – Matthew 18:5-6
As a believer, it is a privilege to lead and have influence. It is when I take inventory of the influence I have, that I see my weaknesses, strengths and the hand of God in my life. It is a joy to see what God has done and will do. We are all influencers and may we all take it with joy and gratitude for the opportunity to show others a Christ-like life.
When you read Galatians 5:22-23, you read about the fruits of the Spirit. Ever wonder why Bible translations never use the word nice or niceness? How about when you correct your child who is being selfish or mean-spirited with another child, do we use the word nice or kind? I thought it was genius of the snack bar (notice: it is not a health bar) KIND to put an ad out distinguishing between kind and nice.
In 15 seconds, KIND tells you the difference between NICE and KIND. Nice tells you what you want to hear and Kind is honest. Simple definition and I always live by the John Stott quote:
Our love grows soft if it is not strengthened by truth, and our truth grows hard if it is not softened by love.
Kindness is so much more than just one word; it is a character trait that is developed in us by the Holy Spirit. Kindness takes the love and truth and presents it to another person in communicable fashion. I used to tell my children, ” Now that was not nice! Go apologize.” This may be just fine and I am not saying we should never say the word nice, but I now go for words and teaching moments that matter the most.
If I were to define the word “nice,” I would say it is the first level of appropriateness that uses the least amount of your time, money and resources to save the status quo. I know, a bit complex and harsh, but think about how we use the word. Someone leaves us a Facebook birthday message, that was nice. Someone holds the door open for you, that was nice. You drop a paper or item on the floor, and the person next you picks it up for you, that was nice. You get an envelope with $1,500 cash and a note that says “God told me to do it,” that’s nice? No, that was kindness and goodness combined. It’s like the word “love,” we misuse it often. I love my wife, I love my children, I love Jesus. Do I then love sushi? ( I do like it with a certain passion)
I am not sure if I am amazed by the word kind and what it means or by the fact that I was edified by an advertisement intended to do sales.
There is a vast amount of chatter on the internet about generational gaps and specifically about millennials and the workplace. Studies show a revealing pattern in each generation on how they are motivated. These are generalizations and not scientific statements or even meant to be a comprehensive summarization. These are observations I make from my experience in ministry and the workplace. I also started at Boomers, simply because of the current workforce and to expose a first level of generational differences. Each generation has a set of core values and motivators that are not necessarily wrong or right, but they exist.
Baby Boomers (1946-1964) went to work for long hours, did what they were told, respected authority, played politics well and stayed in their respective careers for a long time. This generation saw the first major rise in divorce, infidelity and the single parent home. They raised kids by passive example versus a hands-on approach (again, generalization), showing what it meant to work hard, ignore struggles and keep busy.
Generation X (1965-1976) was a product of the Baby Boomers (0f course). Gen Xers are much more educated than previous generations; they value their use of time over any other workplace ethic, and responsible for the shrinking of the population since having 1.4 kids per family belongs to them. They saw the pains of the Boomers who worked hard to get them a better life; they lacked quality time with parents. The correction was to make the workplace more efficient, create systems for faster and better response and motivated by time and performance. A Boomer sees performance as working (money and quantity), a Gen Xer sees performance in terms of success (money, time and quality). They raised kids with the approach of “everyone is a winner” and handed out trophies for just showing up. They spent time with their kids, fighting hard to increase education standards and made their kids feel special.
The Millenial generation or Gen Y (1977-1995) was a product of both Boomers and Gen X. Generations are changing faster now due to technological advancement. They grew up with much of life being taken care of for them, and they grew up faster because of TV, the internet and mobile devices. Parents no longer were the primary influence in the life of a child but the mix of teachers, online sources and TV took over the authority. Creativity is hard to assess, but millennials thrive in this arena. Since they got a trophy for just showing up, they have a sense of entitlement built into their lifestyles. This entitlement is not their fault as much as it is a product of overcorrections by Gen Xers. They are motivated by purpose and impact more than time, money, or quantity of performance. They now make up the largest portion of the workforce in the United Sates.
Boomers and Gen Xers get frustrated with Millenials because they often misunderstand them. No given generation is lost in some way simply because they are different than the previous. Yet workplace discussions, seminar lobbies, and forums online are filled with nostalgia of how it was done, and now it is all going downhill.
Gen Z or Centennials (1996 and forward) are product of Gen X and Millennials and are inundated with media and trends. They find value in causes, have little patience for rules that have no meaning, live life based on emotional investment. There is still ongoing research on how they will impact the workplace and family, but there is a push for organic community.
I am a millennial by definition, but I can relate to Gen Xers as well. A millennial does not do something just because someone said it is to be done. They do something because it means something, that the systems, tasks and processes are not only tested but constantly tested and improved. Gen Xers want to know their calendar is being valued and not just having meetings because that is the way it is done. They want to know that both Boomers and Millennials respect them as a person. Millennials want to know that you connect with their emotional quotient and that they are setup to make an impact.
I watched this great video at the bottom of my post, and it challenged me as a leader and supervisor. We can complain about other generations and what is lacking, or we can become better leaders by taking the time to understand the intersections that are involved in generational leadership.
John 15:15 is an interesting passage and often the subject of modern Christian apparel and vernacular. Jesus is my friend! I love that aspect about walking with Jesus, but let’s remember that Jesus said this to his disciples at the end of His ministry when they walked through a discipleship process. I would be robbing God’s people if I told them that “Jesus is your friend” right after they gave their lives to Jesus without letting them in on the discipleship process.
John 15:12-15 tells us:
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.
The discipleship of Jesus was a process and a tough one at that. Jesus instantly had his disciples working from the start of the relationship and challenged the first disciples in Matthew 4:19.
And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
A key to the process, follow —> make —-> fishers of men. In other words, our obedience affords the creation process of who we are supposed to be. The word “make” in verse 19, is the same word from Genesis 1:26.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
Jesus told a group of Jewish males that if they followed Him, Jesus would CREATE them into what they were not. He would do the impossible in and through them. I love this! As believers, we are created into this status of a child of God, but the only way to be a child of God is to follow him. We need to drop everything and surrender to him. This is the discipleship process, and it is never easy, but only God can do the creation aspect of this relationship.
You remember the Jesus is my homie movement? Then came bobble head Jesus that said yes to just about everything. Jesus is not my homie; he is my King and Savior. Jesus can call us friends when we have heard from Him and obeyed (vs. 15).
I want Jesus as my friend because I want to do the will of God. Otherwise, we only want a ticket to heaven or at least an escape from hell without the road of discipleship that God wants for us. When we follow Jesus, we submit our authority to Him, and He then will make us (create us) to be more like Him.
His love for us is so deep and goes to all lengths to meet us where we are at, but as cliche’ as it sounds… He does not want to leave us there. Jesus no longer called the disciples servants, not because they stopped serving, but because they knew the plans of the master. Servants never know the plans of the master, friends know and do the plans of Jesus.
I read a book some years ago called Free Yourself Be Yourself by Alan D. Wright when I first came on staff at Christian Life Center. At first, the title made me a little squeamish because I am not into touchy feely books or content, or that is what I tell myself. The freedom I experienced after reading that book were quite amazing and applying the principles to my life became a pursuit over the last two years. Shame is crippling and, like me, many of us would never think that we filter our entire lives around shame.
Most of the time, the word shame is saved for altar calls, or part of some incredible testimony of deliverance from addictions, freedom from sexual abuse, etc. However, most people suffer from some grip that shame has on them.
Shame Is Contagious
Much like a virus, shame spreads easily and is passed down within the family unit, workplace, education system and even the church. The only way to stop the spread is the gospel because shame is a primary product of separation from God. It started in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve hid together instead of running to God.
Shame Is Motivational
Let’s face it; we can react to things in one of two ways: in freedom or shame. For instance, your child spills his plate while standing in line at a church potluck and it lands on someone in front of him. As a parent, you have one of two filters to respond through. You could shame your child and take a public discipline approach making sure the adult the child spilled on feels like the punishment fit the crime and show how embarrassed you are. Or, you could politely apologize or hint to your child to apologize and then work together to clean it up and comfort the child that is was an accident and offer kind assistance or payment for the outfit cleaning of the spill victim. Shame motivates behavior, response, and emotions.
Shame Damages Relationships
In my spill illustration, if the child is shamed publicly, the effect is damaging. I am not saying that children do not need correction or discipline, they need it and it is biblical, in a loving and graceful manner that has restoration in mind. This is not a post about discipline, but about the shame filter. When you create an atmosphere in a relationship that is motivated by shame, both parties fall victim to the shame filter. I remember as a child that if my father, grandfather, uncle approached me in anger, I would flinch or cower. My parents or family never abused me physically or even emotionally, but I knew that anger meant there was only one last place to go to. I deserved a butt whooping as a kid, but the point is we do not have to verbally teach our children to learn shame responses, it is built into us because of our sin nature.
Shame Deflects or Absorbs
You need to read the book I mentioned to get a full picture of the shame we often live with. For those that may seem confident in life: shame causes us to live in self-preservation mode, and we defend our position to a fault, alienating relationships, forcing our authority where it was not needed. For those who lack confidence: shame causes you to retreat, to accept incoming abuse as deserved and to settle for less. Get two people who react in shame, and you have a full-blown battle of deflection. If a wife is verbally shaming her husband all the time and the husband just takes it because that’s the way it is, it is unhealthy, and both have a shame reaction. The wife is the active ingredient, and the husband is the catalyst, coming together to form a creation of bondage. Shame is often associated with the one taking the abuse or garbage, but the one giving it is living in shame just as much. I even wrote that illustration as an example of the shame that readers may even react with. You may have thought, “Why did he choose the wife as the aggressive one.” and I would answer in freedom, “because it’s my illustration.”
Shame Is Not Leadership
I am still learning this point in my life. I remember growing up, and coaches, teachers, pastors and leaders would often use public humiliation and shame to lead people. Words like, “You embarrass me” or “If it were me, I would have done it differently,” “Are you stupid” and the list goes on. When we lead from a position of shame, we are coming from a position of weakness that only elevates you once someone else is down. When we lead from freedom, we come from a position of strength that pulls people up with us. I find that leaders who are overprotective of their churches, ministries, departments, etc. are often dealing with shame in some way. Jesus never told his disciples to make disciples and then bring them back to the church in Jerusalem since that is the only church approved by God. No, Jesus gave them a systematic approach to spreading all over the world. Shame tells us that if someone speaks better or has more people under them, that we should talk bad about them, find faults and warn everyone how much better you are. Eventually, shame takes us from protection to isolation, to destruction. Let’s lead from freedom, the freedom that Christ gives us.
I will write about the freedom side of the battle tomorrow, but I would challenge anyone who has not read the book, to do so, you will benefit greatly. Also, take some alone time and reflect on how shame has influenced your choices, your life, etc. There is hope, and that hope is Jesus.
Get the Book Here – https://www.amazon.com/Free-Yourself-Be-Power-Escape/dp/1601422768
I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish – Romans 1:14
In Christian circles, we use the word “call” often and just like the word love, grace, mercy, worship, and Christian, these words can start to lose their power in the English vernacular. The Apostle Paul was writing to the Christians in Rome and telling them how he desired to visit them. He then defined what we refer to as a “call” as an obligation.
Challenge yourself to substitute the word “obligation” for “call” each time. It will have a significant impact on your life and the choices you make. We may even be slow to designate our calls and ask God to confirm all the more. The word obligation is much less ethereal. It means something of a formal contract, an action required by promise or vow. The original Greek describes an obligated as “debtor.”
When God calls us to something specific, it becomes an obligation. Much like when we consider debt, we still have the choice to pay the debt or avoid it, but it is a debt just the same. This can be difficult to process when we think of the grace of Christ, but the grace and mercy have more to do with relationship than occupation. You see, Paul experienced the full grace of Jesus, and now he is under obligation to reach the Gentiles so they can experience the same. The call of God is by no means a grace-filled journey, your relationship with Jesus is. The call can be rough; it can tax us beyond what we can handle, and this is because we cannot do it on our own. The obligation is a partnership between Jesus and you, where Jesus carries the heaviest weight, making our burdens light.
Learning Style Affects The Way We Lead
I have been sitting in classrooms, lectures and conferences over the years and I realize my learning style is much more about taking in information. I take this information in, take relevant notes, process any immediate application it has for me personally and then write out questions or note down the “unknown”, that this info has caused me to contemplate and then I throw out information that I believe is insignificant or overly subjective. I think my generation is much more open to learning by scholastic teaching and how-to protocol while the generation before me was taught by a hands-on, authoritative approach.
The children of the 1950’s and 60’s went to school and did their scholastics because they were told to, my generation did their scholastics because we were told it benefited us, and now the Millennials are more likely to learn or take on academics because it makes sense. I learned from great teachers, good books and the beginning thrust of scholastic internet. Millennials are learning from youtube, non-traditional forms of schooling and emotional gratification. Of course, this is all based on my experience in leading and working alongside people in multiple generations and this is not necessarily some scientific law.
We live in a society that bombards us with ads, trending articles and entertainment that could literally waste our lives if we tried to read and retain it all. We can barely turn any of it off, our phones, tvs, radio, computers, tablets, watches and even outdoor advertising keeps us plugged in and unless we make a concerted effort to literally shut it all off, we are susceptible. Is this all bad? No, I love being connected but I often need to be sensitive to when it becomes destructive.
My learning style means that I could learn from someone simply because they have done it before I did and I want to know more. See, to me knowledge is life leverage. I grew up hearing that knowing a little bit of everything would help me to be successful and mastering more than one career would make me more valuable. While this has been true for my life, times are changing and both careers and ministry positions are changing in our western culture.
Changing the Way We Lead
If we want to lead a media bombarded generation, we need to be able to cut through the noise of their lives. Because this generation can click a link and get instant gratification, the behavior of this generation can come off as entitled. From a distance, it seems that unless is suits, entertains, improves, or eases their lives, their is no chance of leading them. The truth is a millennial does not want to be mentored or lead in the first place. They want relationships that are mutually beneficial, they want to make a difference from the word go and leaders tend to put a cap on the impact they can make now. When I take a 20 year old on a missions trip and let them loose to make an impact, I just did exponentially more to lead them than if I gave them 20 hours a week of lectures.
If I am coaching someone who is 25, I can lecture them until I am blue in the face and not get the results either of us desire from the relationship. I can assign books and videos, but I will not help change their lives. Why is this? What am I doing wrong, am I just a bad practitioner of the same teaching and coaching techniques that I learned from? While that can be argued as true, for this case in point let us assume that I am just as good as the teachers I had. What is the problem? It’s not relevant! From subjects as Algebra to Good Financial Planning, the case is the same. It makes no significant impact in their lives, so they may tune you out. Our education system still works in some ways because we basically hold “bad grades” as form of punishment and the fear of failure still has a grip on this generation at least until junior high.
As a preacher, teacher and communicator, I believe myself to be more of a story teller. I think I have more impact on Millennials when I can relate a given principle to their lives and illustrate the effectiveness of any change or addition of knowledge I hope they can embrace. When I was a kid in Sunday School and youth ministry, we were preached to. We basically received a pared down version of the adult curriculum or sermons and that was considered adequate. Today, a youth pastor is not most effective in the pulpit, the YP is most effective as a planner and strategist. If I could teach a course on youth pastoring 101, I would love to say these few things: prepare professionally, love unconditionally, preach sparingly, live the gospel generously (you should tweet that).
The current generation does not want to sit through a 1.5 hour service or class where the teacher/leader speaks more than half the time, hands off the fun stuff to someone else and then disappears for the rest of the week. This is not about youth ministry either. One of the greatest teachers I have ever had was a music teacher at Bayonne High School. She changed my life, quite literally. Why?
Time Spent Does Not Equal Investment Given
I was going down a really bad road and she took me in. She took a talent (if I could really call it that) to sing and act and put me to work. She spent time with me, allowed me to hang out and learn when I had nowhere else to go. I was suspended for almost one year and I had a choice to either hang out on the streets or stay in choir room for much of the day (thanks to my cousin Kristyn who introduced the idea). She got into my life personally, her husband loved on me and invited me over for Bible Study and actually cared about me. There is so much I could say about that and perhaps even write a couple chapters about servant leadership based on their lives, but for the sake of brevity I will conlcude. She chose to be real with me and I was able to be real with her and where my life was headed. Lydia and Gabe Megale made a difference in my life, period… and we should strive to do that in someone else’s life.
This generation needs that type of leadership, the kind that takes risks! If we are to lead this generation, we need to stop seeing problems and start seeing people. Our executive pastor at CLC says this all the time and he also says, we should choose to see people as seeds not cups. I will go into more of that in part 3.
When I first started in leadership, I used to talk about how much time I spent or invested in someone. I would then see them crash and burn and then feel bad about myself and sad for them. This is the wrong way to gauge my leadership effectiveness. To this generation, time spent does not equal investment given. They measure investment in terms of relevance and life impact.
What are your thoughts? Have any input?