Movies for Leaders

Lately, I’ve been thinking about good movies for leaders, movies teach, inspire, and challenge leaders to make a difference in the world. Here are some of my favorites …

We also put these movies in the sidebar in a list called “Movies for Leaders.” The list will change as we add movies to the list.

We’re sure there are many other good movies for leaders. To add a suggestion, please click on “comments” and post the name of your recommended movie for leaders. We’ll add them to our personal list of movies to watch, and if we like it, we may add it to the blog list.

We’re on the waiting list!

Our adoption homestudy has been approved and sent to Korea. Now we wait.

We formally began our international adoption process earlier this year in January 2007. Now after completing all of the paperwork, our homestudy has been forwarded to Korea. That essentially places us on the waiting list for a child.

We do not know, at this point, what the timeline looks like. We entered the process being told it would take approximately one year. Six months into the process, that leaves about six more months, if the timeline holds. One thing we have been told is that once we receive the name/photo of our child (i.e. referral), we can expect to make the trip to South Korea about 3 to 4 months later.

Since we also have about 6 to 8 months to complete work on our dissertations, this could get very interesting! 🙂

Life Leaks

Eugene Peterson on how life slowly, almost unnoticeably leaks.

I love the stuff Eugene Peterson writes. He’s best known perhaps for his recent work, translating/paraphrasing the Scriptures in The Message. When I was in seminary I read some of his books; in fact, his book, The Contemplative Pastor, was one of the most impacting books I read back in the early 1990s.

Now that he has completed The Message, Peterson has returned to writing, and he’s churning out the books like crazy. We have three of them (I think there are currently four), so far, but may not get to them till after graduation next spring. However, Joleen and I are occasionally reading together a little from one of his latest books, Living the Resurrection. A section we read last night especially grabbed my attention (emphasis added):

It’s a curious thing but not uncommon for Christians to begin well and gradually get worse. Instead of progressing like a pilgrim from strength to strength, we regress. Just think of the Christians you really admire. Aren’t most of them recent converts? Isn’t it exciting? Then think of the Christians that you’re just bored to death with. Aren’t they people who have been Christians for forty or fifty years? They are wearing out—not just in body but in everything else too. There are exceptions, of course.

We lose our vitality. We become dull. We continue to go through these life-affirming, Christ-honoring motions, but our hearts are no longer in it.

The regression is rarely dramatic. It’s not sudden. We start out with life, life, life, and more life. God is primary and present in all we do. But then while we’re happily and innocently going about our work, our feet get tangled up in those cords of Sheol, those ropes of death. It is so casual at first that we hardly notice. But then one cord gets attached—who knows how?—to an ankle by a double half hitch. Then there’s another and another. Before we know it, we are regressing. We are hobbled. We become less. We lose the immediacy, spontaneity, and exuberance of resurrection life.

Interestingly, this often takes place at the same time we’re becoming successful in the eyes of our peers, associates, employers, or congregations. But the life is leaking out. God and life have become disconnected.

As we read that, I thought about the necessity of both gifts and character. In the beginning, we have only undeveloped gifts and we know we need God. But as our gifts develop, if we’re not careful, we begin to rely more and more on our own gifts, and therefore, rely on God less. As the life leaks out, our gifts outpace our character and that leads to all kinds of problems!

Like all leaders, I want to continually grow and develop my (God-given) gifts, but no matter how much my gifts develop, I must be intentional about maintaining my connection with God and growing/developing my character. Truth is, my (God-given) gifts are only of real value when my character is at least as developed as my gifts.

What are you doing to guard against the inevitable leaking of life?

Proposal drafts are in the mail!

We’ve reached an important milestone in the dissertation-writing journey.

We finally talked with our faculty mentor, Dr. Russell West, earlier this week. Fortunately, we only had minor revisions to make before submitting our proposal drafts (chapters 1-3, out of 5), which went out in yesterday’s mail.

This submission sets a number of things in motion, so here’s a brief synopsis of what the rest of the process will look like …

  1. Proposal hearings will be scheduled for both of us (probably during the week of 10 September). Our drafts will be edited (i.e. marked for corrections) by the D.Min. office’s editor and returned to us within two weeks. We will have two weeks to return three corrected copies (in three-ring binders) at least 10 days before our hearings.
  2. At our proposal hearings (at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, KY), we will meet with the three people on our dissertation committee (Dean of the D.Min. program, our faculty mentor, Dr. Russell West, as well as our second readers, Dr. Stephen Martyn for Joleen, and Dr. Chris Kiesling for Randy).
  3. Over the course of the next few weeks, we will begin making preparations for our projects, which is the next phase of the process. We will each conduct “an act of pastoral analysis on a practice of ministry” (more on our projects later). Afterward, we will write chapters 4 and 5.
  4. Submit defense-ready drafts. The timing of this will depend, in part, on how the adoption process is going. We may need to either shoot for an early defense (drafts submitted around Thanksgiving for a January defense) or possibly a later one (defenses must be completed by 18 April), if we get the call to go to Korea sooner than expected. Either way, the last half of 2007 and the first half of 2008 looks to be very exciting and challenging! 🙂
  5. We’ll have some corrections/revisions to make to those drafts, and then more corrections/revisions to the post-defense draft.
  6. If all goes well, the process will culminate on Saturday, 24 May 2008, at graduation!

Thanks for your prayers throughout this part of our journey!

Leadership Poison

7 Things Christ-following Leaders Don’t Say …

I recently read an article by posted on Mistakes that can kill your career. It’s a pretty good list for any job, but it made me think about things that kill one’s leadership (i.e. leadership poison). Out of this, came the following list of statements that leaders would (or should) never make …

1. “Other things are more important than spiritual formation!”
Christ-following leaders are followers of Jesus first, then leaders of others. A leader who is not able/willing to follow, will never be a God-honoring leader. Christ-following leaders must have a strong commitment to their own spiritual formation and character development. Nothing is worse than a leader whose gifts outpace his or her character!

2. “I am God’s gift to the world!”
Well, not many people would actually make this statement out loud, but leaders who do not have a commitment to ongoing personal growth say through their lack of commitment to growth that they have arrived, they know everything they need to know, it all depends on them.

3. “I don’t like people!”
Inherently, leaders are in the people business. Leaders who don’t like people tend to drive people while leaders who do like people are more likely to lead them and to journey with them. Poor relational skills, the inability to communicate well with others (or worse, the mistreatment of people), is a tremendous limit on one’s leadership. And, since loving God/loving people is the “great commandment,” it seems to me that Christ-following leaders ought to actually like people.

4. “I want everybody to like me!”
While we all want to be well-liked, leaders know that they are not going to please everyone (it’s not even a goal, in fact). Leaders who want to make everyone happy are driven by fear; they are afraid that they will make someone unhappy and stir up conflict so they do everything they can to please people. It’s no way to lead! Fear keeps leaders from taking risks and doing the right things. Leaders must be courageous.

5. “Vision? What’s a vision?”
Leaders, by definition, are leading people toward a particular destination, otherwise they’re just taking a walk. Leaders are driven by vision, and they know (or must learn) how to communicate vision in ways that inspire and motivate people to follow. A mistake many leaders make, however, is simply adopting someone else’s vision rather than doing the hard work of cultivating and searching for their own God-given vision.

6. “I can do it alone!”
Jesus certainly never modeled this attitude. He spent his entire ministry developing other leaders. Because their vision is so big, leaders develop other leaders to help with the huge task of leading.

7. “The church will love my new idea!”
Okay, we probably do say this statement all too often, but only because we fail understand the culture of the organization we’re leading. All organizations have a tendency to move toward and maintain the status quo. Therefore, it’s more likely that the church/organization will NOT like the leader’s new idea without proper cultivation. Leaders must be cultivators!

What do you think? Are there other statements you think leaders would/should never make?

If we were teaching a class …

Great ideas we picked up from our courses at Asbury.

Now that we’ve completed our coursework phase in the doctor of ministry program at Asbury Theological Seminary, we’ve picked up some great teaching ideas along the way. Here are several things we’d consider doing (assuming one week on campus) …

Worship Emphasis
Many of our classes had meaningful worship times. One of the most memorable weeks was our class with Dr. Stephen Martyn. Each morning we gathered for worship in a small chapel on campus. Dr. Stephen Seamands also did a great job of integrating worship into the classroom experience. The most memorable part was watching a video about the Asbury Revival. After class that day, a few of us went to Hughes Auditorium, the site of the revival on the campus of Asbury College, for prayer and reflection. Worshiping together is an important part of the on campus experience, particularly when it comes to forming Christ-following leaders. We’d involve students in leading morning devotions. We might also spend the last hour together on Friday mornings praying and interceding for one another, as we did in class with Drs. Jim & Molly Scott.

Online Interaction
This is a standard part of the Beeson Institute for Advanced Christian Leadership courses (which can be incorporated into the D.Min. program). Joleen took two Beeson courses and Randy took one. We enjoyed them, including the pre- and post-class online interaction, and would want to incorporate that into our teaching experience. We’d ask each student to post 1) a brief bio at the beginning of the course, 2) reflection(s) to the pre-class reading material, 3) reactions to each others’ comments, and 4) a post-class reflection.

Team Play
In Dr. Russell West’s class, we played team-building games a couple times a day. We found them to be good group experiences and would consider incorporating them into our experience as well.

Student Presentations
Jim & Molly Scott had a different student read a different article and present them in class each day. This was a good way to hear about different articles.

Dinner and a Movie
During one class, we led a group of fellow students to the movie theater to watch the End of the Spear, a true inspirational movie about missionaries to Ecuador. We enjoyed that and think it would be a good idea to watch a movie that inspires leaders to change the world. At the moment, we might watch Freedom Writers, which we wrote about here.

Modify the Schedule
A normal schedule for a D.Min. course at Asbury is Monday through Thursday, 8:30—4:30 and Friday, 8:30—12:00. Taking a cue from Russell West, we might work through a shared lunch on Wednesday then call it a day at 2:00 pm (the afternoon/evening break was great). And taking another cue from Jim & Molly Scott, we might add sessions on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. Tuesday evening could be used for “dinner and a movie,” and Thursday evening could be an informal time of sharing and prayer.

Small Group Lunches
Jim & Molly Scott each scheduled lunch with small groups of four persons each, each day of the week. Everyone had the opportunity to have lunch with both of them one time during the week. Dr. George Hunter invited students (whom he called “colleagues”) to Subway in “beautiful downtown Wilmore” (you’d have to know Wilmore to know how funny that is). Those were good ways for interaction.

Appoint a Fellowship Coordinator
In all of our classes, students informally got together for lunch and/or dinner. During one course, one student took charge, saying at the end of each day, “Anyone who wants to go to dinner together, meet at the Beeson Manor at such-and-such a time.” That made it very easy for those who may have been less intentional/inclined to gather with the group. Having a point person for shared meals would be a good idea, we think.

Our time at Asbury has been a great experience. All of our professors, as well as the folks in the D.Min. office, are people we’re glad to have known, and have all been helpful to us in our journey (and some continue to be during the dissertation-writing phase). Our Asbury experience has been an important part of our ongoing spiritual and leadership formation. It has also given us some great ideas that we might be able to incorporate in various settings.

Adolph Nussman

My great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather was a pioneer preacher!

I’ve long had an interest in genealogy/family history, and one of the people I’m interested in learning more about is Adolph Nussman. Nussman was recruited by Lutherans in North Carolina in the 1700s because they did not have a pastor. Nussman, in Germany, answered the call and became the first Lutheran pastor in North Carolina. Nussman, called “the Lutheran apostle to NC,” came from Germany in 1773 (age 34), supported the American Revolution, was tortured by the Tories (British loyalists), and planted a bunch of churches over the next couple decades before eventually dying of wounds believed to have resulted from the torture at the age of 55.

Following the Revolutionary War, he called for more pastors. By the time George Washington was inaugurated as America’s first president, there were five Lutheran pastors leading the ministry. Adolph Nussman served 3 congregations and oversaw the 20 churches in NC.

In making the call for more pastors, Nussman described the kind of people needed. He said they must have “determination, courage, and a genuine apostolic spirit.” Most emphatically he asked for unmarried men, explaining that “an American wife in our circumstances is definitely better adapted” to frontier life.

He went on to make a great statement about Christ-following leadership …

Whoever is inclined to worry and feel offended over unfavorable and stupid remarks had better not come to America; and whoever has not sufficient strength of character to undertake unpleasant tasks, which are inevitable, would likewise do well to stay far from here. On every hand there are obstacles to overcome, but wise is he who does not magnify them through impatience. I myself have always been happiest when I bore the burdens laid upon me calmly, seldom, if ever made any complaints, and always fulfilled my duties. … But whoever has a genuine zeal for religion and shows a noble attitude toward life will find friends and support also in this country.

The advice fits today’s leaders as well!

Adolph Nussman is buried at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Concord, NC (Cabarrus County). I believe they erected a new monument at his grave-site a few years ago.

When Nussman came to North Carolina, he brought a friend, Johann Gottfried Arndt (or Arends), who was a teacher at the time. Interestingly, Arndt was was ordained shortly after arriving in NC. I mention Arndt because I keep trying to find a connection between him and Joleen who descends from Aurandt / Aurand / Arndt families in PA (who also came from Germany). But as hard as I’ve tried, I don’t think there’s a connection. 🙂

Any genealogists researching Adolph Nussman who find their way to this post, please leave a comment or email me through the contact page.

John Dietrich Aurandt

John Dietrich Aurandt, one of my ancestors, a pioneer Christ-following leader, started a number of churches in central Pennsylvania.

We don’t know a lot about him, but we know that he started several (Lutheran and UCC) churches in the area. According to a book, Aurandt is “The father of the Reformed Church in Blair County.” Aurandt “was not originally trained for the Gospel ministry, having been a farmer, miller and soldier in the Revolutionary War before becoming a minister. He was born at March Creek in 1760, moved to Yellow Creek in 1804, and died there in 1831. He is buried at Water Street” (near where we currently live in Petersburg).

More from the book …

In 1798 Mr. Aurandt began to attend the ‘Big Meetings’ which were the forerunner of the founding of the United Brethren Church, and at these meetings he was occasionally called upon for prayer. In an emergency he preached a funeral sermon, and did so well that the Brethren gave him a modified preaching license. He associated himself with the Rev. George Pfuermer who was ministering to Reformed congregations in Buffalo and Penn’s Valley. In 1801 Aurandt was called to become pastor of these congregations. … In the meantime, however, he had been organizing Reformed congregations. In 1803 he made a missionary journey, preaching at Spruce Creek, Clover Creek, Williamsburg, Martinsburg, Bedford, Yellow Creek and at points near Pittsburgh. In 1804 he settled in Yellow Creek, Huntingdon County, and finding Reformed families in Winsbrenner (Martinsburg), organized a congregation there. He also organized a congregation at Clover Creek, now known as Salem Church, Beavertown. In the Synodical minutes he is listed as preaching in Martinsburg, Clover Creek and Williamsburg until 1831, the year of his death.”

The United Brethren Church split with part of the group forming the Evangelical United Brethren Church (EUB) in 1946 and later merged with the Methodist Church in 1968 to form the United Methodist Church (more on Brethren history). See the link above for a few more paragraphs about congregations Aurandt was involved with.

We’re certainly grateful for the spiritual heritage in our families. We hope to carry the torch for future generations!

“Don’t write me off …”

Song from the movie “Music & Lyrics” makes a good prayer.

Awhile back we watched the movie Music & Lyrics on DVD. It’s a romantic comedy that Joleen, particularly, wanted to watch. At first, it was just an okay movie, but overall, it was a good movie, especially if you like romantic comedies.

Music & Lyrics is about a washed-up 80s pop singer, Alex Fletcher (Hugh Grant), who is given an opportunity to write a song for a top young musician. Unfortunately, he’s only given a couple days to do it. His strength has always been writing music, not lyrics. During the couple of days he meets a writer, Sophie Fisher (Drew Barrymore), who seems to have a knack for composing lyrics. The movie is about the development of their relationship, how music and lyrics go together.

Anyway, toward the end of the movie Alex composes and sings a love song that I think makes a great prayer, especially the ending …

“And now I know I’ve already blown more chances than anyone should ever get. All I’m asking you is don’t write me off just yet, don’t write me off just yet.”

God is constantly at work in us, molding and shaping us into the people he wants us to be. Sometimes we yield and surrender and God is able to form us. Sometimes we resist, and God’s formational work in us gets much harder. Sometimes I just want to say to God: “Don’t write me off just yet!”

The Mission

Two-part sermon series by Randy on the mission of the Church.

On Pentecost Sunday (05.27.2007), I began a 2-part series called “The Mission.” We talked about the power God gives for the mission (that’s what Pentecost is all about). We also talked about our need to have passion for God’s mission.

1. Power for the Mission

There are good things and bad things about growing older. The good news is we gain wisdom (hopefully), but the worst thing about getting older is that we have a tendency to become self-sufficient (“Can’t teach an old dog new tricks!”).

Perhaps at the start of your journey of following Jesus, you were fully reliant on God. Then as you grew older and began to develop your gifts, you became less reliant/desperate for God and you began relying on your own gifts/strengths to get you through life.

I once read an article called “Teaching Smart People How to Learn.” The point was, “smart people” (people who’ve become self-sufficient) are hard to teach because they think they already know it all.

Jesus said something very similar, actually. Jesus talked about how hard it is to make “healthy people” well. People who think they’re well aren’t interested in a doctor. People who think they’re okay spiritually aren’t aware of their need for a savior.

Truth is, though, it would be possible to do life and/or ministry without God! But we do ministry alone when we take God for granted, when we become less dependent on God, and when rely on our own ability to get the job done.

Most of us live by the adage, “God helps those who help themselves!” A lot of people think that comes from the Bible. But, not only is it not in the Scriptures, it isn’t scriptural!

The Holy Spirit empowers people for God’s mission!

Read Acts 2.1-13; Acts 1.8; John 20.21-22; Isaiah 61.1-3; Matthew 28.16-20

Let’s make ourselves available to God. Let’s gain a sense of urgency for God’s mission. Let’s relinquish and repent of our self-sufficiency, and realize how desperate we are for God. Fact is, there are two kinds of people on earth: 1) those who need God, and 2) those who are in denial!

Jesus assured his followers, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you” (acts 1.8). Imagine if all of us would relinquish our self-sufficiency, make ourselves available to God, and become urgent about God’s mission. What would happen in our community?

2. Passion for the Mission

Apathy is being without passion. No one who has ever done anything great for God could be described as apathetic or passionless! Let’s look at one guy who had great passion: Read Acts 26.19-32.

God impassions people for the mission!

God told Saul (later Paul) that he was sending him, essentially, to change the world. I love Paul’s response: “I obeyed that vision from heaven” (Acts 26.19). As Paul was telling his story to a couple of important political leaders, one of them shouted, “Paul, you are insane. Too much study has made you crazy!”

Paul wasn’t insane. He was passionate, passionate about God and the mission God had given him!

This story in Acts 26, the story of Paul’s dramatic experience of becoming a Christ-follower was the third time the story was told in the book of Acts. That’s pretty important when you’re writing by hand on parchment that’s not too easy to come by.

Questions to help you define your story:
What are you passionate about? What jazzes you? What’s not as it should be? What’s the story that comes to mind when you think about that problem? And, what are you going to do about it?

God calls and equips us to do his work on this planet. God gives us the power to do it. We just need the passion to go with it. I love the passion that John Wesley had, a passion he knew others needed as well. He once said, “Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin, and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergy or lay, such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the Kingdom of God upon earth.”

Empowered and passionate people will change the world for God!