A Prayer for Transformational Leadership

On July 1, 2009, the beginning of our second year in Clearfield, I wrote a prayer in my journal for our ministries. Though the prayer has been revised over the years, it has stuck with me ever since (in fact, I posted an earlier version of it in 2011).

A few months ago, the Clearfield Cluster of United Methodist Churches had responsibility for planning and leading worship for a district pastors’ gathering. As part of the worship, I led a responsive prayer based on the 2009-prayer.

This continues to be my prayer for Joleen’s and my ministries, and I invite you to pray it as well.

A Prayer for Transformational Leadership

O God, give us clean hands and pure hearts, hearts like yours. Break our hearts for what breaks yours!

Give us strength. Be our Rock, our firm foundation. Provide us with the spiritual grounding we need for the journey ahead. As we build our lives on Christ the solid rock, develop your character in us!

Give us favor with the people you call us to reach and the people you call us to be in ministry with, especially the leaders and influencers in our churches!

Give us wisdom to lead well, and discernment to sift through all of the distractions in order to focus on the things you call us to be about!

Give us patience and persistence to stay the course in the midst of the challenges and obstacles that will arise during the slow-going work of transformation!

Fill us with passion and energy that will sustain us for the long haul! Give us courage to do what’s difficult. Help us to follow you even when it’s hard!

Pour out your Holy Spirit upon us and cause us to bear much fruit! Do something unpredictable and uncontrollable. Please use us to make your name great!

Through your leadership in our lives, expressed and lived out in the places we serve, create communities of faith that will be fully engaged in the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world! Amen.

“Finding Our Way”

Earlier this year, United Methodist leaders published Finding Our Way: Love and Law in The United Methodist Church, edited by Bishop Rueben P. Job and Neil M. Alexander. Several bishops each contributed a chapter, including …

  • Enforce (Gregory V. Palmer)
  • Emend (Hope Morgan Ward)
  • Disobey (Melvin G. Talbert)
  • Disarm (Kenneth H. Carter, Jr.)
  • Order (J. Michael Lowery)
  • Unity (John K. Yambasu)
  • Diversity (Rosemarie Wenner)
  • Trust God (Rueben P. Job)

Overall, I thought the book was well-written. It’s certainly diverse as it represents perspectives from all across the theological spectrum.

The book is written in light of the increasing polarization in the United Methodist Church and the growing concern about where the denomination may be headed, particularly as we near the 2016 General Conference. The editors note that it’s possible that “the result of the current turbulence will be schism.” Or, “Perhaps the result will be no change or partial change in the current language of the Book of Discipline” (2). Either way, Job and Alexander state, “In whatever ways we engage and respond, we are called to choose at all times to walk humbly, embrace faithful love, and do justice along the way” (6).

My purpose in this post is not to summarize each section or state my position. I will simply post some of the statements I highlighted.

In the first chapter on Enforce, Bishop Palmer proposes an alternative word, “Uphold,” which he believes is less harsh. He states that …

a failure or unwillingness to live within our agreed covenant potentially undermines all the work of the General Conference. It seeks to substitute my wisdom or that of my tribe for the work and wisdom of a larger, deliberative body. It makes me and my viewpoints the center of the church’s wisdom. (13)

Palmer adds …

In refusing to uphold our promises, we make a mockery of the process and the promise. We could well be unreliable partners for future covenant-making and promise-keeping. We depend on each other to have a truly hopeful future. (17)

The most controversial chapter in the book is the one on Disobey, written by Bishop Melvin Talbert. Talbert argues that in 1972, “we acted to construct another wall. We voted to identify homosexual practice as ‘incompatible with Christian teachings'” (37).

Talbert believes that “including same-gender married couples and single persons with a homosexual identity will renew and revitalize churches for faith, witness, and service” (42). Therefore, Talbert calls for “biblical disobedience,” which he calls “doing the right thing, no matter what” (48).

Talbert argues …

Wherever injustice and oppression appear, we solemnly promise to disobey unjust church laws because we give priority to Jesus’s commandment to love each other as much as we love ourselves. (51)

Bishop Kenneth Carter suggests, “The recovery of a coherent theology of grace and holiness and a rejection of the partisan political captivity of the church could lead us to a coherent social teaching” (56). In order for this to happen, “we begin with an intention of seeing the best in each other” (64).

Carter reflects on the consequences of status quo or schism. He acknowledges, “There is a growing energy in the polarities at the edges of our denomination … There is a weakening of the impulse toward unity” (66). Carter also notes, “The dismantling of our connection would involve casualties and would in all likelihood, if previous General Conferences are a witness, be a violent process” (69).

In his chapter on Order, Bishop Lowery writes …

Presently, the position of biblical obedience, which evokes action by some of civil disobedience against church law, is corrupted by the lack of meaningful penalties applied to those engaging in disobeying church law. It is now acceptable for some advocates, some church juries, and some bishops to settle for a twenty-four-hour suspension of the guilty clergyperson. Such a meaningless level of accountability has the effect of giving a person an extra day off for violating church law established by General Conference. Such actions offend the very integrity of the advocated biblical obedience. (75-76)

Lowery sounds a call to “re-order our life together.” He notes …

The painful reality is that we lack coherence in doctrine. We don’t have deep clarity on mission. (We agree to ‘make disciples,’ but we don’t agree on what it means to ‘make a disciple.’) And we are locked in a struggle over discipline. We do not have unity. (79)

Picking up with the idea of Unity, Bishop Yambasu says, “We need to stop this fight” (87). Bishop Yambasu, who is from Sierra Leone, offers a personal perspective from Africa …

I believe that the Bible is the infallible Word of God. The Bible provides direction for all those who proclaim Christ as their Lord and Savior. I believe, therefore, that sexual promiscuity, homosexuality, and adultery are inconsistent with the teachings of scripture. I think this is the prevailing view of our denomination. This is what missionaries from the United States and England taught us when they took Christianity to Africa. They built churches, schools, and colleges, and we learned what the Bible teaches. We believed and internalized it. It became part of our social and spiritual makeup. … For us now to be told by the church in the United States that what we were taught in the Bible is not true could be traumatizing for the African Christian. (87)

In the closing chapter, Bishop Job states, “This is no ordinary time in the life of our church, and this is no ordinary conflict” (106). He calls for a way of discernment, “a call to radical, risky, and complete trust in God rather than in our own ingenuity or rhetoric” (106). Job suggests three basic steps …

  1. “Immediately stop the propaganda.”
  2. “Declare a moratorium on celebrations and trials regarding same-gender unions.”
  3. “Begin a practice of prayer and discernment that leaves our preferences outside as we enter this extended period of seeking only God’s direction.” (108-109)

As I said, the book is written from a broad theological spectrum. Depending on your position, there will parts that inspire and encourage you as well as parts that trouble and anger you. Such is the nature of the battle in which we find ourselves. Please join me in praying for the United Methodist Church and for the upcoming General Conference in 2016!

This Saturday (Nov 1), the authors of Finding Our Way will participate in a two-hour webcast on the topic. Also, visit ministrymatters.com/findingourway for responses by other bishops and for information on how you can join the discussion.

Favorite Quotes From the Global Leadership Summit

Our favorite leadership development event is the Willow Creek Association’s Global Leadership Summit. This year’s Summit was the 20th event, and our fourth in a row (see my posts on the 2011 and 2013 Summits).

Here are some of my favorite quotes/thoughts from this year’s Summit …

Bill Hybels
Hybels is the leader who challenges me most!

  • What God treasures more than anything in this world is people … even more than visions!
  • Don’t make your people pay because you’re so fired up about the vision.
  • Your culture will only be as healthy as the senior leader wants it to be.
  • People join organizations. They leave managers.
  • Legacy leaders leave something beautiful behind them. Are you a hireling or an owner of the vision?
  • Leaders have a legacy mindset to build something of enduring value … not for personal ambition or personal gain.
  • Legacy leaders run on a higher-quality fuel source.
  • The grander the vision, the higher the price tag (e.g., God’s redemption plan and the sacrifice of Jesus).
  • Legacy leaders are the only ones wiling to pay the price to fix a broken culture.
  • Build in solitude breaks. It’s hard to hear God at Mach 2.

Jeff Immelt
I didn’t take a lot of notes during Hybels’ interview of Jeff Immelt (CEO of GE), but I could have listened to these two leaders talk ALL DAY! One note I made was a statement on career advice: “Be around a crisis at an early age (hopefully, you didn’t cause it) … We don’t know anything about you when the sun is up.”

Patrick Lencioni
Outside of Bill Hybels, Lencioni has spoken at more Summits than anyone else. This year was his third year in a row. I always enjoy listening to Lencioni, and this year’s talk was extremely valuable!

Lencioni talked about the three most dangerous mistakes leaders make …
1. Becoming a leader for the wrong reason.
2. Failure to embrace vulnerability.
3. Making leadership too important.

  • The common trait of these mistakes: PRIDE.
  • If we’re doing it for ourselves we’re going to leave a trail of tears behind.
  • I get tired of hearing about servant leadership … because there isn’t any other kind.

Joseph Grenny
This was Grenny’s second Summit in a row. He talks about “crucial conversations.”

  • Crucial conversations are marked by high stakes, opposing opinions, and strong emotions.
  • Myth: You have to choose between telling the truth and keeping a friend.
  • If you don’t talk it out, you will act it out.
  • Three crucial moments in churches: 1) Performance problems with volunteer staff; 2) Members who are struggling in sin or disconnecting from church; and 3) Concerns with pastors.
  • Crucial conversations are a pit or a path.
  • Two tasks in a crucial conversation: 1) let them know you care about their goals, 2) let them know you care about them.

Ivan Satyavrata
Satyavrata is an Assemblies of God pastor from India.

  • Leaders manage power.
  • Every leader has people power. How are you using it? To manipulate or to add value?
  • Lord, make us leaders who are courageously powerful and genuinely vulnerable, marked by fierce resolve and humility.

Tyler Perry
Perry was interviewed by Bill Hybels. It was a fascinating interview with a Christ-follower, who is a creative leader in the entertainment industry.

  • Remember who you were before you became who you are.
  • I use laughter as the anesthesia to get to the real, deep issues.
  • On critics: God has prepared a table before me in the presence of my enemies. So watch me eat!

Louie Giglio
I always love listening to Giglio!

  • We’re not going up any mountain unless we believe that life is brief.
  • Life is short. But God is big! Life is short. But God can do anything!
  • The only way to the top of the mountain is to take the next step!
  • You don’t have to know everything about the mountain in front of you to take the next step.
  • The stakes are too high for us to die with a small vision.
  • We rest because what we do depends on God, not on us!
  • Humility is what makes great leaders.
  • Humility is not a character trait we develop, it’s a byproduct of spending time with Jesus.

The two-day event was very impacting. These are just some of the thoughts that impacted me!

“Replenish”

Two years ago, I started reading Replenish by Lance Witt. I chose the book because of my experiences with stress (see Hitting the Wall, which includes links to other parts of the story). The Leadership Team at Centre Grove also spent several months reading and discussing the book.

There’s a lot of helpful content in the fairly short book. The book is divided into 41 short chapters. It’s impossible to cover it all, but here are some of my favorite highlights.

Witt cautions about the idolization of leadership that has taken place over the last few decades. He warns, “All of the training and focus on leadership has been a gift, but we must not turn it into an idol.”

One of my favorite quotes from the book states …

We have neglected the fact that a pastor’s greatest leadership tool is a healthy soul.

Witt says, “When leaders neglect their interior life, they run the risk of prostituting the sacred gift of leadership.”

Ministry is a character profession. I can’t separate my private life from my public leadership.

It’s important that leaders are spiritually healthy!

… the Great Commission will not be fulfilled by human ingenuity or innovative thinking alone. This God-sized task will only be completed by Spirit-filled, spiritually healthy churches. And these churches will not be spiritually healthy unless their leaders are spiritually healthy.

Witt’s language about the “front-stage life” and the “back-stage life” of leaders is helpful. Witt says, “We all have a front-stage life and a back-stage life.” The front stage is about “doing” and the back stage is about “being,” and the two are connected. “If we neglect the back stage, eventually the front stage will fall apart.”

Leaders must stay connected to God. “When you have disconnected from the Vine (Jesus), ministry will become joyless striving and stressful pushing.”

Unfortunately, leaders can often become too focused on “image management.” Witt states, “You are walking in a ministry minefield when your outward success begins to outpace your inward life.” A healthy soul helps guard against preoccupation with image management.

Witt writes about the danger of ambition. God-given ambition is good. “But when it is hijacked by self and ego, it can leave a wake of destruction in its path.”

When approval is the driving force in your life, it messes with your motives. You run decisions through the filter of ‘What will people think?’ rather than ‘What’s the right thing to do?’

One of the things that prevents many of us from being healthy spiritually is the pace in which we live. Witt writes about the “need for speed,” and contends, “Hurry is a devious soul enemy.”

Many of us live with a stuck accelerator. The frantic pace of life resides in the church as much as in the community. … We keep the pedal to the metal, trying to grab every possible opportunity. Adrenaline is our hormone of choice.

But Witt argues, “Following Jesus cannot be done at a sprint. You can’t live life at warp speed without warping your soul,” noting that “busyness will damage your soul.”

Intimacy with God is critical for leaders. Witt states, “there’s a correlation between my communion with God and my courage for God. The deeper my intimacy, the greater my tenacity to stand courageously.” He notes, “Solitude creates capacity for God.”

The final section of Witt’s book is on healthy teams.

If you want to talk about an organization’s true spiritual health, you have to look at the health of the team that leads it.

Witt believes, “A healthy staff culture does not happen by accident. You won’t drift into it any more than you would drift into a healthy marriage.” Teams must become a family. “In order for your team to be healthy, there must be a sense of family. You must learn to laugh together, cry together, and resolve conflict together.”

This book has been helpful for me. If you’re interested in similar books, see my posts on Secrets From the Treadmill by Pete Briscoe and Patricia Hickman and Leading on Empty by Wayne Cordeiro.

A 1915 Perspective on 100 Years

The Centre Grove United Methodist Church in Clearfield will celebrate 200 years in 2015. In the program for the church’s One Hundredth Anniversary celebration in 1915, there was a perspective offered on the advances of the previous century. The piece may have been an ad for the local Clearfield Hardware Company …

One hundred years seems like a long time, but it isn’t—It’s only a drop in the ocean of time or eternity as verified by the old hymn we sing, ‘When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise then when we first begun.’

However one hundred years brings a lot of changes in things temporal on this old kaleidoscopic-sphere.

What mighty empires have risen and fallen. What wonderful scientific discoveries have been made. What marvelous improvements have been made in lighting, transportation, and communication. Through these improvements the methods of modern merchandising is scarcely less marvelous. Within the century this church is celebrating, and not so very far back either, the lone store was lighted with the tallow dip, goods were packsaddled across the mountains over the tow paths from Philadelphia, Harrisburg, and later from Tyrone. When a merchant was out of an article, he was out ’till after rafting time’ or ‘after harvest’ when the annual buying trip was made, but now, thanks to the brain and brawn that brought to the present standard of perfection the mighty ocean steamer, the fast express and freight trains, the automobile, the airship, the telegraph, the telephone, the wireless, and the electric light and power, you don’t have to wait ’till after rafting time for the Hardware you need, nor do you have to make a long tedious journey on horse back to make selection of your purchase under the rays of a tallow dip and then ‘pack’ it back home. You sit in your electric lighted home, phone your order to the Clearfield Hardware Company and have the goods delivered the same day by auto truck. If perchance the article is out of stock, a telegram and fast freight or express or parcel post brings it in a day or two.

Fascinating. What might be written in 2015?

Your Energy Level Matters

I’ve always been a fairly high-energy person.

But in the last couple of years, my energy level has suffered, ever since my “wake-up call” (elevated heart rate over the course of several months). I wrote a little about it in 3 Steps I’m Taking to Manage Stress Better. While I’m mostly recovered from that experience, my energy levels are still recovering!

Where I notice it the most is with energy-intensive tasks that require heavy thinking, reflection, and intense study, which makes weekly sermon prep more challenging!

Tony Schwartz, who leads The Energy Project, writes in Fatigue is Your Enemy

it’s not the number of hours we work that determines the value we create. Rather, it’s the quality of energy we bring to the hours we work. By renewing regularly, it’s possible to get more done, in less time, at a higher level of quality, more sustainably. When we’re less fatigued, we’re not only less prey to negative emotions, we’re also more likely to access the positive ones we need to feel to perform at our best.

So, managing your energy level is vitally important. In stewardship language, we must be good stewards of our energy level.

Here’s how I’m trying to manage my energy level …

1. Make the most of my early morning routine.
I find that if I get up early to spend time with God, exercise, and read, the rest of my day is much more productive and enjoyable. My energy level is higher. This has always been important for me; it’s even more important with kids!

2. Eat well.
I’ve always been interested in healthy nutrition, but my discipline doesn’t always match my desire. Still, over the past two years, I’ve dramatically reduced my intake of sugar (it effects my heart rate), which cuts out most junk food. What you eat can affect your energy level.

3. Rest.
Stopping to rest a little everyday, sometime during the day, will always be a challenge for me. Between work and family obligations, there always seems to be something going on. But, I know I need to carve out time each day, and a day each week, to rest and catch my breath.

4. Hydrate.
Lately, I’ve been drinking more water. CamelBak has a lot of good info on hydration. They say a “recent study found that almost half of men and women are not drinking enough water.” Their ten facts about hydration include: hydration keeps your heart rate lower, longer, and dehydration is the number one cause for afternoon fatigue. Another article states, “drinking water helps keep … your energy levels and focus maximized.”

5. Do high-energy tasks when my energy is highest.
Unfortunately, I don’t always do this well. But, I know I should work on energy-intensive tasks when my energy levels are highest. My energy levels are highest in the mornings, so I should work on sermons and other high energy tasks in the mornings. And, I should use the afternoons for things that don’t require as much energy.

How’s your energy level? What do you to do improve your energy?

If this is something you’re struggling with, you may be interested in my review of “Leading on Empty” by Wayne Cordeiro.

Managing Chaos With Online Calendars

With the adoption of Ethan in 2008, Joleen and I went from being a clergy couple to being a clergy couple with a child. In other words, the chaos only increased!

Shortly after bringing Ethan home from Korea, we set up online calendars using Google Calendar. The benefit is that either of us can access our shared calendars anytime so we don’t overbook days/times. And, with mobile technology, we have access to our calendars anywhere with a mobile device.

We have set up multiple calendars (each with their own color) that all appear on one calendar. At the moment, we have Randy’s Work, Joleen’s Work, Our Work, Family, School, and Special Days.

For time management, especially family time management and communication, this is the best thing we have done. We use our calendars to schedule appointments, activities, and remind us about special days.

Time management expert Laura Stack suggests calendaring everything …

I’m not sure if we calendar everything, but one area most people, including us, need to improve is learning to prioritize what goes on the schedule and what doesn’t. Some people, such as Michael Hyatt, suggest having a not-to-do list …

I’ve written a lot about time management over the years, including Task Management, Task Management 2.0, Time Management, Early Methodist View on Use of Time, and a post on the task management app, 2do (I still use the 2do app but the app is long overdue for an update, which the developers have been promising for a long time; I may write a new post on how I use 2do after the update). I’ve written a lot about time management, not because I have a lot to say about it, but because it will always be an area I want to improve!

How do you manage chaos, especially with others (families, teams)?

Marking Moments and Making Memories

We’ve always tried to mark moments and make memories by taking photos, especially with the kids. Over the last several years, the blog has given us a place to document part of the journey (much of which is in the category of adoption).

Another way we’ve tried to mark moments is by creating photo books through services such as Mixbook and Shutterfly. So far, we’ve created photo books telling each of the kids’ adoption stories. We created a photo book at the end of last summer with photos from the summer (including our trip to Maine). And, since we celebrated Christmas with family in Pennsylvania and Tennessee, we created a photo book for Christmas, as well.

For the last few years, we’ve created a photo calendar with photos from the previous year (i.e., photos for a given month normally include photos from that same month the previous year). The kids enjoy seeing the photos on the calendar posted in our kitchen.

I remember flipping through photo albums when I was a kid. In this age of digital photography we have to find creative ways to mark moments and make memories. I trust Ethan and Sarah will cherish the photo books and photo calendars we create.

What do you do to mark moments and make memories, especially with your family?

Our Worship Playlist

Music, particularly worship music, plays an important role in our family. In fact, one of my favorite spiritual disciplines is listening to worship music.

In 2007 (before kids), I wrote Songs for Leaders, a post reflecting on some songs that were encouraging me and challenging me, at the time. In 2010, I wrote about how we began listening to worship music with Ethan in Ethan’s Repertoire. And, last year, I wrote Sing Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs! on the role of worship music in my life, particularly as it impact my passion for God.

I believe the music we listen to is formational for us, giving us hearts for God and making us more and more like Jesus!

Now, it’s not like we listen to worship music all the time. Mostly, we listen to music when we’re on the road, usually traveling out of town, though we may occasionally listen to music around the house. Of course, we sometimes go days without listening to music, but we try to make it part of our lives as much as we can.

I try to add an occasional new song to the playlist, one that I think will be catchy for the kids (not to mention contain good theology). Previously, I’ve written about songs like, “Trading My Sorrows” (the song that started this spiritual discipline), and “My Savior Lives.” Recent favorites include, “God’s Not Dead” (Newsboys), “Build Your Kingdom Here” (Rend Collective), “Your Grace Finds Me” (Matt Redman), “Open Up Our Eyes” and “Nothing is Wasted” (Elevation Worship), and the latest, “Our Great God” (Casey Darnell, North Point).

I enjoying hearing what phrases and concepts the kids pick up on. I love it when the kids pick up phrases that haven’t grabbed me yet.

How does music (especially worship music) inspire and shape you?

Replenishing After Easter

Taking a break after Easter has become a family tradition. It started before we had kids, but now, it’s more important than ever.

We used to take off a few days after Easter, but with kids, we have to work around the school calendar. This year, we took two days off after Easter (school holidays), but because we had expected to lose those two days for snow makeup days, we had also planned to take the weekend after Easter off. So, we ended up taking two mini-breaks this year. And, it was a good thing: Joleen was sick on Monday, and I was sick on Tuesday (Ethan had been sick the day before Easter)!

After Easter, we spent a couple of days relaxing in a borrowed cottage along the Juniata River. The kids got to play, fish, watch a couple movies, while we took turns being sick!

This past weekend, we went to Pittsburgh and spent several hours at the Carnegie Science Center and the Pittsburgh Zoo.

Here are some photos from Easter and our post-Easter break …