Posts Tagged ‘teaching’

Prepare To Meet Thy God

November 3, 2015

I was driving some back country roads this evening on my way to dinner. Passed by a small country church with a sign about as big as the church. “Prepare To Meet Thy God” it proclaimed.

Do you also get the feeling that that comment is an in-your-face remark? The picture of a black-bearded, black-suited, black string bow-tie wearing, finger waving, American country preacher springs to mind?

Maybe I get that image because I know so many people that way. It may be a caricature. But unfortunately, the phrase just strikes me that way.

Many of those “bumper-sticker” phrases do. There is something impersonal about them. It’s like shouting at someone. Not like conversing with someone.

Maybe that is my problem. This should be personal–not something shouted out.

I remember meeting God. It was personal. And life-changing. In the quiet of meditation, the experience was unmistakable. Then again in celebration time during an Emmaus Walk. And other times.

Preparing to meet your God–THE God–takes a life of getting ready. There was study so that I knew what was real. There was prayer. There were the disciplines of meditation and contemplation. There was an openness toward and expectation of the reality of God.

Like Paul, I hesitate to write things such as this. It is not boasting, which Paul abhorred. It is merely witnessing. Pointing to a reality that exists no matter what materialists say. No, it is not delusion as much modern psychology maintains. If they would prepare….

I don’t like in-your-face evangelizing. I am praying right now that God would lead someone into my life to disciple. Personally. Not just shouting slogans, but really preparing to meet our God.

Most Leadership Training is BS

October 2, 2015

It’s time for my Friday thoughts on leadership. See if you relate to this.

You got shipped off to some type of leadership training. Maybe it was for work. Maybe for church. Maybe for another type of organization.

You attended the training. It was long. The coffee was less than satisfactory. The pastries were stale. The leader was pumped up on something that made him or her optimistic to the point of causing gagging. You recorded a bunch of cute sayings from old leaders in your conference notebook. The talks seemed like they belonged in some sort of old-fashioned tent revival meeting.

I have been to so many of these that I’m lucky to be able to lead a kid to a candy store!

So the article title on the email newsletter caught my eye. Why Leadership Training Is So Much BS. It is in a manufacturing trade journal called Industry Week written by an acquaintance, Steve Minton. He interviewed Jeffrey Pfeffer author of Leadership B.S.: Fixing Workplaces and Careers One Truth at a Time (Harper Business, September 2015).

“But a steady diet of inspiration fables, Pfeffer warns, also misleads and does little to improve organizations.” He contrasts the state of leadership training with medical education, which strives to base its teaching on carefully measured studies and their results.

“No wonder medical science has made significant strides in treating many diseases while leadership as it is practiced daily all over the world has continued to produce a lot of disengaged, dissatisfied, and disaffected employees,” he writes.

What can businesses do to improve their leadership development efforts? Pfeffer told IndustryWeek that companies first need to change their evaluation criteria. Too much development work either is not evaluated or evaluated on the basis of enjoyment of the course.

“What are we trying to accomplish in leadership development? If we are trying to attain higher levels of employee engagement, higher levels of trust in leaders, higher levels of job satisfaction, lower levels of turnover, more people succeeding and having more people ready for leadership positions, then those are criteria you ought to use to evaluate your efforts,” he stresses, “not whether or not people had a good time, whether or not they liked the donuts, whether or not they thought the speaker was inspiring.”

Companies must also have people teaching these programs who have at least some expertise in leadership, he adds.

I continue to see people go off to leadership training only to memorize stories and tips. Putting the knowledge into practice is left to chance.

Better leadership training is done in smaller groups over time. This allows time for trial and error and feedback.

Think Yoda teaching the young Jedi Luke Skywalker.

Find your Yoda. Or, find your Luke. Me, I’m looking for another Luke to bring along.

A Teaching Moment Missed

September 28, 2015

He did something kind for the harried server at the busy family restaurant.

She said, “Thank you.”

Later, one of the man’s companions said, “Just what was that ‘thank you’ from the server? Why should you care. I don’t care anything about her.”

A second companion agreed. Then the next. And the next. Until it was five wondering why care about the server.

Jesus said, “And the second [commandment] is like the first, you shall love your neighbor.”

This was a group of people who, if you asked them, would profess to be Christians. 


I get the feeling that they are more similar to the Pharisees than to Jesus. Religious rules. Care more for themselves than for others.

That feeling is almost a national crisis. I think it is the underlying cause of our political divisiveness. It does not matter which end of the spectrum you find yourself. So often it seems that people are more interested in themselves than in others.

I self-identify as “liberal” because of the peace and justice movements of the 50s and 60s. But that isn’t “liberal” any longer. Big city people tell me I’m conservative (because I’m personally conservative in finances and ethics). But I do not self-identify with those people either. 

But, I digress.

Was that a teaching moment?

Jesus would have answered. He’d have had a cute story with a sharp point. It would have left them thinking. Sometimes people were converted because of his stories. Sometimes they went away sad.

In my case (being the man in the story), the big pitch came across the plate, and I whiffed.

Do we let teaching moments slide by because we don’t wish to seem obnoxious? Or, we seek to avoid confrontation or bad scenes? Or, because we give up and believe that people so focused on themselves can not be brought to an understanding of others?

Or–just a lack of courage?

There was a teaching moment to try to get people with Jesus in their heads to Jesus in their hearts. And I failed Jesus.

Maybe not the next time.

Don’t Argue About Opinions

September 22, 2015

I’m traveling this week. Saturday and Sunday I was running along the Atlantic Ocean surf in South Carolina. Tomorrow I’ll be running in hot and dry northern California. From vacation to a software conference. 

We worshipped Sunday at a church whose denomination is one whose organizational rules I don’t agree with. We won’t go into details here. Doesn’t matter.

But the pastor presented a great teaching on 1 Kings 16-17. This is the story of Elijah. First he is instructed to leave the danger of the city and seek refuge by a brook away from cities. God fed him daily by using ravens to bring him food. He could drink from the brook.

When the brook dried up, Elijah called out to the Lord. The answer was to walk about 100 miles through dangerous territory to a city where a widow would feed him.

This was all training in reliance on God. The training came in handy shortly.

As an aside, I bet we all could use this trraining. Or, maybe we get this training and don’t realize it. How often does God present us with a teaching that we don’t get, so then he presents it again?

So, there is this denomination with which I disagree with its organizing principles. But…this pastor taught the Lord’s message faithfully and eloquently.

I have worshipped in many Christian churches. A few flavors of Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian (a few flavors there, too), Catholic. Even a couple of house churches.

Funny thing. They all taught Jesus death and resurrection. They taught the fundamentals of the faith. Sometimes the delivery was less than eloquent.

When Paul taught us in Romans 12 and 14 about love and not quarreling, I think he had in mind that I should be happy worshipping wherever. Even if I don’t like some doctrine they have or their organization. I should not worry about that. I definitely should not go in and quarrel with them.

When we worship and teach the basics of the faith, what else do we need.

We do not need to waste time arguing about opinions. We need to teach, learn, worship God.

Leadership Through Mentoring

September 18, 2015

Paul (the Apostle) must have been quite a leader. He is credited with almost single-handedly spreading the Christian church all over the northwest and northern Mediterranian area. Yet we know him through his letters and some stories in Acts.

He wasn’t a bishop. He evidently was not a pastor. He was a speaker, teacher, and writer. Yet he did plant churches and shepherd the people and their leaders.

We lack much detailed information. Reading carefully through the letters and stories in Acts, we can find examples of many other leaders who also went about starting and nourishing churches.

I became a leader in an organization first by saying Yes. I decided to serve the group.

Then I applied myself to diligently learning and growing in experience. I studied so that I could answer questions.

Then, I started looking for the next people to do that and carry on further than I could go.

I think Paul did much the same.

He was the most educated of the Apostles. That education served him well enabling him to provide documentation of the theology and practice of the new movement.

Then he said Yes.

After saying Yes and committing, he applied himself diligently to learning beyond his formidable education. And he gained experience speaking.

In this way he could teach, and speak, and write.

Then we notice his letters to Timothy. We see another side of Paul–Paul the mentor.

He picks his next generation leaders. Then he nurtures them. Giving advice, consolation, support, encouragement. 

We can say Leaders are [lots of things]. But for sure, Leaders are Mentors.

Save Yourself

August 3, 2015

My dad used to have a phrase, “It’s like the blind leading the blind.”

Did you ever follow a leader who had no clue?

OK, you can quit laughing–or cringing.

Did you ever seek help from someone only to discover that they needed more help than you? It’s worse when they offer advice. Then you realize they need to live the advice first.

I often listen to “Coffee House” on Sirius XM when I’m driving. The channel features acoustic music. Since I play folk guitar (when I get it out), the channel is appealing.

There’s a song that keeps repeating in my head:

You’ve got to save yourself…so you can find a way to save…someone else.

This wisdom is ancient. Yet, we still need to discover it daily. When I’m tempted to open my mouth and interject in a conversation, there is a pause. In that pause, I reflect on how much I resemble just what I’m about to contribute.

Sure, you can learn a lot by reflecting upon failures. But I wouldn’t listen very long to business advice from someone who has taken multiple businesses into bankruptcy.

Similarly, I respect people who may not have it all together, but they have been living out the struggle for years. They know how hard life change is. Yet, you can see the change in their lives. I listen to them. And meditate on their words. And reflect on their lives. And contemplate how that change would look in my life.

These may be Celtic saints from my current reading in the Celtic Daily Prayer book. They may be people I’ve met over the past few years, months, days.

Don’t go theological on me. Just consider the practice: If you are seeking, seek those who have “saved themselves”. If you are “saved yourself”, then you need to “find a way to save someone else.”

Jesus put it, “Go into all the world making disciples….”

Be Ye Doers of the Word

July 7, 2015

Paul’s work in writing Romans results in his mature thinking assembled into one letter.

He starts with why we need God. He continues with how through Jesus we have access to God’s grace. Then he concludes “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and if you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, then you will be saved.”

That was in chapter 10. Not satisfied to stop with the basics of spiritual formation, Paul continues with many examples of how we continue our spiritual formation journey through how we live.

I told yesterday how I struggled with Romans 13 in my younger years. But if you read the first several verses of the chapter you can see where Paul was going. Government is instituted by God to create order in society punishing the wicked and upholding the good. Insofar as government does that, it is fulfilling its work as ordained by God.

The 20th Century witnessed the rise to power of the idea that government should take a much more active role in promoting the welfare of the citizens.

It’s kind of like we transferred the idea of God as the “big vending machine in the sky” as when Janis Joplin sang, “Oh, Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz” to the idea of “Oh [insert name of capital city], won’t you give me…”

Before you jump all over me on a liberal or conservative slant, step back and look. From my perspective as merely an observer, I see people of all political stripes in almost all countries with their hands out to their governmental leaders at every level looking for money or favor. Business people want tax breaks or preference for roads and sewers. On the other hand is the dependency we’ve created with the welfare state.

It is a human condition; not a political one.

From God’s point of view, we should obey that government that provides justice and order so that we may go about God’s work in us for our spiritual formation and to teach and to love our neighbor.

I think part of the church’s role in loving our neighbor is not abdicating our role to the government. When a plague hit Rome in the early years of the church, it became a time of great growth in the church. Why? Well, the brave heroes who governed Rome took off for the hills leaving behind women, children, sick, and elderly. Who took care of them? Christ followers left their hiding and cared for the sick and weak.

Should we work to change governments that fail to live up to God’s work for them? Of course we should. Just look to the example of the prophets. Even Jesus tackled the problem of his local government leaders (the Jews, not the Romans).

Should we work to tackle some of the social problems we’ve abdicated to government? Yes! I know the theology that says that all we should do as followers of Christ is to preach. But I cannot find that theology anywhere in the New Testament.

As James instructed, “Be ye also doers.”

I Too Am A Sinner

June 29, 2015

Reading my Facebook “news” stream is a trip into a world of bitterness, hate, and cynicism.

Not everyone, of course, is this way. But most of the Americans are. Interestingly none of my European, Middle Eastern, or Latin American friends.

The attitude I continually perceive is “I’m right, and you’re wrong.” 

Reading in the sayings of the Desert Fathers, those early Christians (not all men, by the way) who dedicated their lives to the pursuit of living holy lives continually aware of how they fell short. The communities sprang up in the late 100s and survived until the 400s AD (or CE to the modern historians).

Their sayings should be read annually along with Proverbs to remind us of how to live.

It is said that a priest ordered a brother who sinned to leave the community. Abbot Bessarian also got up to leave, saying “I, too, am a sinner.”

When a brother praised another brother to Abbot Poeman saying he hated evil, the Abbot asked what he meant by hating sin. Confused, the brother asked for guidance. “That man hates evil who hates his own sins, and looks upon every brother as a saint and loves him as a saint.”

Someone posting such negative things will back down when called out on it. But calling people out for their hypocrisy is the job of a prophet. Prophets are usually killed. 

When we find we have this spirit of bitterness, hate, cynicism, or self-righteousness, we need to be open to the correction of the spirit who will remind us that we, too, are sinners. In a perfect world, none of us is perfect.

Character Development

May 18, 2015

I spent all weekend at a youth soccer tournament. Players ranged in age from 8 to 18. Parents ranged in maturity from 2-yr-olds to mature. Typical spring in Ohio, as well as much of the US.

My job was to recruit referees and assign them to games. I devoted many hours last week doing both of those. 

During the tournament, I check to assure that all the referees showed up and to cover for those who didn’t. This was a great weekend. The only problem was one I created by not doing the proper math about when one game ends and when another begins and how far the fields were from each other. I started the game as referee and then turned the game over to the assigned guy. 

That’s because once the tournament play begins, I become the appeals court for referee problems. I travel from field to field watching and evaluating and giving tips for improvement to the entire group of referees. I also travel around settling disputes. 

Sometimes referees need some extra instruction. Or I have to move them around to avoid situations. Sometimes coaches or parents get into arguments and I try to settle things down.

It is a joy in life to contribute to the development of so many young people. I have devoted the last 25 years or so developing young referees. They may not always last as referees, but through the process, I try to teach them life skills of observation, decision-making, handling people, confidence, and communication.

The most gratifying thing in these tournaments is the development of coaching. Coaches used to know little about the game, didn’t teach anything during practice and then figured they could get the kids to do what they didn’t teach them simply by screaming at them–and at the referees.

Now, I see coaches teaching basic skills, then team building skills. They give instruction during the game instead of berating the kids. Sure, they get upset with some calls. We all do. Sometimes I do even when I’m evalutating a referee. That’s life. The bad coaches are becoming scarce.

We need to practice this same character-building effort in the rest of life. Is there a child or young adult who could use a mentor? Intentionally seek out people like that. Invite them for coffee or lunch. Build a relationship and nurture tham. I have few greater joys in life than seeing people grow.

Have you found a mentee today?

Leaders Empty Your Cup

February 27, 2015

Andy Stanley, founder and pastor of North Point Community Church in suburban Atlanta, thinks and communicates leadership as well as anyone speaking today.

He participates in one of those huge, fill-the-arena leadership events that tours the country. I’ve actually spent the couple of hundred dollars to sit in the cheap seats and watch.

Some of his latest thinking focuses on enabling the next generation of leaders. He calls it emptying your cup. You need to share all you know with the next generation. Not all they need to know–something you probably can’t fulfill. But all you know.

Here is a video clip that is actually a teaser for the Leadercast program. But it succinctly captures this one idea.