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The Dark Side Of A Long-Term Pastorate

Last week I shared a story from Bob Iger’s book The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company, today I’d like to share one statement that Iger makes that has been following me around ever since I first read it. As Iger is contemplating his coming retirement, he says this:

I’m comforted by something I’ve come to believe more and more in recent years—that it’s not always good for one person to have too much power for too long. Even when a CEO is working productively and effectively, it’s important for a company to have change at the top. I don’t know if other CEOs agree with this, but I’ve noticed that you can accumulate so much power in a job that it becomes harder to keep a check on how you wield it. Little things can start to shift. Your confidence can easily tip over into overconfidence and become a liability. You can start to feel that you’ve heard every idea, and so you become impatient and dismissive of others’ opinions. It’s not intentional, it just comes with the territory. You have to make a conscious effort to listen, to pay attention to the multitude of opinions.

One of Chemistry’s core beliefs is that we need to extend the average tenure of ministry staff from the current average of 3.5 years to 5 years. Our entire team is convinced that this will help create healthy, thriving churches. We are committed to creating a healthy, long-term fit between pastors and churches. That said, I think Iger is onto something when he suggests that there is a danger in being somewhere for too long.

Several years ago I sat with a small group of church planters listening to a well-known pastor share his thoughts on leading the church. The man had brought a group of interns from his church and as he shared his opinions on the right and wrong methodologies of leading a church he would make cutting, borderline inappropriate, comments about those who he felt were doing it wrong. As these comments were made, his interns would chuckle and egg him on. I remember walking away from that gathering feeling conflicted: there was a wisdom to some of the man’s thinking, but the arrogance and meanness left me questioning his fitness for the pastorate. It was obvious to me that there was no one around him who could pull him aside and challenge him to reconsider his actions.

The biggest danger of spiritual leadership is that we play a significant role in the development of the people that we lead. Because of this, we can be revered by those who surround us and inadvertently placed on a pedestal. The likelihood of this happening only increases the longer that we are in place. As this happens, people grow less and less likely to challenge our thinking, to suggest alternative courses of action, or to call us on our bad behavior. When this happens, the end of our church’s productive ministry begins.

The onus is on us, as ministry leaders, to surround ourselves with people who will push on us, challenge us, and take us to the woodshed from time to time. I am not suggesting that we surround ourselves with jerks, but with people who love us and the church that we lead and want nothing but the best for both. The courage and self-awareness that it takes to do this are rare, but are incredibly important for our health, and the health of the churches we lead.

Who do you have in your life that has the permission to challenge your thinking and call you on bad behavior?

matt

Matt Steen
Co-Founder | Chemistry Staffing
Matt.Steen@ChemistryStaffing.com


A story to teach us how to conquer racism and differences.

I read many things everyday. I recently came across the following true story. I forwarded it to myself to make sure to remind me to post this to my blog. I have no idea where I got it, who wrote it, and don’t know who to give the credit to. I really don’t care about all that. I only hope the following story will encourage us and teach us many things about this crazy life. Enjoy.

One spring morning many years ago, I had been prospecting for gold along Coho Creek on southeastern Alaska’s Kupreanof Island, and as I emerged from a forest of spruce and hemlock, I froze in my tracks. No more than 20 paces away in the bog was a huge Alaskan timber wolf—caught in one of Trapper George’s traps.

Old George had died the previous week of a heart attack, so the wolf was lucky I had happened along. Confused and frightened at my approach, the wolf backed away, straining at the trap chain. Then I noticed some­thing else: It was a female, and her teats were full of milk. Somewhere there was a den of hungry pups waiting for their mother.

From her appearance, I guessed that she had been trapped only a few days. That meant her pups were probably still alive, surely no more than a few miles away. But I suspected that if I tried to release the wolf, she would turn aggressive and try to tear me to pieces.

So I decided to search for her pups instead and began to look for incoming tracks that might lead me to her den. Fortunately, there were still a few remaining patches of snow. After several moments, I spotted paw marks on a trail skirting the bog.

The tracks led a half mile through the forest, then up a rock­-strewn slope. I finally spotted the den at the base of an enormous spruce. There wasn’t a sound in­side. Wolf pups are shy and cautious, and I didn’t have much hope of luring them outside. But I had to try. So I began imitating the high­-pitched squeak of a mother wolf calling her young. No response. A few moments later, after I tried another call, four tiny pups appeared.

They couldn’t have been more than a few weeks old. I extended my hands, and they tentatively suckled at my fingers. Perhaps hunger had helped overcome their natural fear. Then, one by one, I placed them in a burlap bag and headed back down the slope.

When the mother wolf spotted me, she stood erect. Possibly picking up the scent of her young, she let out a high­-pitched, plaintive whine. I released the pups, and they raced to her. Within seconds, they were slurping at her belly.

What next? I wondered. The mother wolf was clearly suffering. Yet each time I moved in her direction, a menacing growl rumbled in her throat. With her young to protect, she was becoming belligerent. She needs nourishment, I thought. I have to find her something to eat.

I hiked toward Coho Creek and spotted the leg of a dead deer sticking out of a snowbank. I cut off a hindquarter, then re­turned the remains to nature’s ice­box. Toting the venison haunch back to the wolf, I whispered in a soothing tone, “OK, Mother, your dinner is served. But only if you stop growling at me. C’mon, now. Easy.” I tossed chunks of venison in her direction. She sniffed them, then gobbled them up.

Cutting hemlock boughs, I fashioned a rough shelter for myself and was soon asleep nearby. At dawn, I was awakened by four fluffy bundles of fur sniffing at my face and hands. I glanced toward the agitated moth­er wolf. If I could only win her confidence, I thought. It was her only hope.

One snap of her huge jaws and she could break my arm ... or my neck.

Over the next few days, I divided my time between prospecting and trying to win the wolf’s trust. I talked gently with her, threw her more venison, and played with the pups. Little by little, I kept edging closer—though I was careful to re­main beyond the length of her chain. The big animal never took her dark eyes off me. “Come on, Mother,” I pleaded. “You want to go back to your friends on the mountain. Relax.”

At dusk on the fifth day, I delivered her daily fare of venison. “Here’s dinner,” I said softly as I approached. “C’mon, girl. Nothing to be afraid of.” Suddenly, the pups came bounding to me. At least I had their trust. But I was beginning to lose hope of ever winning over the mother. Then I thought I saw a slight wagging of her tail. I moved within the length of her chain. She remained motionless. My heart in my mouth, I sat down eight feet from her. One snap of her huge jaws and she could break my arm … or my neck. I wrapped my blanket around myself and slowly settled onto the cold ground. It was a long time before I fell asleep.

I awoke at dawn, stirred by the sound of the pups nursing. Gently, I leaned over and petted them. The mother wolf stiffened. “Good morning, friends,” I said tentatively. Then I slowly placed my hand on the wolf’s injured leg. She flinched but made no threatening move. This can’t be happening, I thought. Yet it was.

I could see that the trap’s steel jaws had imprisoned only two toes. They were swollen and lacerated, but she wouldn’t lose the paw—if I could free her.

“OK,” I said. “Just a little longer and we’ll have you out of there.” I applied pressure, the trap sprang open, and the wolf pulled free.

Whimpering, she loped about, favoring the injured paw. My experience in the wild suggested that the wolf would now gather her pups and vanish into the woods. But cautiously, she crept toward me. The pups nipped playfully at their mother as she stopped at my elbow. Slowly, she sniffed my hands and arms. Then the wolf began licking my fingers. I was astonished. This went against everything I’d ever heard about timber wolves. Yet, strangely, it all seemed so natural.

After a while, with her pups scurrying around her, the mother wolf was ready to leave and began to limp off toward the forest. Then she turned back to me.

“You want me to come with you, girl?” I asked. Curious, I packed my gear and set off.

Following Coho Creek for a few miles, we ascended Kupreanof Mountain until we reached an al­pine meadow. There, lurking in the forested perimeter, was a wolf pack—I counted nine adults and, judging by their playful antics, four nearly full­-grown pups. After a few minutes of greeting, the pack broke into howling. It was an eerie sound, ranging from low wails to high-pitched yodeling.

At dark, I set up camp. By the light of my fire and a glistening moon, I could see furtive wolf shapes dodging in and out of the shadows, eyes shining. I had no fear. They were merely curious. So was I.

I awoke at first light. It was time to leave the wolf to her pack. She watched as I assembled my gear and started walking across the meadow.

Reaching the far side, I looked back. The mother and her pups were sitting where I had left them, watching me. I don’t know why, but I waved. At the same time, the mother wolf sent a long, mournful howl into the crisp air.

Four years later, after serving in World War II, I returned to Coho Creek. It was the fall of 1945. After the horrors of the war, it was good to be back among the soaring spruce and breathing the familiar, bracing air of the Alaskan bush. Then I saw, hanging in the red cedar where I had placed it four years before, the now­-rusted steel trap that had ensnared the mother wolf. The sight of it gave me a strange feeling, and something made me climb Kupreanof Mountain to the meadow where I had last seen her. There, standing on a lofty ledge, I gave out a long, low wolf call—­something I had done many times before.

An echo came back across the distance. Again I called. And again the echo reverberated, this time followed by a wolf call from a ridge about a half­ mile away.

I had no fear. The wolves were merely curious. So Was I.

Then, far off, I saw a dark shape moving slowly in my direction. As it crossed the meadow, I could see 
it was a timber wolf. A chill spread through my whole body. I knew at once that familiar shape, even after four years. “Hello, old girl,” I called gently. The wolf edged closer, ears erect, body tense, and stopped a few yards off, her bushy tail wagging slightly.

Moments later, the wolf was gone. I left Kupreanof Island a short time after that, and I never saw the animal again. But the memory she left with me—vivid, haunting, a little eerie—will always be there, a reminder that there are things in nature that exist outside the laws and understanding of man.

During that brief instant in time, this injured animal and I had some­how penetrated each other’s worlds, bridging barriers that were never meant to be bridged. There is no explaining experiences like this. We can only accept them and—because they’re tinged with an air of mystery and strangeness—per­haps treasure them all the more. — End of story.

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If a man can conquer his “racism” towards a wolf, we as mankind can practice many of the same principles to conquer our “racism” of each other, all the while realizing it’s not nearly as dangerous. –Trent


We are all stubborn.

Its only good to be stubborn when you are right.  If you are stubborn and wrong, it can be dangerous.  Especially if it deals with spiritual right and wrong…as that kind of stubbornness is eternal.

Are you currently being stubborn and continually finding yourself in the middle of conflict?  If so, it is usually because of only two possibilities.

When two visions are stubbornly in conflict and one is right and one is wrong…then it should be easy to correct this problem…the one that is wrong needs to be asked to change or leave. 

The greater challenge is when two people/groups, who are both right, are being stubborn about something.  The most common way this happens is when two individuals or groups have “right” visions for the future, but they can’t get unity on just one.  Usually one of the right ways is simply not right timing anymore.  (When people say, “That’s how we’ve always done it,” they are right in how they used to do it, but it is no longer good timing to do it that ‘right way’ anymore.)  Two right ways stuck in disagreement are always a great challenge.

What do you do now?  Who gives in?

It depends who the leader is, and the vision that leader has brought to the table.  Leadership matters.  Leadership is influence.  Is the leader you are being stubborn towards higher in position than you in the hierarchy of the institution?  (Please don’t tell me that you work in a non-hierarchical atmosphere)  If you say that…you’re not only stubborn, but naive too.  The buck always stops somewhere.  If the buck stops with you, and you still aren’t moving forward, then that’s another blog about courage for another time.

Organizations / Churches / families / businesses / individuals, get stuck when, ((‘Who is the leader?’)) can’t be answered with unity.

Where does the buck stop?  (This question is a huge problem with too many people/orgs) If you are not the leader and can’t entrust the leader with the ‘buck-stops here’ and the vision…then you have to move on…get your roots out of the way…or you’ll derail the whole thing.  Why would you want to derail the direction, mission, vision of something good?  Pride, Jealousy, Greed, Arrogance, Anger, did I miss one?

Obstacles remain obstacles because of the lack of courage in the highest leader.  The whole vision will remain stuck if the leader doesn’t know how to courageously remove the tree growing in the middle of the tracks.

Be careful with stubbornness.

We stubborn people need to deliberately have our roots grow down deep.  May we, in our lifetime become towering trees with deep and healthy roots. And may we be intelligently stubborn with where we choose for those roots to grow.

Here’s where your roots should thrive…

“Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.”  Ephesians 3:17-21

If you are encountering ‘trees’ with deep roots continually blocking your path, contact me, and we can talk through some godly strategy and wisdom about the business of tree removal.  I’ve experienced it multiple times, and each time I handle it, it gets a little bit better.  Not easier.  Better.

 


Church and the learning Tower of Pisa

SethGodin.com just wrote a blog asking…”What’s inside the Leaning Tower of Pisa?”

The answer is Nothing. It’s a hollow tube.

One of the most photographed buildings in the world is empty.  But people do not care. It is an iconic building and wows people from all over the world.

I love that this is opposite of the reality of the Church.  The Church’s building sits empty most of the week…but it’s old news that the Church is not a building.

You are the Church. The bride of Jesus. The body of Christ.  Get a couple of people like you together, and God is there with you!  Grasp that!

The big question is, why aren’t people wowed by the Church all over the world?

There are negative and positive answers.

We know the negative reasons.  Do you know the positive ones?  Here’s one to remember…

“Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this?” 2 Corinthians 2:15-26

That Scripture asks a very pertinent question in its last verse.  Who is adequate for such a task?

The answer: YOU!  You are adequate just as you are.  Oh, you might have to pick up your cross of sacrifice and live differently than you currently are…but that doesn’t make you inadequate.  It just makes you leaning…limping…wounded.  But that is what makes you remarkable.

I’m not sure I can trust anyone who doesn’t walk with some sort of limp…or lean. The Bible is loaded with  historical records of people that limp and lean.  I’m grateful for my wounds that cause me to now limp.  Your limp tells a story of victory and conquering.  Or it should.  If you’ll allow it, that thing, that wound, which caused the scarring that makes you limp, will make you even more remarkable…yes, your leaning can make you incredible.  There are millions of beautiful buildings around the world…but the ones that lean…they have looooong lines of curious gazers and photographers.

You are adequate.  You are never empty, if you are the Church.  You are worthy.  You can live your life in such a way that some people will go crazy wanting what you have.

Its not easy.  You’ll have to lean into Jesus more than you think is even possible.

 

 

 


The Bible…Its way more than what culture has made it.

The Bible.
It’s definitely not (Basic. Instructions. Before. Leaving. Earth.) That’s laughable and falls way short. Remember… “The Word became Flesh and dwelt amongst us.” The Word is the Creator in tangible form.

The Creator of all, engaged 40 ‘writers’ who did not know each other, who were spread out on 3 continents, over a 1500 year time span, all sharing details that validate each other’s message received. Even if some got added, or some got lost over the centuries…the person of Jesus and it’s main message did not.

At its minimum The Bible is a library loaded with tragedy and triumph, hero’s and horrors of mankind that will capture your intrigue and capture better than a movie.

I have read it, studied it, prayed through it, and critical-eyed it. At its fullness, It is alive and relevant. Cutting. Life changing. The Scripture, in its completeness, is Jesus prompting you to rise and shine and live life to its full. It’s your wisest friend of hope, and your greatest rebuke of correction.

Have you just read it? Don’t just read it. Listen deeply to it. Slow down. Clothe yourself in it and with it. Take it in…Slow down in this short life! What’s your hurry? What are you working so hard towards? Where you going? How fast did your last 20 years go by? Your next 20 will go faster and then what?

Absorb The Word with the faith of a child…Daily, for the rest of your life. Don’t doctrinize it, systematize it, or theologize it like some foolish worldly education standard.

Become it.

Then you will fully be as you were created to be. It will be the greatest challenge of your entire life and you will celebrate its accomplishment in you for eternity with the others who did the same.


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