Ok, maybe discipleship books are beyond spiritual milk

Spiritual Growth

Ok, maybe discipleship books are beyond spiritual milk

Ok, maybe discipleship books are beyond spiritual milk

Spiritual Growth:  Whose job is it to drive this in a positive direction?

I was having a discussion with my awesome dad the other day about the role of the church in a person’s spiritual development.  We had similar yet different ideas on the topic.  I could agree with his viewpoint but it just seemed…well, unexplored.  

This got me thinking about something:  Whose responsibility is it to assume spiritual formation duties? (and is it really a singular entity in charge?)

i wasn't raised on the KJB.  It's just that the boys in our family have a thing for lions!

i wasn’t raised on the KJB. It’s just that the boys in our family have a thing for lions!

In times like these I like to consult my two best advisors.  I start with the best source, the Bible, and search for relevant scriptures.  Secondarily, I will ask my good friend, Mr. Google, and see what he and his network of friends seem to think.  His response time is rather impressive which is a big bonus.  Once I’ve had some input from the (mostly) wise counsel of many others, I allow the Holy Spirit to add some personal flavor to the thought process.

Scripturally, I can see 3 very evident things about the responsibility of our spiritual formation:

  1. God  is responsible (as well as Jesus and the Holy Spirit)
  2. The church is responsible
  3. I am responsible

I’ll quote just a few numerous scriptures–by no means an exhaustive treatment of this biblical search–which support each of these 3 perspectives and then we’ll downgrade to my meager thoughts afterward.  I’ll also add some excerpts from others that I feel are healthy contributions to my discussion.  As you read these scriptures, ask yourself whether you see these as an “either/or” or an “also/and” kind of approach.

How is the Trinity involved?

 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

Proverbs 3:5 says:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

2  Corinthians 3:18 says:

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Ephesians 4:7-8; 11-16 says:

But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.”

11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Acts 1:4-8 says:

And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me;for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” 6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Galatians 2:20 says:

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Titus 2:11-14 says:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

John 3:16-17 says:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

Matthew 5:48 Jesus says:

You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Philippians 1:6-7 says:

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. 7 It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace,

 2 Peter 1:3-8 says:

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. …

Whew!  It’s a good thing that the Trinity is supernaturally supernatural.  That sounds like a lot of work to me-But love knows no bounds!  God is love and John 17 tells us that Jesus prayed for all of us (the Church, His bride) to be united in that same kind of unity and love through a sanctifying agent of Christ’s blood and the Spirit’s empowering Presence.

It would appear to me that God is committed to our glorification through the fullness of the Trinity.  Every person of the tripartite God is committed to that ideal.  We are spirits with a body who have unfortunately allowed our flesh to run the show.  Jesus came to destroy the works of the Devil that led us down that particular road.  He then restored us to our original intended purpose of glorifying our Creator and communing with Him directly in order to maximize that purpose.

the_church_body_800_clr_8912

How is the church involved?

Colossians 1:9-10 says:

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

Acts 20:28 says:

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.

Romans 12:6-8 says:

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Ephesians 4:11-16 says:

11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.  

Acts 6:1-7 says:

Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. 2 And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 3 Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5 And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. 6 These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them. 7 And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.

Hebrews 5:12-14 says:

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

Acts 2:42-47 says:

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

 1 Timothy 3:1-13 says:

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife,2 sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

Qualifications for Deacons

8 Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. 9 They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. 11 Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded,faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. 13 For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

1 Corinthians 12:4-31 says:

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually has he wills.

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For kin one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts.

So maybe we need to reframe what exactly we expect the church to do.  If you look at most church websites you will see their particular statement of faith and beliefs.  If they are marketing well, they’ll probably also mention their core values just so you can catch a transparent view of what they strive to embody in their membership.  Sadly, discipleship doesn’t often make the cut.  My hope is that the next generation will improve that percentage whatever it is.  Let’s turn to some other church responsibilities regarding spiritual formation.

Biblically, the Church has been called to represent Christ in all that we do, care for widows and orphans, demonstrate a tangible love to everyone who happens to look, hear or otherwise come into contact with us. Within the body we are to encourage one another daily and even more as we see the day drawing near.  We are called to encourage one another, pray for one another, be ongoingly filled with the Spirit, sing songs and spiritual hymns to one another.  We are tasked with shining whatever light emanates from us as a result of Christ manifesting through our gifts and talents.

That’s a high calling to respond to but the Holy Spirit is ours for the taking.  He empowers Christ to be re-presented through our thoughts and actions.  The more we engage with God, His Son and His Spirit now found inside of every believer…the more well-positioned we become to release the glory of God through our life.  That is how a believer in Christ not only seeks first the Kingdom but also releases that into their particular environment.

This is why discipleship is a healthy gauge of where the church’s priorities lie.  Churches with no formal discipleship structure or values can obviously still do great work for the Kingdom but it will happen more slowly through addition as opposed to multiplicational (that’s probably not a word but it should be!) growth.

I know I’m a little biased towards discipleship and all of it’s strengths but it really is important enough that Jesus would command His disciples to “Go and make disciples”.

Matthew 28:16-20 says:

The Great Commission

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (emphasis my own)

I truly believe one of the greatest privileges of the church is to make discipleship a priority.  Without it a church is potentially missing a major engine towards expanding the kingdom.  A Christian organization that draws followers to it will naturally begin reproducing it’s own passions into the lives of others.  These individuals are often seeking a passion–any passion–to inspire them to serve the kingdom (through pastoring, teaching, prophesying, serving, etc.) and those who haven’t yet entered it (through evangelism, service and prophesying).  So if we are not energetically equipping our church members with love-centered spiritual tools, then we run the risk of developing a lethargic, consumer-based church that gathers more than it sends out.  

From a leadership standpoint that’s what happens when a church leader is the head of the church rather than Jesus being placed in that position of authority.  A few major megachurches have struggled recently because of moral failure at the top.  If your church leadership looks like a pyramid rather than an upside down pyramid, you could be facing the same problem.  Jesus laid down his life for the church and husbands are called to do the same for our wife out of utter sacrificial love for her.

In that kind of setting, the church will struggle as the leadership struggles.  The church has a meltdown when the leader has a spiritual slip-up because he has potentially set himself up to be the model for spiritual strength even though he points to Jesus in his preaching or church service.  But when a church leader strives to lead from the back even though he’s positioned at the front, a church becomes uniformly strong and can withstand the turbulent seasons that many churches go through.  If he leaves or needs to step away for awhile, there has been ample time for others to step up and lead.  In the corporate world we call that succession planning.  Jesus finalized his succession planning in Acts 1:1-11

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.

Servant based leadership is the buzzword in corporate leadership circles.  It’s unfortunate when that isn’t the case in church leadership circles.  Jesus delivered his last servant leadership speech before He ascended into Heaven.  That concept was not born in corporate America.  It was pioneered by Jesus, the master discipler.

I grew up in bible-focused, non-denominational church.  I went to church 2x on sunday, in addition to a bible class after church and an additional midweek class and service.  In a way that was discipleship.  The more I got exposed to Christian values and teachings, the more spiritual I was supposed to become…I suppose.  I think this is where the doctrinal beliefs became very substantial without necessarily instilling a deep desire to follow Jesus and obey His commands wholeheartedly.

Nowadays it’s much more common for churches to meet once on sunday and some other time during the week if you’re involved with a small group.  I guess that reduces the potential of becoming doctrinally biased (which can create religious barriers more than it facilitates interdenominational unity) but unfortunately it also reduces the opportunities for true discipleship.  But let’s move on.

Church Activities vs Spiritual Activity

In 2007, Willowcreek church (often polled as America’s most influential church and has an average attendance of 24,000 people per weekend) researched the effectiveness of its approach to spiritual formation and found some disconcerting news.  The results were discussed in the book, “Reveal”, in 2007.  I remember being at a leadership conference here in Dallas that year when they were streaming live from Willowcreek and broadcasting throughout the U.S. and mentioning the landmark findings that were now available for all to read about.  I immediately went and purchased the book in the lobby as well as the follow-up book in 2011, “Move”, which described how the research was evolving as numerous other churches were evaluating their approach to spiritual formation.  I remember taking feverish notes as well as noting my own response to what the authors found.  Below is another Christian blogger’s response to what they took away from these books.

Tony Morgan wrote this very accurate summary back in 2012: (my emphasis in red)

12 Reasons Why Your Church Doesn’t Produce Spiritual Growth

  1. You focus more on Bible teaching than Bible engagement. – “We learned that the most effective strategy for moving people forward in their journey of faith is biblical engagement. Not just getting people into the Bible when they’re in church—which we do quite well—but helping them engage the Bible on their own outside of church.”
  2. You haven’t developed a pathway of focused first steps. – “Instead of offering up a wide-ranging menu of ministry opportunities to newcomers, best-practice churches promote and provide a high-impact, nonnegotiable pathway of focused first steps—a pathway designed specifically to jumpstart a spiritual experience that gets people moving toward a Christ-centered life.”
  3. You’re more concerned about activity than growth. – “Increased church activity does not lead to spiritual growth.”
  4. You haven’t clarified the church’s role. – “Because—whether inadvertently or intentionally—these churches have communicated to their people that, no matter where they are on their spiritual journey, the role of the church is to be their central source of spiritual expertise and experience. As a result, even as people mature in their beliefs and embrace personal spiritual practices as part of their daily routines, their expectation is that it will be the church, not their own initiative, that will feed their spiritual hunger.
  5. You’re focused more on small groups than serving. – “Serving experiences appear to be even more significant to spiritual development than organized small groups.
  6. You’re not challenging people to reflect on Scripture – “If they could do only one thing to help people at all levels of spiritual maturity grow in their relationship with Christ, their choice would be equally clear. They would inspire, encourage, and equip their people to read the Bible—specifically, to reflect on Scripture for meaning in their lives.
  7. You’re unwilling to admit that more is not better. – “Based on findings from the most effective churches, however, this ‘more is better’ way of thinking is not the best route for people who are new to a church, and it is particularly unsuitable for people who are taking their first steps to explore the Christian faith… Instead of offering a ministry buffet with multiple tempting choices of activities and studies, these churches make one singular pathway a virtual prerequisite for membership and full engagement with the church.
  8. You haven’t raised the bar. – “Too many churches are satisfied to have congregations filled with people who say they ‘belong’ to their church—who attend faithfully and are willing to serve or make a donation now and then. But that belonging bar is not high enough; simply belonging doesn’t get the job done for Jesus.”
  9. You’ve created a church staff dependency. – “Taking too much responsibility for others’ spiritual growth fostered an unhealthy dependence of congregants on the church staff.
  10. You believe that small groups are the solution to spiritual formation. – “Based on the churches we have studied, including our own, there is no evidence that getting 100 percent of a congregation into small groups is an effective spiritual formation strategy.”
  11. You focus on what people should do rather than who people should become. – “Unfortunately, churches often make things harder still by obscuring the goal—to become more like Christ—with a complicated assortment of activities. For instance, encouraging people to: Attend teaching and worship services every week. Meet frequently with small community and Bible study groups (often requiring follow-up communications and homework). Serve the church a couple times a month. Serve those who are underresourced on a regular basis. Invite friends, coworkers, and family to church, special events, support groups, etc. When the church incessantly promotes all the things people should do, it’s very easy for them to lose sight of the real goal—which is who they should become.”
  12. You aren’t helping people surrender their lives to Jesus. – “Spiritual growth is not driven or determined by activities; it is defined by a growing relationship with Christ. So the goal is not to launch people into an assortment of ministry activities; it is to launch them on a quest to embrace and surrender their lives to Jesus.
My favorite iron sharpening tools

My favorite iron sharpening tools

How am I involved?

1 Corinthians 13:2 says:

And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

John 14:21 says:

Those who obey my commandments are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them, and I will love them. And I will reveal myself to each one of them.

1Peter 2:1-5 says:

So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 6:1-2 says:

Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.

Matthew 5:6 says:

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousnes, for they shall be satisfied.

Hosea 4:6 says:

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.

Hebrews 5:12-14 says:

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

Matthew 6:33 Jesus says:

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

2 Peter 1:5-8 says:

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Carey Nieuwhof said this:

People think the church is responsible for their spiritual growth.  People leave churches because they’re not growing. But whose responsibility is growth? Theirs. Yours. Mine. Why is it that people who say they are most passionate about maturity blame others for their lack of maturity? I just don’t get that. Isn’t responsibility a sign of maturity?

For sure, the church can help. In the same way a gym can help you get fit, a friend can help you through a tough time. But you are responsible for getting in shape, for getting better and even for your personal and spiritual growth.

I appreciate Carey’s perspective and he’s correct in his assertion–but you can’t apply a one-size-fits-all label to believers.  We’re all in process even when we’ve spent our entire life following Jesus.  But if Carey worked in an athletic club or gym for as long as I have, he might retract that metaphor and even develop a different mindset.  As Tony Morgan mentioned in his book summary points, being Christ-centered and SELF-SUFFICIENT (don’t need others to help us pray, worship or read the Word) in our pursuit of a holy lifestyle is the goal.  But it most certainly is not the starting point.  I couldn’t have a clearer picture of that through what I’ve observed over all my years as a strength & conditioning coach and personal trainer.

If we were to make a fitness continuum and designate garage gyms on one end and spa resort exercise rooms on the other end, we would have to create some sort of language to define why one is better than the other.  In the garage scenario, you are on your own with limited space and funds for gym equipment but you’re absolutely free to do as you like.  You likely won’t have a spotter to ensure your safety.  You’ll have no one to critique and fine tune your form.  Eventually you can outfit your space with expensive stuff but you’re still limited by space which ultimately means you’re still working with limited fitness resources.  Here’s an example of the garage scenario:

On the other end of the spectrum we have athletic clubs that are designed to cater to people who want an experience when they work out, not just a sweaty couples skate with the treadmill.  They want steamed towels with mint fragrance.  They want a massage therapist available.  They want highly trained fitness experts who didn’t just breeze through a weekend fitness course.  They want someone to memorize their name at the front desk who remembers the names of their children.  You get the picture.

One of the places I take my personal training students to visit is Equinox Fitness Clubs.  My students are always in awe of what they see because they realize they could work in a place like that if they studied hard and developed a professional and servant leadership style of work ethic.  (Those were the kinds of clubs I spent the majority of my career learning and working in so I appreciate what they taught me about the service industry.)  Here’s a typical example of what the newer Equinox clubs look like.

This example is not just about a ritzy club membership.  It’s about an organization striving to provide an incredibly valuable experience intended to assist their members in developing a fulfilling and rewarding level of physical and emotional health.

Visualize this scenario.  A newcomer shows up at the gym ready to embark on a new health plan.  They have absolutely no idea how to do it or where to start but they know the experts there will surely provide some kind of guidance.  After all, everyone at the gym is an expert…right?!

They come and take a tour and find out that every member gets a free training session which sounds really good.  Unfortunately, they never get around to scheduling that free session so they end up just winging it.  That usually means playing around with machines and trying to figure out how they work.  It means they set the exercise level on the cardio equipment way too low.  They lift weights that are too light.  Or maybe they put too much weight on it and do it incorrectly.  How common is that you might ask?  Here’s just a tiny portion of things that happen to people when they don’t have expert help or adequate personal knowledge to do things safely on their own.  I wish this was just a funny joke but it’s an every day and all day occurrence in many gyms worldwide.

I would absolutely LOVE to assume that every person who chooses to exercise also chooses to research the best methods to exercise and is truly aware of how it is “their responsibility” to get in shape, stay motivated and always stay disciplined in their eating, sleeping and stress management habits.  (I see you already rolling your eyes at me!)

Listen!  I can’t even get my fitness students to do all that research, workout and eat disciplined and their paying our school a few thousand dollars to be there.  What makes you think that the average person juggling work, a family life and little time for personal development should “be responsible for their own commitment”.  This isn’t just about friends helping out a little bit.

Spiritually speaking, how is that applicable here?

There are passionate church staff members, elders/deacons and other passionate lay leaders who are more than willing to help foster the spiritual formation of others.  Jesus called it discipleship but we won’t beat a dead horse.  There are many churches out there who haven’t figured out how to make a space for these lay leaders to step up and get involved.  Church staffs are already overwhelmed with maintaining their  church duties, pastoral support, speaking engagements, teaching preparation, weekend church service planning, etc.

How are they supposed to find the time to spend with members to facilitate spiritual growth?  There’s the big question that many churches are struggling to answer.

This often leaves church members (again, as stated in the MOVE book) relying too heavily on their church leadership to do all the spiritual development.  In many cases, this leads to disgruntled members church hopping until they can find a church that serves up the right spiritual food.  Not too hot…not too cold…perfectly warm just the way they like it.

This happens for numerous reasons either because they’ve been taught not to think apart from what the church has told them or because they erroneously consider the current emotional feelings they are experiencing compared to other previous emotional experiences and judge one to be more lacking and therefore wrong.  The latter definitely leads to an unsatisfactory church experience.

Without realizing it, a person who experiences a lack of friendliness, legitimate connections with other members or an incessant lack of being challenged by church leadership/small group involvement can grow restless without realizing how to change things.

Exposure to the “living and active Word” (the Bible) may stir one person and not another who is not interested in responding to what scripture invites them to participate in.  This is why Paul exhorted us not to “give up meeting together” (Heb 10:25).  However, if the place in which we are meeting together is stifling our spiritual needs, we should pray about it and seek counsel from others in order to make a decision to move on.  

There’s no formula here because selfish motivation can influence us to move for the wrong answers.  Again, I’m not creating a black/white answer.  Rather, I’m trying to illuminate a discussion that could lead to insight into our motivations for personal decision-making regarding our spiritual formation.

Personality bias also plays a big role in making judgments about a particular subject.  Introverted people, for example, would prefer an individual approach to spiritual maturity over a group-centered learning environment.  Extraverted people would struggle with a more individualistic approach to spiritual maturity and this is something an introverted person would not deeply consider before expressing a strong opinion.  This goes both ways so neither should claim exclusive bragging rights to “the truth”.


IMG_1095 

So Now What?

My original question centered on a seemingly innocent question:  Who’s responsible for spiritual growth of the Believer?  Is it God?  The Church?  Me?

I don’t agree with the notion that it’s solely on the individual to come up with their own strategy for spiritual growth.  On the other hand, I think it’s wrong for a church leadership to attach a tether to each member so that they never feel equipped enough or empowered enough to initiate their own ministry efforts.  As much as I love continuums, there really is no better way to assess where people are versus where they would like to end up.  

Stages of Spiritual Growth

Stages of Spiritual Growth

The most concise goal should be to lead people inward and eventually train them to go outward.  More accurately stated, it starts with a better understanding of the Word, a more intimate relationship with the Trinity, an updated clarification on who I am in Christ and a subsequently growing desire to live in a way that mirrors Jesus and impacts others who observe my words and actions.

Thanks for surviving the length of this article but I hope it stimulated some personal thoughts on how you view spiritual growth.  Feel free to contact with me with any questions or concerns.

LeadershipDude

How We Often Picture WORK

Study The Bible With Your Spouse

Study The Bible With Your Wife

[I often find many relationship books and articles stereotyping the roles of husbands and wives.  You know, men are all cavemen who don’t enjoy deep conversation and women are all sensitive and emotional beings who need to be told what to do while they go about barefoot and pregnant.  As someone who built an entire career in personalizing people solutions, I can attest that many people fall outside of those stereotypical “roles”.  This article is not just for men.  It is for both men and women.  It is simply a perspective on the joint nature of marriage.  Some marriages defy the traditional roles of marriage so feel free to view this article through the lens of how the two of you can grow together and still respect each other’s individual strengths.]

The biblical book of Genesis begins with the creation story and without skipping a beat begins to extol the virtues of man having a companion called woman, a similar-yet different-partner who would somehow complete man’s incompleteness. God could have foreseen man being content with his supernatural creator as his only companion but instead deemed it as beneficial to provide us men with someone to abate our loneliness.

As ballyhooed as friendship and love has been through the ages, the agency of marriage has often gotten a bad rap. Pop songs have no problem describing immature, physically driven attraction.  That kind of “love” requires very little work at all. As a matter of fact, people seem to fall into it all the time without even trying.

Unfortunately, the younger generations are often ill equipped to handle committed, battle-ready relationships because the older, sometimes wiser, generations haven’t understood how to adequately train and prepare them for relationship success.  Plus, the older generations will often say they had to do a lot of the wrong things first in order to learn how to do the right things later on.  I get that.  But I don’t prefer that since I already waited later in life to get married.  I’m a big fan of being as pre-equipped for the journey as possible.

The sages have long spoken of the truth behind biblical, covenant-driven and ultimately successful marriages: It takes work! And we all know how the young generations love the idea of hard work.

 

prisonersWorking

 

Now, the word, “work”, probably means many different things to different people but let me unpack some personal beliefs about what I think that word conveys within the context of marriage. For many, work carries a negative connotation. I want to steer away from that application and focus on the relational “effort” required to build, strengthen and sustain an enduring relationship.

 

labor of love

 

Relational “work” implies continual sacrifice, unmerited good will, unconditional love, unceasing physical affection and outright full-service gas (love) stations being offered toward your relational partner. (I often preach this to my pre-marital coaching clients so that practice of these principles can begin BEFORE marriage so I won’t limit this just to spousal arrangements.) It’s fairly evident to see that these above descriptions imply a sort of “steady stream” or continual outsourcing of your efforts.

Some of you that might be struggling with anger, frustration or mistrust in your marriage might construe the idea of marital harmony and cooperation as far-fetched and maybe impossible–and trust me when i say this is something that many couples face so don’t allow guilt or shame to push you away from God.

Regardless, I’ve got one thing to say to you…Kool Moe Dee!

Back in the early 90’s, he wrote a song called, “I go to work!”  The gist of the corny video is that he not only loves being a cool, unbeatable spy agent but he’s dang good at it.

My hope is that through focused time in the scriptures with our spouse AND the Spirit who guides us into all truth (John 16:13), our marriages will become full of iron clad love for each other and truly able to stand the test of time and hardship.  (In other words, we love being married and we’re dang good at it!)

As new creations in Christ who have not only been made in the image of God but who have been made more than conquerors (Romans 8:37), it would be prudent for us to truly look in the mirror with a different set of eyes.  The more we look upon Jesus the more we are able to resemble and bear his image (Further below I will mention a few words about the way we interact with God and how it impacts our relationship with each other.)  We become transformed as believers the more often we behold and fixate on the One who transforms–Hebrews 12:1-2, Colossians 3:1-2.

I want you to consider that because you have the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16), you also have the Spirit of God empowering you to achieve anything…especially things that scripture reinforces!

Speaking of scriptures, we have a ton at the end of this post to help you refocus and meditate on.  Really put your hearts and soul into the reading of these scriptures and I promise that over the next few weeks of applying yourself to them, your heart, mind and soul will begin to receive an injection of spiritual strength that can really transform the strength of your relationship.

If you’re somewhat familiar with the marriage scriptures, then you’re probably thinking it doesn’t take a genius to figure this out. However, there’s a necessary undercurrent that often gets overlooked in the process and it directly involves God.

Transparency makes change SOOO much easier

Transparency makes change SOOO much easier

Transparency and Intimacy With God

First of all, our ability to nurture our relational awareness to God usually plays a huge role in how we think, act and speak toward others. In other words, our transparency and honesty towards God in terms of how we are living as Christ-centered individuals enables us to produce good fruit.

Like David in Psalm 139, we should (continually) ask God to search us and reveal in us anything that does not produce the fruit of righteousness. When this occurs, we are actively seeking first the Kingdom and allowing light (Jesus is the Light of the World) to penetrate our world where darkness (hidden or unrecognized sin) might otherwise lead us to mistreat others.

Second of all, the extent to which we engage (not just observe or recognize) or actively participate in our relationship with God through some of the following spiritual disciplines: (not an exhaustive list by any stretch)

  1. Prayer
  2. Worship
  3. Quiet time
  4. Bible Verse meditation

is the extent through which those actions will overflow into our human ability to “love others as we love ourself”.  So, the “other” person here is our best friend and co-heir with Christ–>our spouse!

Remember, our job is to go to work and these disciplines require our attention and efforts…we just have to remind ourselves that this is a labor of LOVE not duty. (1 Thessalonians 1:3)

Marital footholds

So what happens if there’s some undesirable stuff like resentment, unforgiveness or selfishness affecting my relationship?

Sometimes restricting the flow isn't a good thing.

Sometimes restricting the flow isn’t a good thing.

The key is understanding and detecting what kind of metaphorical “love dam”, obstacle or impediment might be hindering the relationship.  Psychologists and counselors often help marriages identify which “tools” (like using absolutes or deflecting blame) are sabotaging the health and longevity of our relationship and which tools will fortify our relationship.  For instance, Dr. John Gottman often illustrates typical dialogue between a couple in his marriage strengthening books.  He delineates which comments are critical, defensive, condescending, etc.

The fact that our spouse thinks and acts differently than we do should come as no surprise. However, what often comes as a shock to married people is our own (negative) reaction to these differences.  Remember, God said that it was “good” for a man not to be alone.  There’s something powerful hidden in our differences but that power can yield negative consequences if we don’t allow transparent reflection of our words and actions.

If you’ve experienced some of those negative consequences than you know how deep of an impact it can have if left unchecked, ignored or avoided.  Our tolerance level can wane over the course of time if we perceive certain offenses have been intentionally directed our way by our spouse. We may faintly remember our wedding day vows but our continual focus on emotional offenses causes us to develop relational defense mechanisms that ultimately create division in our bond rather than reinforcing that bond.  Check out what Paul says in Ephesians 4 (NLT):

21Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, 22throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.

25So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body. 26And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27for anger gives a foothold to the devil.

Once again we see the importance not only of BEING TRANSPARENT with others (giving or expressing honest feelings) through complete honesty but also letting others be transparent with us in return (receiving honesty) by not handicapping or restricting someone else’s “speaking the truth in love”.  Ouch!  I don’t know many people who enjoy receiving criticism because we tend to see it through insecure eyes and the last thing we want anyone to know is that we’re not perfect.  However, it is ESSENTIAL for marriages to encourage honest dialogue.  Remember, the more we practice honesty with God, the easier it should become to be honest with our spouse WITHOUT taking offense.  I’m reminded of Jesus’ followers reply to Him, “THIS IS A HARD TEACHING, WHO CAN ACCEPT IT.”  (john 6:60…nonetheless, it’s a crucial foundation to a love that withstands the test of time.)

The emphasis on our identity in Christ will eventually reduce our insecurities, increase our self esteem and additionally lead towards maturity in our spiritual walk.

Let’s Get In The Word

After a recent prayer retreat weekend with a bro, I decided it was time to put more emphasis on how I could serve my wife better.  Some of the following verses address the very areas I needed to consider.  So, while I’m sharing my H.I.P. (husband improvement program) for the next few months I thought I would write a few thoughts down in hopes they might spark a few ideas for your relationship.

Below, you’ll see some bible verses about marriage along with a little of my commentary.  Allow these powerful spirit-inspired words (Bible’s words, not mine) to do the heavy lifting while I sit back and enjoy my hot tea with heavy cream.

Finally, “A couple who prays together, stays together” is a quote I have heard all my life. I believe a couple who studies the word together readily positions themselves to humbly receive God’s correction, minimizes the devastation of life’s trials and hardships and fortifies a love that blesses that family for generations to come!

Genesis 2:22-25

22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” 24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

Here is the introduction of God’s version of math:  1+1=1 (not two).  It’s important to maintain our identities within marriage and resist the urge to control our mate into becoming like us.  But in terms of becoming one we have to truly learn to mutually submit to one another.  That is some challenging stuff.  I looked in the attic and I couldn’t seem to find the roadmap to marital unification protocols.  If anyone else locates a copy, I’d like to see it.  I can see why Einstein chose to focus on the theory of Relativity instead.

Esther 2:16-18

16 And when Esther was taken to King Ahasuerus, into his royal palace, in the tenth month, which is the month of Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign, 17 the king loved Esther more than all the women, and she won grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti. 18 Then the king gave a great feast for all his officials and servants; it was Esther’s feast. He also granted a remission of taxes to the provinces and gave gifts with royal generosity.

 Esther spent many months “preparing” for her eventual betrothal to the King.  When we enter in to a spiritual covenant with God through Jesus, the Holy Spirit is given to us to aid in our “preparation” as the bride of Christ.  However, we as Christians can sometimes forget that we’re “re-presenting” ourselves as a bride to the groom (Jesus).  This is why it’s important for us to learn how to engage with the Holy Spirit.  In some ways, He is like our makeover artist or personal trainer.  He’s got all the expertise in leading us towards total transformation into holy and righteous saints.

Take a little journey into the first few chapters of Esther to focus on how the women were entering into a time of preparation for the marriage covenant.  In what ways can you see the Lord preparing you?  Do you see yourself in the king’s previous wife who exhibited 

Proverbs 5:18-19

18 Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth,   19 a lovely deer, a graceful doe.   Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;   be intoxicated always in her love.  

 I mentioned before that continuous physical affection was a blessing and a gift.  When we can learn to serve, protect and sacrifice for our lover, the desire for our mate multiplies!  It takes work!

Proverbs 12:1-4

1 Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.   2 A good man obtains favor from the Lord, but a man of evil devices he condemns.   3 No one is established by wickedness, but the root of the righteous will never be moved.  4 An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones.  

We are not SAVED by our works.  End of story.  However, our response to Jesus to die daily (1 Cor 15:31) sounds pretty painful both physically and emotionally.  This displays humility as well as a thankful and “willing to follow” mindset.  We shouldn’t resist or shy away from the Holy Spirit’s prodding that we might be acting in a way that grieves Him.  Likewise, in marriage we should acknowledge difficult conversations with our spouse rather than avoidance or stonewalling.  Stupid is very strong language here and it’s probably not something that should describe what people see in us in terms of our stubbornness or pride.  Husbands can be very thick-headed at times.  (i’m holding my hand up as we speak.)

God often uses our wives to help us gain perspective when we let stress and insecurity lead us into a bad decision.  My wife is definitely a crown! 

Proverbs 20:6-7

6 Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love, but a faithful man who can find?   7 The righteous who walks in his integrity–blessed are his children after him!  

Husbands! It is our duty and destiny to lead our families into the place of favor with God (eph 5) but not with a ruling fist.  Paradoxically, by serving (washing our spouse’s feet) we can lead our families.  Very difficult to accomplish if we are perceiving disrespect from family, coworkers, or your spouse.  So strengthen yourself in your prayer closet and strengthen your “inner man”(ephesians 3:16) by digesting the Word. 

Proverbs 31:10-12

10   An excellent wife who can find?  She is far more precious than jewels.   11 The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.   12 She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.

 Pretty self explanatory.  Husbands admire very different things when we choose a soulmate.  I’ve always been enamored of strong, leadership-driven women.  Together we hope to pass our love for leadership down to our children.

It is important for us husbands to communicate our trust.  Sometimes our actions can indicate otherwise and cause a seed of insecurity.  Try telling your wife, “I trust you”, as often as you say, “I love you”. 

Hosea 2:9-10

19 And I will betroth you to me forever.   I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. 20 I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord .

 This verse displays God’s view of covenant.  Not only does He pledge to be upright and trustworthy (righteousness) but He pledges to be fair and dedicated to what is right (justice).  In addition He endeavors to offer a love that never changes in intensity as well as being quick to forgive.  God really knows how to “go to work” in love.

God then promises to remain faithful throughout the full term of the relationship.  To know that someone would “Define The Relationship” with those kinds of rules makes a person feel pretty secure, doesn’t it?!  Amazingly, He chooses to act that way with or without our willingness to return the favor.  (the book of Hosea is a testament to the pain God feels because He’s committed to us while we in return have rejected Him.)

Matthew 19:4-8

4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” 7 They said to him,   “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” 8 He said to them,   “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.

 Straight from the man himself.  Jesus demonstrated in John 17 how much He has enjoyed the deepest of intimacies with God and the Holy Spirit.  Their united devotion to one another even in their separate distinctions was something Jesus prayed we would get to experience.  Jesus seems to be on this H.M.M. (heavenly math method) wavelength also.  Note:  Jesus, in john 17, is praying for the church and not for the institution of marriage.  Yet I think we can gather that these verses are pointing to the same strength of devotion towards one another.

Jesus is hinting at something under the exterior of his statement.  The intensity of the vows we try to make in our wedding ceremony  should never waver…but unfortunately they do.  Jesus understands this concept and died demonstrating this.  Can you picture Him saying, “Forgive them Father, for they don’t know what the heck they’re doing in ending the life of the One who brings Eternal life.”

How can we build a fortress around our marriage that leads to a greater awareness of that heavenly unity?  Pray…Read scripture…Serve…Raise children…GROW…T-O-G-E-T-H-E-R.

1 Corinthians 7:2-6, 10-16 (MSG version)

2-6 …It’s good for a man to have a wife, and for a woman to have a husband. Sexual drives are strong, but marriage is strong enough to contain them and provide for a balanced and fulfilling sexual life in a world of sexual disorder. The marriage bed must be a place of mutuality—the husband seeking to satisfy his wife, the wife seeking to satisfy her husband. Marriage is not a place to “stand up for your rights.” Marriage is a decision to serve the other, whether in bed or out. Abstaining from sex is permissible for a period of time if you both agree to it, and if it’s for the purposes of prayer and fasting—but only for such times. Then come back together again. Satan has an ingenious way of tempting us when we least expect it. I’m not, understand, commanding these periods of abstinence—only providing my best counsel if you should choose them.

Every married person has experienced a desire to initiate physical intimacy with their mate only to find out their mate is not “in the mood”.  It can be disappointing but usually we understand that it’s just a temporary state…except when it’s NOT temporary but a common response.  God created sex not only for the purpose of procreation but also as a powerful amnesiac.  In other words, when we are experiencing a disconnect verbally or emotionally, “mutually beneficial sex”–when both partners serve each other rather than a one-sided encounter–overcomes that barrier and reminds us that we are still connected physically.   (some types of connections include social, emotional, physical, mental, psychological, conversational, etc)

There’s always a way for us to lean on one another in our various connections but not coincidentally when one connection suffers it often impacts the other connections significantly.  That’s why so many preachers like Ed Young Jr. suggest that sometimes our physical connection through sex can help re-engage couples who have become disengaged from each other.  This is where the enemy works tirelessly for the destruction of YOUR marriage.  Spouses, ask the Lord together to re-ignite the passion of your sex life.

10-11 And if you are married, stay married. This is the Master’s command, not mine. If a wife should leave her husband, she must either remain single or else come back and make things right with him. And a husband has no right to get rid of his wife.

You might have been a quitter previous to your life as a married husband or wife but the transformed believer should WORK HARD to avoid quitting or developing a horribly negative attitude en route to quitting.  I’ve worked with an unfortunately large group of individuals who have experienced spousal abuse and affairs.  Most of those things don’t just show up and knock randomly on your door one day.  If we don’t find ways to pre-emptively prepare our marriage for attack from invaders, we will all become susceptible to marital dysfunction.  Just as Proverbs 4:23 counsels us to guard our hearts, I say we should attempt to guard the integrity and healthy of our marriage.

12-14 For the rest of you who are in mixed marriages—Christian married to non-Christian—we have no explicit command from the Master. So this is what you must do. If you are a man with a wife who is not a believer but who still wants to live with you, hold on to her. If you are a woman with a husband who is not a believer but he wants to live with you, hold on to him. The unbelieving husband shares to an extent in the holiness of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is likewise touched by the holiness of her husband. Otherwise, your children would be left out; as it is, they also are included in the spiritual purposes of God.

I’m gonna tell  you that’s a sticky exhortation there.  As much as well meaning friends would tell us to avoid “missionary dating” so you don’t get stuck in a bad marriage, Paul would agree because of being “yoked with unbelievers.”  But if you’ve already made the pledge in marriage to someone who doesn’t believe then SHOW them what REAL (God-ordained, Spirit-led, Christ-centered) LOVE looks like and pray like crazy that the Holy Spirit will soften their hearts toward Christ.  

15-16 On the other hand, if the unbelieving spouse walks out, you’ve got to let him or her go. You don’t have to hold on desperately. God has called us to make the best of it, as peacefully as we can. You never know, wife: The way you handle this might bring your husband not only back to you but to God. You never know, husband: The way you handle this might bring your wife not only back to you but to God.

Not much to add to that.  

Ephesians 5:21-33

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

These verses have been used and abused by so many well meaning Christians.  Controlling your spouse wasn’t the spirit behind Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus.  Free will is a valued commodity that God has extended to us, His creation.  I think we should afford that same opportunity to others when we approach scripture.  

So the model for the husband taking the spiritual lead is an easy one.  It may happen differently if the wife is a believer and her husband isn’t.  I shared these statistics at a large men’s retreat I spoke to a few years ago:  

  • 7% of saved children will help lead both of their parents to faith in Jesus Christ.
  • 23% of saved wives and mothers will help lead their husbands and children to faith in Jesus Christ.
  • 94% of saved husbands and fathers will help lead their entire family to faith in Jesus Christ.

You should have seen the looks on their faces.  If that doesn’t grab a father’s heart and scream, “Hey buddy, your family is depending on you to step up and lead!”, I don’t know what does.  So, when it comes to the way we lead our families, we have to take the lead in spending quality time in prayer, bible reading and even confession as James 5:16 states:  Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed.  

My wife and I have been reading through James together and that verse was something I told her we should practice a bit more.  I truly believe the key that opens the door to revival is REPENTANCE!  When a people hunger for God and realize that the only thing standing in the way is their self-reliant nature, they drop everything and invite Him to take over the leadership role.  And since James also says that God draws near to those who draw near to Him then the secret is out.  GET NEAR TO GOD…AND RIGHT NOW!

Now, if you’re wondering when I’m gonna tell those women to start slaving in the kitchen then you’re gonna be disappointed.  In my opinion, the way we lead as husbands is just like Christ would lead the church–Die for it!  That is the penultimate form of service and honor for your wife.  Don’t walk around waiting for her to serve you.  Look for ways to serve her over and over.

Let’s peek at the next set of verses, though.  There’s a juicy nugget in there that my buddies in Kansas City, Doug & Kimberly Conder, shared with me.

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

Two things here:  1) Most of you have heard of the 5 Love Languages that describes 5 ways that people generally prefer to experience “love”.  Well, even if gifts of service is not your wife’s favorite love language, I suggest you resolve to OUTSERVE her to the best of your ability.  See if that doesn’t draw her spirit up to a new level of fire and passion for both Jesus and her crazy new husband.

2) My friend Doug takes washing her with the Word literally and reads the Word over his wife every night.  Not only does this create a peaceful entry into sleepland for Kimberly but it comforts both her soul and spirit in her inner woman.  I had never heard that before but it’s one of my goals to put it into practice.

28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Today in my personal training school my students were sharing their adventures in a book called, Leadership and Self Deception.  We started talking about how some students just live by the Golden Rule.  The issue with the Golden Rule (do unto others as you would have them do unto you) is that not everyone “loves him or herself”.  In other words, people who begin traversing the path towards self betrayal (knowing the right thing to do and instead choosing something wrong) will eventually begin to loathe their inability to act accordingly.  When this happens, they’ll eventually start treating the loved ones around them like dirt because they’ve lost self respect.

Likewise, if a husband or wife doesn’t have a strong, healthy view of self (poor self esteem or broken identity) then they will tend to have less difficulty in treating others poorly.  Check out a previous article I wrote about identity.  When we have a healthy self image as a believer we tend to find it more difficult to treat others poorly.  Now, arrogance and pride are a different kind of “strong self image” because they’re both rooted in insecurity.  Pride and arrogance are excessive attempts to demonstrate to the world how capable and worthy we are as individuals.

Christ, on the other hand did not lack for a healthy self image.  Everything He did was for love…first for His Father, second for (all of) us.  Therefore, we look to emulate that completely focused intestinal fortitude and love our spouse with the same ferocious unconditional love that would cause Jesus to stare through pain and punishment at the joy of our return to God (Hebrews 12:2) as well as the destruction of the works of the devil (1 John 3:8).  What wouldn’t jesus have done for us?

Colossians 3:14-21

Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.  15-17 Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing.

Relationships have a way of bringing our selfishness to the surface.  Two of selfishness’ best friends are anger and frustration.  Left unchecked that little group of emotions can wreak havoc in your heart and mind and even body.  That’s where the emotional swings toss you around like a rag doll.  You recognize what’s happening but for some reason struggle to restrain it.  This is why these scriptures are right on point.  The book of Joshua starts off by telling God’s people to meditate on scripture day and night so that you will experience success and a prosperous way.

Practically speaking, these scriptures make it easy to form a plan.  Love relentlessly.  Imbibe and drink deeply of the peace of Christ…something that comes natural for the Holy Spirit to produce in us if we’ll only allow Him.  

Our family is a worship-lovin’ family.  My wife and I sing on the praise teams as well as in the shower.  Ok, maybe she’s too sleepy in the morning to sing in the shower but you get the idea.  The idea of being in tune resonates deeply with us.  She reads music.  I hear harmonies.  Any dissonance can turn a beautiful song into a chalkboard scratching moment.  

Musicians work hard to assemble music into a collaboration of instruments and notes that produce unity.  Relational harmony can be achieved by, again, out-serving one another in marriage.  Make a competition out of doing things for each other.   Just make sure to sit back and enjoy your efforts with a bit of thankfulness toward each other.  We don’t want to make an idol out of doing things for someone just to get their approval or recognition.

And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.

Be vigilant in acknowledging the kind and thoughtful ways your spouse supports you.  Together find ways to brag on how the Lord has done mighty things in your life on a daily basis.  Tell your kids how appreciative you are of God’s constant provision and favor.

18 Wives, understand and support your husbands by submitting to them in ways that honor the Master. 19 Husbands, go all out in love for your wives. Don’t take advantage of them.

I’ve talked with many female friends and clients who didn’t grow up with a strong understanding of how much respect means to a man.  So, unintentionally, they would end up in avoidable conflicts because they were challenging a particular guy.  Women don’t crave respect and admiration to the same degree that men do so they don’t tend to be as keenly aware when they have injured a man’s pride in, let’s say for instance, solving a problem.  Proverbs even speaks to the ills of living with a contentious woman.  For instance:  

Proverbs 19:13b “a wife’s quarreling is like the continual dripping of rain.”

Proverbs 25:24 “it is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house with a quarrelsome wife.”

Proverbs 21:19 “it is better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman”

When a man struggles with his identity amongst his peers, it can throw his whole world into a frenzy (can you say mid-life crisis?).  A wife who continually argues or frets (a continual inability to feel safe or at peace in chaotic moments which causes excessive worry) can imply to her husband that his strength is inadequate.  Nothing he says or does can change how she feels.  This can lead to withdrawal of responsiveness to the wife’s needs or avoidance to issues that need to be dealt with.  Men don’t know how to respond to unfixable situations and this cripples the very strength that God intended him to use for family leadership and service.

Likewise, many a man has never fully understood the impact that cherishing and loving a woman makes her feel.  Providing security in various ways is an important male virtue that helps a woman to feel safe.  Reinforcing your wife with verses that fortify her identity as a daughter of the Most High is a powerful relationship strengthener.  This is why I believe a majority of the commands of scripture call a husband to love his wife rather than other verbs that convey different outcomes.  (can you imagine a verse that says, “Husbands chat with your wives more” or “Husbands attend numerous sporting events with your wives to make them feel cherished”?)

20 Children, do what your parents tell you. This delights the Master to no end. 21 Parents, don’t come down too hard on your children or you’ll crush their spirits.

 or The repercussions of building each other up in love is that your kids will experience the fruit of love rather than the fruit of frustration, anger and resentment.  I think that is a major reason why parents lose their cool with the kids.  We as parents HAVE to find a way to produce parenting guidance from our OVERFLOW.  Ministers know that if they don’t pastor or preach out of their overflow, they will soon encounter burnout.  Just like the body needs a break from hard workouts as well as tons of nutrients and rest, our responsibility to raise children needs ample patience and love coming from a burgeoning lovefest between spouses. 

Hebrews 13:4

Honor marriage, and guard the sacredness of sexual intimacy between wife and husband.

 Here’s what C.S. Lewis said:

“The monstrosity of sexual intercourse outside marriage is that those who indulge in it are trying to isolate one kind of union (the sexual) from all the other kinds of union which were intended to go along with it and make up the total union.”  ~ C.S. Lewis

 

 

 

Nobody walks toward freedom anymore...who's got time for that?!!

Exercise Exodus

Nobody walks toward freedom anymore...who's got time for that?!!

Nobody walks toward freedom anymore…who’s got time for that?!!

Houston, We Have A Problem

Over the last quarter century, I have dedicated my vocational pursuits to leading people from a place of physical (and spiritual) “imprisonment” toward a place of liberation, fulfillment and accomplishment.  Much like the ancient story of the Israelites who were stuck in Egyptian captivity for over 400 years, a great number of the people I have designed health solutions for had serious physical limitations and concerns which led them to feel like prisoners, both physically and emotionally.  I don’t pretend to be Moses–although being considered both a “friend of God” and spending 40 days in intimate communion with God up on a mountain would be a monumental experience–but I do feel like my commitment to Kingdom leadership affords me the ability to help others achieve meaningful breakthroughs and that is something everyone can achieve.

I have entitled this blog post, “Exercise Exodus”, to parallel the seemingly great idea of escaping a bad situation in order to achieve a much better situation.  Unfortunately, once people begin the journey, they often encounter obstacles such as sore muscles, junk food withdrawals, time restraints and general discouragement that leads to giving up prematurely as well as regret their decision to try to change their situation.  We’ll try to circle around to the spiritual implications later on.

Let’s discuss my approach to crossing the Red Sea, so to speak.  It’s never been a formula…rather, it’s simply been an identification of where a person currently stands and where they would like to end up–with a little bit of influence from me, of course.  My coaching seeks to allow the client to be proactively involved in the direction we are heading.  It’s important to empower people so they have ownership of the hard work and don’t look at me like I’m the one making all the decisions.  I have always been a big fan of discipleship.  Personal training is exactly that:  Pouring our strengths into others so that they might go and do likewise towards others they interact with.

In the world of health practitioners, a person who has a particular question or problem seeks out some expert opinions and this starts a journey towards deliverance.  The next step happens by scheduling a visit or appointment with an expert such as a doctor, dentist, dietitian, therapist, counselor or fitness, um, expert (fresh off of an online certification or maybe an experienced veteran in the health & fitness field…either way, the unfortunate consumer has NO way of really knowing what kind of “expert” advice they’re going to receive.).

The expert should ALWAYS begin the interaction by developing Trust with a capital “T”.  {One of the first points of emphasis in our fitness school is to describe this process.  Any personal trainer that does NOT begin with a fitness assessment is metaphorically driving in a foreign city with no GPS or map leading to the destination.} Few relationships can survive turbulent waters without it.  Once the expert initiates the interview of possible questions and/or issues, the next step entails an assessment that serves to shed some light on the situation.

This could be a blood test to determine possible infections.  It could be a dietary food log for 3 days to locate nutritional deficiencies.  It could be a personality test to aid the helping agent gather personal predispositions and preferences.  Or even a free legal assessment to ascertain a potential lawsuit.  Specifically, we as fitness experts begin with some type of questionnaire paired with an actual fitness assessment if the individual presents with no health obstacles (such as a Par-Q).

Using our knowledge of the potential issues, we formulate a strategy to rectify or at least deter the current state of that person’s health “grade”.  At this point, we pack up our belongings and begin the exodus from the (physical, spiritual, emotional) state of inferior location and head towards what we (client/patient + expert/consultant) together agree to be the new destination flowing with milk and honey.

The Journey Begins

So once the journey has been initiated, it’s pertinent to the success of the trip that we clearly delineate the vision for the process ahead.  Proverbs 29:18 states, “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint…”.  If my evaluation of an issue in a person’s physical lifestyle requires a solution, my exercise programming HAS to reflect that we’re addressing it.  Otherwise, I’m engaging in incompetent exercise prescription.

Let’s simplify our process:

  1. step 1 starts with an assessment of current health

  2. step 2 addresses the results of the assessment

  3. step 3 designs a strategy intended to improve a subsequent physical scoring for future re-assessment

  4. step 4 means it’s time to go to work and begin to sweat

  5. step 5 intends to re-assess after a period of 3-6 weeks depending on the nature of the individual’s goals

 

Now, exercise programming has been frequently driven by the Acronym, FITT(“E” sometimes gets added because enjoyment should be involved to increase adherence to the program).  This stands for frequency, intensity, time and type (of exercise).  There are also recommendations for beginners to slowly integrate them into the habit of consistent exercise.

During the initial assessment we would have also discussed the prioritized goals of the individual in addition to the suggestions needed based on the results of the testing.  A person might wanna build huge calf muscles but if they need to lose 65 lbs then I would probably suggest a dual focus in order to accomplish both.  Skinny calves are not going to lead to heart disease but that extra 65 lbs of adipose tissue will most definitely evolve into some future health risks.

You Can Take The Kid Out Of The Country…

…but you can’t take the country out of the kid.  Well, Most people who have had grandiose visions of making huge changes have experienced major roadblocks and simply quit trying.  With great leadership and encouragement, we tend to stick to our plan and overcome these obstacles.  However, in the absence of accountability and guidance from others, we can grow weary and even pessimistic that we can ever achieve our goals.

The Israelites began to grumble and complain against their leader and ended up wandering around in the desert because they were still seeing themselves as Egyptian prisoners rather than Canaan vacationers.  Forget that they were slaves treated like second class citizens (what’s so wrong with that?!).  At least they could count on some good old fashioned meat for dinner.  Low calorie diets sometimes feel like eating manna all day.

So, a major key to successfully maintaining a physical improvement strategy is to surround yourself with focused, committed and caring individuals who are intent on attaining the goal(s) ahead.  If you’re going to change the way you see yourself, you need positive reinforcement to make it stick.

 

Leadership starts in the mirror!  What do you see in your mirror?

Leadership starts in the mirror! What do you see in your mirror?

At some point in time, the stuff in this trash bag may have been tasty or brand new.  Once it had been used or no longer needed, it was thrown into a bag with other like-minded community members.  It would have been easy to remember the good ol’ days when that steak was marinating.  However, the current condition of the contents of this trash bag would indicate a rather dismal future.

This happens to humans all the time and sadly it happens to many children who never shake free from this debilitating mindset:  I’m worthless and will never amount to anything substantial.

Exercise Exodus

This is one of the reasons why I think personal training certifications are so short-sighted.  A typical 15-20 hour weekend of learning information (most fitness certs are received like this) can never compete with a program that provides both information AND hands-on practical experience.  A majority of people are visual and kinesthetic learners.

If we want our clients to be more successful at achieving their goals, we need to more diligent in teaching them how to incorporate these new principles of health and fitness as well as reminding them how capable they are of achieving any results they put their heart and mind into.  That’s the problem.  Trainers and other health leaders are usually not very good at giving techniques to their clients to increase adherence.

Susan Fowler, in her excellent book Why Motivation People Doesn’t Work…, describes the mistakes that people make by allowing external influences to be the primary method for motivation.  Her contention is that we (as any kind of leader) need to move people towards an INTERNAL motivation strategy rather than simply dangle carrots (external) in front of them for motivation.  Autonomy, relatedness and competence are the primary tools she espouses to move people towards a more internal-driven motivation paradigm.

The real issues of motivation lie inside the people you are working with (clients or coworkers).  We as leaders have the opportunity of getting to know people and, more importantly, helping people know themselves so they can tap into their “optimal motivational outlook.”

When leaders are given a task to complete they are often so focused on achieving the task that they forget to invest time in getting on the same page with the people who will help them achieve that task.  In the trainer’s case we are referring to the client.  I could only imagine what it was like to move a large mass of people across the desert into a foreign land.

Moses’ predicament was that most of the grumblers and complainers were moving their entire life for external reasons (“hey, everybody else is leaving so let’s go, too”) rather than internal reasons (“hey, this is really going to allow my future generations to experience freedom and prosperity as a people”).

So what next?

If you are looking for practical ideas for achieving your fitness and nutrition goals, you need to develop greater clarity of your goal(s).  Often when people are struggling with getting results, I ask people to describe their approach.  I then ask for an honest assessment of the time and space allocated to implementing that goal.  This is where it starts getting messy.  If we don’t carve a clear path towards our goal, we easily get distracted or overwhelmed by competing interests.

In my early 30’s I was diagnosed with ADHD.  I was prescribed a drug that would help me deal with the symptoms…namely an utter lack of focus and always being scatterbrained.  Exercise was always helpful mentally speaking but if I wasn’t disciplined in my exercise then I would slide towards more unintentional “multitasking”.

Years later I decided another more permanent approach to getting my lack of focus under control:  Meditation.  Not the empyting kind…but the filling kind where the goal was to fill myself with as much thought toward God as I could.  Not surprisingly the results were fabulous and unknowingly helped me grow increasingly sensitive to the still small voice of God.  This is something all believers desire.  A direct pipeline by which we can seek counsel and encouragement from the creator of the universe.

To bring that tidbit closer to home, I realized that achieving success was directly correllated with how well a person focuses on their goal.  Not only that but we also have to develop a support strategy designed to maintain the action items associated with reaching that goal.

For example, I have a goal of losing 12 pounds in the next few months.  The direct goal would be to eat better and workout more in order to expedite the loss of weight.  The support strategy would be to avoid the number of times I go out to eat, tell people what i’m doing so they can cheer me on, and keep a log of my successful days in case i need to make further adjustments as my days go by.  The more mindful I am of what i wish to happen, the more likely i will engage in positive decisions that affect my goal.

Trust me when I say you will feel a tremendous amount of satisfaction and enjoyment by sticking to your plan.  Guilt only accompanies the thoughts of people who lose sight of the goal and make negative decisions which affect their goal.  This is entirely avoidable but we need a plan to minimize the likelihood of it happening.

Thanks for stopping by and reading this article.  Feel free to ask any questions if you desire more insight or simply want to hire Chad for coaching and consulting.

Have a great week!

LeadershipDude

 

 

sunglasses

The Spirit-Led Life

I’ve always believed that a leader should frequently revisit his/her own personal values and beliefs to bolster their ability to “walk the talk”.  Many motivational speakers used to say to write down your goals and post them everywhere as a reminder of what’s most important.  Some people choose a tattoo to serve as a permanent reminder of an important event or person that they want to immortalize.

My wedding ring, in particular, serves a two-fold purpose.  It not only signifies to the whole world my covenant with God and my wife but it also signifies 3 areas that I vow to uphold in everything I do.  Although my ring looks a bit different, the 3 words are identical.  You’ll get the idea here in this image below:

Permanent Leadership Reminder

Permanent Leadership Reminder

My Greatest Influence(s)

God and everything that entails my interaction with Him is the MOST IMPORTANT lens through which I perceive and engage my life.  As a man, secondarily my strength and honor are the things that remind me to live a life of passion, purpose and performance.

So when I encounter a particular situation in life, I try to run it through the personal filter of how a (spirit-led) man of God, full of strength and honor, would approach the solution.  Of course, knowing what to do and actually doing that particular thing is the big challenge we all face.

When I find myself struggling to keep these principles as a primary influence in my decisions, it’s not difficult to pinpoint why.  (personal example below)

Filters

sunglasses

Just as a team or athlete can struggle with performance, we as individuals lose our focus and do things that we’re not proud of or go against our value system.  Spiritually speaking, the apostle Paul would describe this in a few ways.  A person led by the flesh rather than being led by the spirit would have difficulty in overcoming temptations or serving our (brother) fellow man.

Paul said this to the church in Ephesus: (Message version)

15-19 That’s why, when I heard of the solid trust you have in the Master Jesus and your outpouring of love to all the followers of Jesus, I couldn’t stop thanking God for you—every time I prayed, I’d think of you and give thanks. But I do more than thank. I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength!

20-23 All this energy issues from Christ: God raised him from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven, in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and no power exempt from his rule. And not just for the time being, but forever. He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything. At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.

 

In other words, seeing with different eyes…hearing with different ears.  Sensing with different senses.  A spiritual person learns to surpass the talents and abilities of their flesh and utilize a “6th sense” that the Holy Spirit empowers us with.  We simply have to acknowledge it’s been freely given to us and learn to utilize it through training and intentional gratitude of that grace gift–or worship the Giver of the gifts rather than the gifts (charismata) themselves.

In all the years that I have coached physical and personal performance, I have witnessed the difficulty associated with trying to do things without the aid of others.  Especially when that aid comes from somebody wiser, smarter, more experienced and even a master of the thing they’re helping us with.  Sometimes we enlist the aid of experts only to rebuff or ignore their suggestions because it makes us uncomfortable, angry or insecure.

It’s much easier to give up when we lose sight of the original goal.  Hard work, frustration, difficult situations, etc., have a way of distracting us and possibly causing us to give up or at least slow down.  Napoleon Hill in his classic book, Outwitting The Devil, describes an imaginary conversation with the devil where he interviews the devil and asks him how he (the devil) successfully diverts our (humans) attention away from the important things that help make us successful.  

Now when I think of successful, Joshua 1:7-9 immediately comes to mind:  7Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. 8This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. 9Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

Hill describes a few terms like Drifting and Hypnotic Rhythm that become tools to lead us towards mediocrity, apathy and possibly despair and depression.  Interesting read that simply reinforced to me the utter necessity of us (humans) seeking out expert guidance as well as submitting to that leadership when it’s given.  

Ask someone who has never worked out before what they’re going to do on their first day in the gym.  You might get a very confused look unless they happen to have a workout article that they grabbed from a magazine or internet article.  Even then, they’ll struggle to interpret how to mimic the pictures they see into a real life movement.

Ask a single parent or divorcee what it’s like trying to manage a home and/or family by yourself.  Ask a professional team what it’s like trying to play without your team captain because of a season-ending injury.  Ask a corporate team what it’s like to lose staff because of financial layoffs and still be asked to perform the same level of production with nary an increase in pay.

Even introverts who prefer to have more isolated working conditions benefit from both the counsel and assistance of working with others.  Unfortunately, some prefer to do things on their own out of stubbornness or mistrust of others.  I witness this in the gym all the time.  

I’ve even offered to help people who were doing something incorrectly and they said, “Thanks, but no thanks. I know what I’m doing.”  It’s unfortunate that this stubborn attitude often leads to either a wasted workout experience or worse…an unnecessary injury.

My point is that the old saying is true.  “Two heads are better than one.”  And when the other head happens to be God, you can rest assured that some amazing things are going to happen!

So, the filter that believers in Christ are using is a virtual set of glasses that allow us to see things from a godly perspective.  Where my flesh might respond to a bad driver with an angry shout, my spirit would just exercise grace and move on to a more important use of my brain power.  That’s an important filter and we have unlimited access to it.  

Let’s discuss the Spirit-led life.

Under the Leadership of the Holy Spirit

For a Christian believer, we read over a hundred biblical references to a life influenced by the Holy Spirit.  For example:

  • Romans 8:14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
  • John 14:26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
  • Romans 8:9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
  • Proverbs 20:27 The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord, searching all his innermost parts.
  • Isaiah 30:21 And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.
  • Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
  • John 16:13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
  • Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
  • 2 Peter 1:21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
  • Galatians 5:16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

John Piper said over 30 years ago in a sermon on the Holy Spirit:

Galatians 5:25 states concisely what our next step (after salvation and receiving the Holy Spirit in order to walk as a new creation) should be. “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” Paul is in full agreement with Jesus that it is by the work of the Holy Spirit that we have been given new life. “Even when we were dead through trespasses God made us alive together with Christ . . . We are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:5, 10;Colossians 2:13). Just as God once said, “Let there be light,” and there was light, so he “has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). Now Paul, in Galatians 5:25, draws an inference from how our new life in Christ began: if it began by the Spirit, then all our subsequent life ought to be carried out by the Spirit (see Galatians 3:1–5). If it was by the free and sovereign power of the Spirit that our new spiritual life came into being, then the way that new life should be lived is by that same free and sovereign power. “Walk by the Spirit” means do what you do each day by the Spirit; live your life in all its details from waking up in the morning until going to sleep at night by the enabling power of the Spirit. But what does that mean, practically speaking? How do we “walk by the Spirit”?

That’s good stuff right there.  And simple.  The filter by which we experience life can be many things both good and bad.  Resentment and unforgiveness can cause us not to trust people.  Insecurity can prevent us from helping others or acknowledging when others experience success because we envy their good fortune.  Greed can cause us to mistreat others or make objects out of people because we are on a quest to possess more at any cost.  Insecurity can cause us to manipulate and control others because we are unable to seek out what is REALLY best for others.  

Allow me to use a personal example of insecurity from my coaching experiences.  I saw many clients struggle with their teenagers over the years I was training young athletes.  I started reading parenting books so I could better understand what was happening in hopes of avoiding some similar things in my life.

Sadly, I watched many parents lose the respect of their adolescent-turning-adult children and many times these young children grew up only to discard their parent’s religious preference later on as well as choosing a lifestyle that was detrimental to their future (alcohol/drug abuse or promiscuity, for example).  No parent ever wanted that for their children but conversely didn’t know the best way to trust and allow their children to make their own decisions.

Jesus–who was not insecure–showed trust to all of us even in our sinful decisions and always kept the door open to come back (prodigal son).  When they come back, they come back on their own decision and not as a guilty prisoner with no choice.  This is empowering rather than suffocating for our children to experience.

Jesus always looked past the sins of others when He instead saw the potential light in them (Hebrews 12:2).  Sin was the enemy, not the sinner.  As a new parent, I have seen how my own insecurity can occasionally manifest when my young children make mistakes and I freak out rather than lovingly correct them or love them through the mistake (potty training, anyone?!).  Instead of letting them learn on their own, I can feel obligated to force them into better decisions.  Of course, that always undermines the recipient of our correction/punishment and potentially leads to resentment and/or rebellion.

As I mentioned above, when we realize we are getting off track and making flesh-centered decisions, it doesn’t take long to realize that we are not maintaining an intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit, our comforter and guide.  Remember the fruit produced by an ongoing relationship with the Holy Spirit yields love and kindness, rather than angry fits of rage or insecure manipulation.

Anyway, let’s get back to the star of our show.  The Holy Spirit is a totally different kind of filter that only has our best interest in mind.  He also produces long-lasting love, joy, peace, kindness, and self control in us that we don’t personally accomplish.  He accomplishes that in us simultaneously when we are engaging Him, trusting Him and submitting to His leadership.  

When I have personally trusted more of my thought life to Him, I have been utterly amazed at how ridiculously awesome I have felt.  The sense of peace was indescribable.  The love I was a recipient of was tangible and encouraging.  This is just my individual experience but it has truly been one of the most enjoyable and transformational parts of my life.  It’s something that can be experienced over and over but it takes our willingness to partake of it.

So before we confuse the matter with doctrinal rules, let’s stay grounded in the text from above.

What kind of “You” are you giving away?

If you know enough about Jesus to know he claimed to be the Son of God, then you also are probably aware that He lived a life of pushing his flesh to the side in order to allow the Spirit of God to have full dominion in his world.  I would unequivocally state that Jesus gave his all to being spirit-led.

If we claim to be a “Christian” then we also lay claim to being a disciple of Jesus.  This means that anything He would do, we should consider doing.  The spirit (no pun intended) behind his actions would seem radical to many people so it’s important to analyze his actions through the cultural times and circumstances.  When Jesus told the disciples to carry a sword, the people at the local airport metal detector station might have had a problem with that directive.  

Of course, when our fruit resembles something other than a Christ-like virtue, the world gets extremely confused by our actions.  Where the Holy Spirit is wisdom personified, He would most certainly lead us towards righteous thoughts and actions.  When sin or evil manifests itself through us, we are then acting with the full blessing of our flesh which runs counter to the desires of the Spirit.

Look at Romans 8:13-17:

For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs- heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Jesus seemed pretty adamant that our obedience to God’s will for our life through observing the law was the path towards a prosperous life.  Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection then fulfilled the law and grace closed the gap between God and His creation.  Now that the temple veil had been torn in half, the opportunity to meet God face to face via the Holy Spirit as prophesied by Ezekiel in chapter 36:26-27 was fulfilled:

A new heart I will give you and a new spirit I will put within you . . . I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes.

Seems pretty straightforward to me that we truly have a helper now to guide our thoughts and actions.  Unfortunately, many of us have had difficulty in letting go of our previous nature.  We often regress into old thought habits that yield bad results.  Where the old man would act from his flesh and seek selfish gain, the new man was seeing with a new set of eyes and ears.

Let’s look at John 16:7-14:

Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer;11concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

12“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

Having examined these two passages, it becomes increasingly obvious that there really has been a transfer of identities.  Jesus took our old unrighteous, self-consumed identity and traded it for His holy and unblemished one.  Sorry, I can’t help myself.  Look at 2 Corinthians 5:

16From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.b The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19that is, in Christ God was reconcilingcthe world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

It’s quite important through our study of scripture that we realize there’s a new “YOU” on the scene.  One who has been empowered by the Spirit of God to make great decisions.  Decisions that will not only impact your life but also the lives of others.

Bring Your Life Under The Leadership Of The Holy Spirit

So having examined just a few of the scriptures concerning our new life of the spirit, it becomes vital to attempt to bring all of our personal values, responsibilities and ambitions under the leadership of the Holy Spirit.

  •  Bring your marriage under the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
  •  Bring your parenting wisdom and correction under the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
  •  Bring your work ethic under the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
  •  Bring your diet, exercise and overall health strategy under the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
  •  Bring your thought life and goal setting under the leadership of the Holy Spirit.

These are just a small set of possible things for you to start with.  As you identify areas of your life that are not only important to you but also difficult to accomplish, begin to ask the Holy Spirit directly as though He was standing right in front of you–Besides, He actually IS standing right in front, behind and next to you.  The fruit that comes from this will usually produce at least 2 lucid results:

  1. – We will begin to love God with every bit of our person (our thoughts, emotions, & actions).  We’ll think about how He or His kingdom will be affected by our involvement.
  2. – We will increasingly care for and love deeply the very people we come into contact with including our friends, family, coworkers and complete strangers.

So try this simple step.  Simply ask, “Holy Spirit, how can I accomplish this (possibly overwhelming) task today?”

Wait for a few seconds.  Wait for several minutes.  Don’t do it when you’re in a hurry.  Avoid doing it when you have a list of tasks to get done.  Do it when you have some time to really wait for an answer.  The more you do it, the faster you begin to receive an answer.  The difficult part is waiting for our flesh to jump to the rescue.  Our soul (which many people consider to be our mind, will & emotions) tends to volunteer an answer to most of our problems.

However, this goes back to our original problem of doing things by ourself, usually in our own strength.  Again, it’s not wrong.  It’s just that we don’t always get it right and the process would go so much better if we allowed the Holy Spirit to be involved with our decisions rather than going solo all the time.

Allow me to wrap up with a humorous story about waiting for the Holy Spirit.  I was once leading an exercise where people were practicing how to pray for others in small groups of 5 or less.  However, the instructions were for one person to sit in a chair while the other 2-4 people stood around them while waiting for the Spirit’s inspiration to help them pray for that individual.

Now if you’ve ever prayed for people, you know that after repeated attempts it gets easier and easier to pray with your own mental ideas of what a person needs (or should need, according to us).  One older friend in my group (I was about 35 then and he was in his upper 40’s) kept feeling awkward after about 10 seconds of silence and just blurted out his prayer.  After the 3rd time, I got a little perturbed and “nudged” him–ok, maybe i punched his arm–to keep silent a little longer.  I was shooting for 20-60 seconds of tempered silence and had even told my group it was ok to wait as long as needed in order to allow Holy Spirit to give us guidance in prayer.

It was pretty awesome because some of the younger guys were praying things that seemed foreign to them yet they felt urged to pray.  The person being prayed for felt like we were unveiling secrets that only he should have known but since the Lord knows our hearts better than we do, it was no surprise that we were able to pray a more “accurate”, personally-directed kind of prayer that truly touched the person receiving prayer.  This is available to ALL believers!  If you have never experienced it, simply ask the Holy Spirit to guide your thoughts and requests and…wait a little bit for the answer.  🙂

So give this a try if you’re new to this aspect of engaging your spiritual life.  As always, feel free to contact me directly with any questions or comments.

Break-the-Cycle

Breaking Free

 

Break-the-Cycle

Have you ever been stuck in a personal rut that you just couldn’t break free from?  As a personal productivity coach and leadership specialist, I’ve helped thousands of people from all walks of life to replace negative patterns with much more positive and beneficial ones.  It’s not easy but you can do it…with a little bit of help.

Have you ever felt despair or even depression because of the overwhelming situation you were up against?  Even with all the training I’ve acquired, I also struggled through a “dark night of the soul” in my early 30’s and I’ll tell you there were some crucial lessons that I learned that helped me to overcome those destructive patterns.  I have a much more concise version that I’ll share with you today but trust me it is by no means easy.  Especially to make changes when you’re facing extreme difficulties that affect you so deeply that your soul begins to become dry and full of despair.

Ok, before I show you a visual image of this process, allow me to quote a scripture from the book of 2 Timothy:

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

These two scriptures have often been used to describe the importance of allowing the ENTIRE bible to serve as a training guide, a success blueprint, a refining fire and a history of God’s attempt to commune with His creation.  Something overlooked, however, is the importance of the person reading these scriptures and his/her ability to allow:

  • teaching
  • rebuking
  • correcting
  • training for righteousness

…to transform their life.

Breaking Free

So having two young children usually requires you to have a spare container of play-doh around.  They make for very cheap entertainment as long as they’re kept in a soft, moldable state.  But once they’ve hardened, your child is gonna get irritated quickly at their utter inability to be made into a make-believe animal or shape.

Humans are a LOT like that when we disallow our friends and family from giving us constructive criticism, correction and/or advice.  We can be defensive or flat out obstinate for many reasons.  Unfortunately, this is where the pitfall of pride can be our own worst enemy.  We begin to believe that our negative circumstances cannot be changed and there’s very little we can do to improve our situation.  Rather than quickly accept the wise counsel of people around us, we instead choose to do everything our own way.

I’ve been intrigued by the show, Intervention.  Watching people choose to self-destruct and destroy not only their lives but the lives of those closest to them is strangely fascinating.  We all know someone who’s been stuck in bad circumstances.  We’ve probably all been THAT person.  Regardless, I want you to look at the following picture and think of something you’ve struggled to overcome.  Maybe you’re stuck right now.  If so, I want you to consider what things might be keeping you stuck and which things might actually be available to get you unstuck.

Getting Unstuck

Breaking the cycle

In conclusion, the key to getting out of a negative pattern is to leap…erupt…violently turn away from the thing in your life that has such a strong hold on your life. This not only requires you admitting what you struggle with but even letting someone else know and ask them for support. If anger is your struggle then come up with an alternative approach to handling yourself when anger is aroused. Rather than hit something or cuss at someone in your head, head to the gym. Your mind and the neurons that inhabit your grey matter literally have to be retrained to respond in a different way.

money_Inheritance

An Inheritance that truly matters.

Inheritance – what it really is and why it matters.

money_InheritanceMy wife and I attended Dave Ramsey’s EntreLeadership (link) conference at the end of March (’14). It was a one-day event that summarizes what their leadership mastery series in Nashville covers. Dave and his team of 400 people have built a financial empire that seeks to empower people to become both leaders & entrepreneurs, thus the name. Since leadership is at the heart of my work with empowering people, I jumped at the opportunity to attend this conference with my wife. Much of what he said was your typical leadership-speak but there was a very unique twist that Dave and his family have developed and it centers on the idea of creating a legacy. Not only that but the idea of starting a business that can be handed down to your family was a major discussing during the event.

One of Dave’s executive team members, Chris Hogan, started the morning with a brief discussion of one of the more widely used work personality tests, DISC personality assessment. It’s one of many programs out there to help large teams to function more cohesively and efficiently. It was interesting to note that my wife and I are extreme opposites, which speaks volumes to why my wife is superb at handling my weaker areas and vice versa. Although I use the MBTI daily, I hadn’t really had an opportunity to see my wife at work in her leadership roles (DISC is easier to implement and dialogue with individuals unfamiliar with personality testing). Instead I’ve been slowly exposed to them over the years which can make for some fun (and not so fun) “growing” experiencing as a team.

Next, Dave and his middle daughter, who co-wrote their book on this subject, started discussing the focus of becoming a family-oriented entrepreneurship. This was an idea that really began to pique my interest because the idea of passing great leadership skills to our children is and has been very close to my heart. My wife and I read to our daughter before she was born and our son will have had the same experience. We followed Dave’s Financial Peace University tenets and eliminated unneeded debt. It was fantastic and extremely valuable to our family’s future. We look forward to teaching our children how to avoid financial issues as well as instilling a voracious appetite for hard work and achievement…and the fulfillment that goes along with it.

So what is inheritance?

passing our strength to the next generation

passing our strength to the next generation

The bible was my primary written source of education outside of Dr. Seuss, mythology (don’t ask where I became fascinated with Greek, Roman and Norse mythology) and The Chronicles of Narnia during my younger years. There were numerous stories of parents leaving the fruit of their labor to be enjoyed (David), continued (Jacob), or sadly wasted (Esau) by future generations. Growing up the grandson of a full-time preacher and son of college students, I can tell you that I did not start my life financially wealthy.

However, I started with something much better. I had an amazing spiritual and educational legacy that helped me find an important identity as well as have a high self esteem that carried into helping others around me. It can be easy to have a narrow-minded perspective that inheritance speaks of monetary wealth being passed from parent to child. However, the very notion of leadership implies passing your traits (hopefully a lot of strengths and few weaknesses) onto and into those who follow you…familial or not. My career has focused on the broader sense of this idea.

My job for over 2 decades has been to acquire information, wisdom and insight regarding the strengthening of people. I have done that both professionally and voluntarily. As long as dysfunction and apathy plague our world, I will continue to champion ideas and strategies to help the world become a haven for constructive teamwork, unconditional love for our fellow man and an unquenchable desire to manifest the Kingdom of God through our talents and gifts.

Why is Inheritance important?

Dave commented during the conference that he believes the American economic crisis would solve itself if we equipped future generations with the financial concepts he espouses. Rather than borrow money incessantly, our children should focus on (legally) creating their own streams of financial resources through empowerment and education while maintaining a controlled amount of spending to achieve a particular goal. This is why parental support of the educational system is so vital to the future of our kids. Teachers need parents to be involved with supporting and reinforcing the learning strategies they present your kids in class. This means that parents need a strong awareness of how to support the child’s learning structure. 99% of parents want what’s best for their children.

If this is true for you as well, I exhort you to ascribe to some sort of plan to:

1)             Assess the nature of your proposed inheritance

2)             Implement this course of action over a period of years

3)             Review and re-assess the results of your plan annually I have written about this “bookend” approach to achieving results in previous posts.

 

It’s never too late to change your life!

Let’s look at a biblical text from Ezekiel 18: “Now suppose this man fathers a son who sees all the sins that his father has done; he sees, and does not do likewise: he does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor’s wife, does not oppress anyone, exacts no pledge, commits no robbery, but gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, withholds his hand from iniquity, takes no interest or profit, obeys my rules, and walks in my statutes; he shall not die for his father’s iniquity; he shall surely live. As for his father, because he practiced extortion, robbed his brother, and did what is not good among his people, behold, he shall die for his iniquity. “Yet you say, ‘Why should not the son suffer for the iniquity of the father? ’ When the son has done what is just and right, and has been careful to observe all my statutes, he shall surely live. The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. “But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions that he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness that he has done he shall live. Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live.

I LOVE THIS! We don’t have to wallow in our negative circumstances and expect scarcity for our future generations. Repentance is a complete turning away from things we used to engage in. I have watched thousands of people in my career turn away from things that were destructive. It’s one of the greatest privileges I get to experience when someone let’s go of a negative past and assumes their “place at the table” when they reach for higher goals and circumstances. Athletes. Addicts. Bankrupted. Broke. Broken-hearted. There are still 24 letters left to go…but I’m sure you can find yourself somewhere in this list. Everyone is invited to the feast of freedom in Christ. Don’t let despair cause you to give up on your dreams as well as the dreams of your children. Find a supportive community and helpful resources to pinpoint where you can make positive changes.

If we can help you discover those strategies, don’t hesitate to contact us here at LeadershipDude.com.

x-factor

Holy Spirit … the church’s X Factor (pt 2)

Today I want to continue my previous discussion on how many evangelical (and even catholic) churches are embracing the re-evaluation of their doctrine concerning the person of the Holy Spirit.  In previous generations, fear of excess (emotion, disorder and discomfort) prevented many church leaders from even trying to teach and preach about His nature and qualities.  However, as anyone who has ever had a spiritual revival can attest, His presence is truly intoxicating, liberating and the amount of love you encounter and subsequently give away to others is exponential.

That alone is worth the price of admission and well worth the investigation!

New Year’s Eve 2005

So, allow me to step back in time to the year 2005.  Spiritually, I sang on the worship team and was a servant leader in our singles group at church.  Professionally, I was training collegiate and professional athletes.  Socially, I had tons of friends and never had a dull moment with activities every weekend.  Mentally, I was exuberant and always in pursuit of greater knowledge.  Life was exciting…but I still felt like something was missing.  Unable to put my finger on the cause for restlessness, I spoke with my close friend and senior pastor and he handed me a book called, “Surprised By the Power of The Holy Spirit“, by Dr. Jack Deere.  That was a first step towards asking God if there was something I was missing in my theology, then I wanted to be open to receiving more of the X Factor (Holy Spirit for the sake of this blog post).  Dr. Deere contended that any believer who read the entire bible would NEVER end up with the idea that the gifts of the Holy Spirit were only for a short period of time.  That was an eye opener because I had to admit I had never systematically studied for my own purposes whether or not I should be a cessationist or continuationist.

Now, when I say I was missing something, it’s not to say I believed “wrongly”.  It’s more of a statement of incomplete acknowledgment.  Kinda like when I buy something electronic (let’s say a tv) that has a detailed instruction manual.  I can still enjoy it when I turn it on, but if I make a sacrifice of time and effort to investigate thoroughly all the things the device can do, I’ll truly experience greater satisfaction with it.

That is exactly what happened when I read Jack’s book.  Concurrently, a few other leaders in my group were asking the same question and the result transformed our ministry.  If you’re a pastor or leader looking for growth in your body of believers spiritually and/or numerically, please consider reading through this blog article even if it challenges or offends you.

Personally, I began to see the Holy Spirit as my best friend.  I began to practice quiet times that started with 30 minutes and eventually became 2-4 hours a day.  It wasn’t something I willed myself to do.  It was as though He was inviting me to go deeper…into the Word, into Prayer, into the “restricted areas” of my heart, into my areas of pride and even into my longing to find a wife.  In other words, I was allowing God to have full access to me and likewise He was teaching me that I could have full access to Him as long as I was willing to take the time to search “the deeper things of God”.  This journey helped me see certain books like Acts and 1 Corinthians through an entirely new set of spiritual lenses.

The Usual Christian Pursuits

Singles groups can often serve different purposes.  They can be mobilized to do community outreach.  They can serve as a talent pool for new dating partners.  They can provide awesome social events for people to meet others.  They can minister to adults who are in a transient time of life.  They are a very needed ministry campground for adults.

However, in all my years of being involved with various Christian groups, I had never seen people utterly transformed from the inside and out to the extent that I witnessed in the revival that was occurring.  My small group c0-leader was going through the same thing and we had candid discussions about this season with our small group.  The spirit (because of the Spirit moving) of love and passion for Jesus as well as for each other was contagious and started spreading to other groups.  I had always longed to see people develop a mature and fulfilling personal relationship with God but it always seemed like hard work trying to lead people in that direction.  This, however, wasn’t work.  AT ALL!  I would say ministering within and outside the church was becoming easy but I think it had to do with all the joy that the Holy Spirit was producing in and through us.  People with very little confidence in their evangelism skills and gospel-sharing talents were radically discovering what it looked like to preach the Gospel with boldness.  Again, this was not flesh willing itself to be strong Christians.  This was something unique.

I couldn’t describe what was happening but I found a book by Wesley Campbell who described something similar that happened to his church.  People didn’t know how to explain what was happening when revival began to occur in his conservative church in the mid-late 1980’s but he lovingly and voraciously and with great humility addressed his congregation’s fears and surprisingly very few people left the church.

Striving For The Prize

I’ve spent my entire life in the pursuit of “being a better person”.  However, it didn’t really take full bloom until I found myself truly discovering who I was as an individual in college.  Specifically, my senior year in college I had fallen in love with personal training, sports conditioning and nutrition and since that time my education has been a pervasive, life-long quest for information to help others grow in some way.  I remember a company that used to advertise itself as never making a certain product…only making someone else’s products BETTER!  Everything about LeadershipDude is concisely described in this commercial.

[youtube height=”HEIGHT” width=”WIDTH”]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZJHPpsb3FzM[/youtube]

Professionally, I’ve been in the fitness and nutrition industry for almost 25 years.  I’ve trained pro & Olympic athletes.  I’ve worked with cardiac rehab patients who were fresh off the operating table/death bed.  That’s a pretty wide continuum of clients to develop customized programs for but it has helped me become the person I am today.  In other words, I don’t apply cookie cutter formulas to people.  I’ve taken that same mentality and applied it to leadership development, spiritual mentoring, relationship coaching and even parenting guidance.

There is no One-Size-Fits-All approach in the Health Industry

There is no One-Size-Fits-All approach in the Health Industry

There is a systematic approach to evaluating where a person is starting from and then I attempt to evaluate where a destination would occur depending on a person’s particular goals.  This necessitates a partnership with the person i’m coaching.  I’m not a fitness chauffer.  I prefer to let the person I’m coaching have ownership in the results we seek together.  I think God loves that we seek someone to teach us spiritual guidelines but i don’t think He intended for us to let others do all of our religious thinking for us.  (Remember when Moses replied to Joshua, “Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses’ aide since youth, spoke up and said, “Moses, my lord, stop them!”But Moses replied, “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!“? It’s tough doing all the work for people.)

Thanks to the countless experts in other fields who have written, studied, meta-analyzed, criticized, and re-assessed data and shared it in books or on the web, you and I have access to all this information and can make…put your seatbelts on…we can make our own educated decisions rather than simply take the status quo belief as the “right way to think or believe”.

Trust me, every field has major tenets that have to be revised and rescinded because they were founded on shaky assertions.  It’s healthy and it’s even biblical (test the spirits; Bereans studied every day to test what Paul said as truth or not).  Jesus, himself, did this with much of the Jewish law.  He was hated for it.  Nonetheless, it made a huge difference for those who followed Him.

The field of nutrition is dealing with this in the wake of continued research in areas of low carb, high fat diet studies.  The “obvious” healthy approach isn’t so cut and dry and yet fat has been vilified and maligned for decades because of some rather shaky “research”.  Ancel Keys ring a bell?

But let’s get back to the Holy Spirit.

Suggested Reading To Dive Into This Subject

I want to mention a few other books that were crucial to my current theological understanding of both the Holy Spirit and the continuation (Continuationists are the other side of the spectrum from Cessationists) of revelatory gifts still in operation today.  Sola Scriptura and the Revelatory Gifts, by Don Codling, was a thesis presented at Westminster Seminary that looked into how modern day Christians should consider various revelatory gifts often believed to be a part of only the early church.  The other more intensive book is, “On the Cessation of the Charismata:  The Protestant Polemic on Post-biblical Miracles“, by Jon Mark Ruthven.  I point you to these two books as well as Dr. Gordon Fee (God’s Empowering Presence) and D.A. Carson (Showing the Spirit) to present a starting point for your theological journey.

A word of caution:  Your theology can be a major help or a tremendous hindrance to the actual spiritual encounter of the person of the Holy Spirit.  Without spending another article on the difference between Eisegesis and exegesis (read this for some insight), I can tell you that oftentimes our beliefs can handcuff the text we read rather than the text shaping our beliefs.  A good way to start this study is to first ask the Holy Spirit directly to open your spiritual eyes and ears to discern what He would lead you to understand…and make sure you PERMIT him to lead you to consider something that may seem counter to what you believe on the surface.  That doesn’t mean leave yourself open to error…simply be open to “new thoughts, ideas or inspirations”.

Where does a person seeking to ignite a relationship with the Holy Spirit start?

I have noticed that there are some major common denominators present BEFORE people have a spiritual revival:

  • Holy Spirit’s “presence” is manifested in a physical location (glory filled the temple so priests could not even stand; Saul’s soldiers sent to kill David ended up prophesying instead because the power of the Holy Spirit came upon them; in a weird way, I consider Samson’s continued powerful displays of strength to be a union with God that wasn’t taken away even though he wasn’t the perfect saint…at least until his covenant was broken through the cutting of his hair)
  • People going through a pretty exhausting struggle in their life that causes them to (re)consider what, how and why they believe what they currently believe. (Jonah, Moses, Joseph, Job, Peter, Paul…just to name a few spiritual juggernauts).  This was a precursor that softened up my mind to consider something else was stirring in my future.
  • Repentance is on the hearts, minds and lips of the person seeking change or some kind of breakthrough (David:  reveal in me any offensive ways; Daniel crying out and 21 days later having an angelic visitation)
  • People were hungry and crying out for God (The Israelites, much like us today, were asking for forgiveness every few generations after becoming distant to God usually because of allowing other gods to get in the way)
  • People were convicted or edified by someone through a prophetic word or preaching through the power of the Holy Spirit (Jonah: people of Ninevah, Jews at Pentecost, church at Corinth; my own experience here was the impetus for my pursuit of the Holy Spirit).  This is one of the major reasons why this gift is needed today.  Paul said of all the gifts, the church at Corinth should eagerly pursue the gift of prophecy.  Yes, the gift is pursued because the gift is developed by practice and continued intimacy with the Word of God and quiet time with the Holy Spirit…much like the oft-used gifts of teaching and preaching are developed and refined.
  • Worship (in your car, bathroom, living room with the kids, with friends in a small group gathering, dirty men at a campfire, etc) is an easy way to spark His entry into your heart, soul and mind.  (Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise!)

The key from here is to stay and rest awhile.  The thing is…He (Holy Spirit) was given to us to help us live the life Jesus modeled for us.  If Jesus did it, we should try it…with the same power He used.  Jesus didn’t cheat and use his God-powers.  He memorized scripture tirelessly and allowed the Holy Spirit to christen His ministry with power from on high and Jesus made sure to instruct His followers to do the exact same thing.  However, Jesus never forgot to stay and rest awhile.  His quiet time allowed Him to rejuvenate His inner world when the outer world was weary from giving and giving some more.  The Holy Spirit would speak to us in a variety of ways and through all of our senses but we have to train ourselves to listen…listen again…and listen even more.

Our executive pastor at church was giving a sermon on the Lord’s Prayer a few weeks ago and noted that he recognizes the extreme importance of staying in a lifestyle of prayer…but his busyness keeps him from doing it.  How honest and how true for many of us if we’re not careful.  Do you find yourself too busy to spend listening to and for the leading of the Holy Spirit?  If so, you may find it challenging to take your relationship further.  Trust me, I know the struggle.

I’m reminded of a scripture I memorized for a men’s bible study group.  1 Peter 2:11…although allow me to quote some scriptures around it:

9-10 But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.

11-12 Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among (the people around you) so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives.

Colossians 3 also states:

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

Well, that’s exactly what I do when I find it difficult to discern the leading of the Holy Spirit.  I’m allowing the other voices and responsibilities to crowd out my quiet time.  This is where you see your non-spiritual side influencing your mind, will and emotions (soul).  When Christians struggle with anger, lust, addiction, or other strongholds…it’s usually because a provision for the flesh is made to allow those thoughts to remain in the same room with the thoughts that usually turn to Jesus on sundays.  Some call it mixture…like salt water and fresh water.

I’m reminded of Nehemiah who was charged with rebuilding the temple.  He was constantly being asked to stop his mission by Sanballat and Tobiah, enemies of the mission to rebuild the temple.  Later on, the temple had been completed and in chapter 13 we see this:

Now before this, Eliashib the priest, who was appointed over the chambers of the house of our God, and who was related to Tobiah, prepared for Tobiah a large chamber where they had previously put the grain offering, the frankincense, the vessels, and the tithes of grain, wine, and oil, which were given by commandment to the Levites, singers, and gatekeepers, and the contributions for the priests. While this was taking place, I was not in Jerusalem, for in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I went to the king. And after some time I asked leave of the kingand came to Jerusalem, and I then discovered the evil that Eliashib had done for Tobiah, preparing for him a chamber in the courts of the house of God. And I was very angry, and I threw all the household furniture of Tobiah out of the chamber. Then I gave orders, and they cleansed the chambers, and I brought back there the vessels of the house of God, with the grain offering and the frankincense.

Here is the very temple of God housing the enemy where offerings to God used to be kept.  Isn’t this exactly what makes it difficult for us as believers to conquer those deeper struggles and sins?  Wow, that’s a powerful scene.  I can guarantee that the Holy Spirit wants to reclaim that room in your heart that you’ve offered to the enemy.  However, He prefers that you hand him the keys rather than Him bust the doors down.  That’s what makes His love and grace absolutely stunning and unbelievable.  Yet, it’s our inheritance and it’s time we take hold of it as overcomers!

It’s simple…but maybe the hardest thing to do

We started this blog yesterday by describing how we approach most of our life without holding back.  We love our children with reckless abandon and even get rowdy at their youth soccer games.  We get overly angry when someone drives horribly in front of us.  We shout and act crazy at sporting events or with a tv and a beer in hand.  We treat our coworkers with kindness to their face and then look for ways to gossip behind their back.  Come on, we’re human right?

Yet, we show up in our sunday best (sorry, that was last decade before generation Y influenced our casual sunday clothes) and stand properly during worship (because God prefers worshippers to behave calmly) and sit quietly while we hear a sermon that teaches us to understand the bible better and maybe even incorporate that into our weekly lives for the “more committed believers”.  From our vantage point on stage (worship singers), we LOVE to watch you (anyone in the audience) raise your hands, clap, dance, close your eyes, kneel on the floor, sit with head bowed low or even lay prostrate on the ground because it reminds us that you (and others around you) believe God is actually here among us…taking His seat on the Throne!

 

[youtube height=”HEIGHT” width=”WIDTH”]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZctCxAmzDs[/youtube]

People that practice this at home feel much more comfortable trying it in public worship.  That’s why I suggest you try to engage your full senses when you engage the Holy Spirit.  Don’t hold back in private.  Practice that for as long as you like.  And introverts, take note.  I’m not saying everyone has to raise their hands.  What I’m suggesting is that however you invite the Holy Spirit to move in you, do it more and more until even your quietness in corporate worship causes the earth to shake in our assembly.

But look out.  A personal revival may cause you to catch spiritual fire and your hunger for God may radically change the world around you.  (fingers crossed!)

P.S. After rereading this article I couldn’t help but think of one of my favorite speeches from the movie Troy so here you go to finish out your consideration of just how much your actions during worship inspire others…especially those like me who enjoy worshipping with my brothers and sisters in unity.

Thanks for reading, everyone!  Have a great week.

LeadershipDude

x-factor

Holy Spirit…the church’s X factor.

A good friend of mine, Scott Stonehouse, recently preached a sermon on what the bible says about the person of the Holy Spirit.  A subsequent message was focused on the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life.  I’ll include a link to the message here and here is a link to the actual scriptures.  Scott has a natural charisma (pun alert) in his speaking and has a true gift to condense difficult information into a concise and easily understood message.  He has a unique way of making people laugh without breaking his stride.   Towards the end of his message he emphasized the essentiality of understanding the Holy Spirit and challenged everyone to make Him a priority to become acquainted with if that wasn’t already the case.

In the spirit of the message (sorry i’m enjoying these puns), I wanted to further elucidate some thoughts of how pivotal the work of the Holy Spirit is to the life and ministry of the believer.  Remember, you can google or use software to do your own study on these scriptures but i’m going to skip these elementary steps in order to enter a more applicable discussion.  I’ll even use an illustration from my professional career as a strength and conditioning coach but first I want to throw out some thoughts to focus on (by no means exhaustive but you get the idea).

  1. Any discussion of the Holy Spirit that teaches about Him but that does not point or lead to a practical method for building a relationship with Him will eventually just lead to a greater theological understanding rather than a deeper walk with, trust of, and reliance on Him.
  2. Does your doctrinal stance on the Holy Spirit cause you to nod and move along as usual or does it cause you to stop, reflect and immediately reapportion some of your schedule to pursue, defer to and engage the One who “guides us into all truth”? (John 14:16)
  3. Do you personally have trouble in either your personal or public worship time–i’m assuming everyone does both; One without the other leads to some serious spiritual plateas–offering your ENTIRE self, attention and being to the object of your focus?
  4. Does your corporate, small group or individual worship time focus on themes or does it focus on praising God, thanking Jesus for His example and sacrifice as well as invite the Holy Spirit to lead your heart, spirit, mind and soul into a passionate, humble, and celebratory encounter in that very moment?
  5. Does your corporate, small group or individual teaching time focus on a savior who did something or on a Trinity who did, is doing and perpetually forever will do something?  (For instance, ministry times at the end of a service or prayer time in a small group that includes laying hands on one another in prayer or encouragement in difficult circumstances.).

Passion Unleashed

Allow me to change gears for a second to apply some of my message to a different scenario.  My title comes from my favorite NFL team, the Kansas City Chiefs.  Back in the early 2000’s, the Chiefs were playing strong football.  Offense, Defense…and especially the lesser known part of football called Special Teams were major forces in the league.  Although special teams account on average for about 17% of an entire game, they often produce about 34% of the points.  This was especially important to the Chiefs and their premier return specialist, Dante Hall…aka, the X FACTOR.

 

[youtube height=”HEIGHT” width=”WIDTH”]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tW16KlDBBEE[/youtube] Whenever the Chiefs were in a tight jam, offensively and/or defensively, you could count on Dante to be unleashed and the entire crowd would go crazy.  I was raised a devout Chiefs and Texas A&M fan (any kind of football actually).  There was no level of restraint when it came to watching games, wearing red and gold and even yelling at the tv in order to identify with my team.  All the years I played football and even as a Strength Coach, I was vociferously passionate towards people pushing themselves through any obstacles or enemy for the purpose of achieving victory.  Evidently, this is the case with all sports fans worldwide so I don’t feel like a (complete) weirdo.

Here’s another illustration.  Look at the fascination with talent shows on tv like American Idol, Britain’s Got Talent, etc.  People go crazy watching these shows and dialogue endlessly through facebook and twitter to voice their approval or displeasure at the results.  Even matchmaking gets in on the action.  The Bachelorette reality show gets all kinds of people excited and expressing their bold opinions about the results.  I love how technology has brought the entire world into an intricate web of connectedness.  People have the ability to be completely transparent, expressive and passionate about whatever matters most to them.

So what is it about our spirituality (what you do in private highly influences what you do in public!) that often reflects a restrained, deterred, submaximal, or dispassionate attempt to engage the Holy (God, Holy Spirit, Jesus)?  I remember the first time someone told me that their faith was private.  My first instinct was to ask where that scripture was in the bible but I refrained.  I truly feel that Jesus not only took the keys of the kingdom away from the enemy but he unlocked the door for anyone to come in.  The Holy Spirit not only accompanies us in the door but He invites us to make ourselves at home and to truly be free in Christ! check out a few verses from the Gospel of John:

31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” 34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

2 Corinthians 3:17 states the following:  Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

If freedom is the interior decorator assigned to our new house, maybe we should allow Him to give us some input as to where we can use our bodies (and mind and spirit) to glorify Him to greater degrees.  Consider also 1 Corinthians 6:  Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

If we were to consider a fun metaphor for football and spirituality, it might go something like this.  If God were the sport of football (cut me some slack, David called God a rock and a tower), Jesus might represent our offense, while the bible played out as defense…wait for it…and the Holy Spirit would change the outcome of a game in a split second as the special teams X FACTOR!  And the crowd goes wild…

A New Set of Eyes

One of my favorite theologians, Richard Beck, has a blog called Experimental Theology.  I linked a search to his views on the Holy Spirit just for fun. Here’s an excerpt from a discussion on cessationism from a church of Christ perspective.

To catch everyone up, cessationism is the view that the miraculous workings of the Holy Spirit ceased (thus the label “cessationism”) after the apostolic era, generally the first century of the church. There are many aspects to this view but a few common ideas appear a lot. I’d like to mention the ideas that dominated in the Churches of Christ when I was growing up and how these ideas shaped how we viewed the bible and the activity of God in the world.The central idea had to do with the relationship between the charismatic gifts and the bible.Cessationists often argue that the gifts of the Holy Spirit were necessary during the apostolic era because there was no New Testament on hand. Thus, direction for the church had to be given through direct divine intervention, mainly through the apostles, but if one of those guys weren’t on hand then through the members of the church exercising things like the charismatic gift of prophecy.However, once the bible had been “completed,” it is argued, there was no longer any need for the charismatic gifts. The bible, rather than prophetic utterances, would guide and correct faith and practice. Evangelistic persuasion would no longer require miraculous displays but be rooted in the proclamation of the gospel, using the bible to convict the heart and mind of sin.Basically, the bible displaced the charismatic gifts.Where did this idea come from? When I was growing up this argument was made by an appeal to 1 Corinthians 13:

 1 Corinthians 13.8-10 (NASV)
Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.

The gifts will cease when “the perfect” comes. So what’s “the perfect”? Well, any cogent exegesis of this passage would say that love is this perfection. That love is the gift that pushes all other gifts to the side. That’s Paul’s whole point in verses 1-3: if you have all this supernatural power but don’t have love it profits you nothing.

But that’s not what I was taught growing up. I was taught that “the perfect” was the bible. That when the bible came the charismatic gifts would cease.

This interpretation was supported by other passages that identified the activity of the Holy Spirit with the bible. For example, passages like this were used to defend a bibliocentric–nay, a biblioexclusive–vision of spiritual warfare:

 Ephesians 6.16-17
In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

It was pointed out that the only offensive weapon for spiritual warfare mentioned in this text was “the word of God,” which is also the “sword of the Spirit.” Thus, it was argued, the way the Holy Spirit “does battle” with demonic and satanic forces is through proper use of the bible. If you want to call upon the Spirit pick up the bible, “the sword of the Spirit.” The prime example of this was Jesus’s own battle with Satan in the desert temptations. In each instance Jesus resists the Devil by quoting Scripture. (See, my example of the bible being the defense isn’t that off base)

All of this, you can imagine, had a very deflationary effect on any robust charismatic vision of spiritual warfare. The battle with evil became about exchanging bible verses.

Spirituality was reduced to cognition, memory and rational argumentation.

Charismatic Christians, we were told, would object to all this, they would decry limiting and restricting the activity of the Holy Spirit to bible study. But we had a great proof text for them:

 Hebrews 4:12
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

The Spirit working through the bible wasn’t a dry academic exercise. The bible was alive and active. The bible cut deep. 

In short, even all the dynamic language of God’s activity in the world was located in the bible. To suggest that the Holy Spirit was somehow constrained or limited by the bible was deemed to be a lack of faith. See Hebrews 4.12.

All this added up to a couple of big conclusions.

To be spiritual was to be biblical.

To engage in spiritual warfare was to quote Scripture.

And perhaps most importantly of all, the only way God acted in your life and in the world was through the study and use of the bible.

And thus, the Holy Spirit became the bible.

I grew up in the church of Christ.  Many generations of my ancestors were ministers.  I am so thankful to have grown up with such high regard for the scriptures of the bible and the God found at the very epicenter of those scriptures.  Unfortunately, I also grew up unknowingly being taught from a cessationist viewpoint–and thankfully there is a major trend in churches of Christ who are re-investigating their “position” and allowing the renewal and transformative power of the Holy Spirit to experience a fresh revival.  Until I had taken the time to investigate my own views on this subject, I could often be found arguing with charismatic friends that current expressions of the Holy Spirit weren’t valid and probably wrong.  Oy Gevalt! (i may spend an eternity repenting for that misunderstanding.)

I think you’ll enjoy Dr. Beck’s recent series of blog posts on the Charism of the Charismatics where he discusses how he has joyfully yet trepidatiously come to see people through different eyes.  Although his theology had created a sort of religious box with distinct boundaries, his willingness to be spirit-led and attend an inner city church that focuses on serving those that struggle to even survive day to day, has caused a transformational work to occur in him.  Yes, it makes him uncomfortable but it also invigorates his soul like nothing else ever had.

His story is but one of many stories where people have allowed the Holy Spirit to take them into uncharted territory.

My own story is similar in nature.  I’ll spend more time in my next post discussing my journey, a few books that were crucial challenges to my stance on what God does and “does not do anymore” (as if a human can truly dictate a “pattern” that God has assumed–remember in the Old Testament when God was apparently silent…He was really preparing something new), as well as some possible solutions to the points I delineated above in my bullet points.

As always, thanks for reading and have a fantastic week!

LeadershipDude

Identity Change

Who Am I – Identity edition

The Heavens Reveal…but Could Never Contain Our God (photo: Darker Than Black, stjerner – Bakgrunnsbilder)

Science has afforded me structure to engage in and enhance many of my career pursuits over the last few decades as well as to help me update or upgrade my previous notions on things such as health prescription, relationship counseling, parental coaching, spiritual advising, etc.  I was watching the science channel the other night because I’m enthralled with outer space and pretty much all things astronomy.  This particular show was describing The Big Bang and how our universe is estimated to be 13.8 billion years old.

Even though I am a devout Believer, I’ve never eschewed the role of science nor do I get uncomfortable with man’s attempt to observe, study and describe his surroundings.  My faith in what I believe enjoys the scrutiny and only grows in strength when tested. (1Cor 4:20-21)

However, I did give my imagination the opportunity to consider what would happen if I completely gave my mental constructs over to evolutionary design without any input from a creator with specific intentions for His creation.  You see, with my understanding of how man was created to be fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God, in addition to being a new creation while loving his neighbor and endeavoring to live by the Spirit through Jesus Christ, I was made to develop leadership skills that would invite others to discover and implement their own strengths and pass the encouragement on to their social circles…a light (freedom) in the proverbial darkness (pick something that stops you from being all that you are passionately able to accomplish, ie. fear, pride).  I could go on and on but instead I wanted to try taking off that particular crown and instead claim another identity…for fun, of course.

planarians

Hi, Uncle Mike!

I am an evolving combination of cells and living tissue—no more, no less.  I have no control over how my cells will become something else and thousands or millions of years later those dna may develop long arms and 4 hands to handle all the emerging computer technology and my gluteus maximus may double in size to accommodate a career full of seated activities that become the norm in an intelligent and less active society.  That would be great actually because I still lament the homecoming game my senior year where I didn’t make a dramatic game-winning catch and 10 extra feet of arms and legs would definitely have made me an instant high school hero.

ok, let’s see…Nope!  I tried to feel a spark of empowerment and world-conquering readiness and I just couldn’t seem to pull it off.  I think I’ll stick with Psalm 139:14 for now.

[divider scroll_text=”Identity —> Actions”]

 Who you think you are scripts the life you lead

Since one of my personal LeadershipDude philosophies states that “Identity precedes Action”, I must therefore design a personal ecosystem to support that biological identity.  If I am a cell, then my ONLY goal is to survive.  Cells don’t live or die because they are happy, sad, lonely or elated.  Cells shrink, grow or maintain equilibrium because they have adequate nutrients and are supported by adjacent and/or related systems in the body.  Type I Diabetes, for instance, causes the body to attack itself [kind of like a husband and wife who make vows before witnesses that their love will weather any type of relational hurricane until death they do part and yet they eventually become the worst of enemies.] and destroy cells that should help the body function better.  So the body needs an exogenous source of insulin in order to prevent death.  Wow, that really stinks.  A group of cells that are at war with itself does not bode well for any organism’s future.  What exogenous substance do your cells need to survive the life you’ve created for yourself?

I’m not sure how our cells ever overstepped the boundaries of simple multiplication and became an elaborate network of interrelated systems run by a cerebral center of operations.  The statistical probability of a planarian uncle of mine eating a donut, catching a touchdown pass, attempting to play an electronic version of a song entitled “Canon in D major”, copiously reading leadership articles and feeling exuberant joy during a kiss on his daughter’s forehead are indeed difficult to calculate and yet exactly what I have encountered this year.  Oh what amazing cells we have!

How does a cell evolve from mechanical movements and energetical functions into experiencing consciousness, emotion and optimistic hope for his fellow man?  Does Darwin have an accurate timetable for just how long that evolutionary timeline takes to enable?  Many human reductionists have sure made the attempt.

How does a cell then pretend to receive, encounter and enjoy a spiritual relationship with a divine being that engages back through scripture reminders, revelatory thoughts, visions, rescues, healings and/or any other miraculous interaction between the natural world and whatever else lies outside of that man-controlled world?

The mere act of prayer itself is miraculous.

Prayer through speech or thought is sent out in any direction and somehow lands in the receiving line of God’s eardrum.  It’s similar to the symbiotic relationship between efferent and afferent neurons that allow your body to react to tripping over an object and reflexively brace for a fall before your conscious mind has the time to consider how that puddle of dirty water is going to look on your new white jeans.  Somehow a circumstantial response that “magically” or “coincidentally” meets the objectives of the needs that I have as a finite, yet needy human emerge from nowhere and my life moves forward with thankfulness and gratitude that I am known and loved by Lady Luck.  Right?  Think what you like because you are free to do so, however, my answer is unequivocally…WRONG!

I am not just a conglomerate of cells in unison working for survival.  I am a man with a purpose and destiny who is loved dearly by his creator and called to partner with God to “redeem the time” and be a steward of the people, time and opportunities that He allots to my journey.  I stand on this perspective and invite others to consider something similar for their life.  Discover what Proverbs 16:9 states for you…In his heart a man plots his course, but the Lord determines his steps.

I have clients who do believe that life just happens and their job is simply to analyze the roll of the dice and react accordingly.  If bad stuff happens, their cells will just deal with it.  If good stuff happens, their cells will keep functioning as usual.  They’ll enjoy the temporary smile (possibly) and party like it’s 1999.  (Don’t hate, I’m a child of the 80’s.)  Although I don’t subscribe to that viewpoint, I respect and honor who they are as individuals and remain committed to finding helpful coaching points that support the acquisition of their goals.

So what’s the big deal with all the turmoil, division and angry banter that religious and non-religious people engage in on Facebook and other social media meeting grounds?  Lack of unity and agreement on who the real enemy is as well as which arguments are worthy of debate and discussion is definitely near the top of the list.  I don’t have immediate answers for world peace but I do have answers for individual reflection and that’s where we’ll procede from here.

Identity Precedes Action

People in the consulting business utilize many strategies to solve a problem.  We get paid and become revered in our industry when those strategies legitimately accomplish what we say they can accomplish.  My approach to training elite NFL and NHL athletes consisted of searching for cutting edge technologies and methodologies that other strength coaches weren’t even aware existed.  This necessitated countless late nights of study and experimentation even before the rise of Internet access to information.  Because I believed that people deserved the best, I needed to become the best.

Interestingly, the more time I spent with people, the more I realized that people don’t necessarily change because they need or want to change.  They change because they believe they CAN change.  [Again, I utilize a lot of Dr. Prochaska’s Stages of Change Model and my experience closely correlates to Precontemplation.] People with the belief that they are either uninterested or unworthy of accomplishing a different result for their future are very hard to work with…even when they pay you to help accomplish that very task.  Conundrum anyone?

Cardiac rehab patients, pre-adolescent children, prenatal moms, pulmonary restricted, college golfers, overweight dads…you can change the circumstance but you can’t change a very simple truth:  Who you think you are scripts the life you live!

This is our identity.

Identity Change

Mid-life crisis is the opportunity that men get to re-engage and enjoy their pubescent immaturity, uh, I mean…it’s the belief that if a man can experience a new environment that (temporarily) looks and feels exciting on the outside, it’ll manifest absolute joy and fulfillment on the inside.  It’s the search for a new identity but it often leads to destructive choices and irrational desires that can lead to seemingly impossible dead-ends.

Much time, energy and money has been wasted on advice to fix our situation that ultimately ended in futility or disaster.  There is no shortage of action items to solve a problem.  Many things can be purchased.  New clothes.  New face.  New car or house.  More positive friends.  New attitude to get chicks.

The good news is that I have found a much more concise and successful approach to helping clients successfully overcome issues that involves less time, less money and yields exponentially more results.  I didn’t create it.  I borrowed it and applied it individually for the unique needs of the person I was coaching.

The bad news is that most people lack the openness, humility, trust and willpower to implement a major change.  Not because they’re lazy.  Unintelligent.  Poor.  Homeless.  Lonely.  Rejected.  Divorced.  Barren.  Overwhelmed.  Abused.  No, none of these plights or conditions render a person unable to achieve a different life…a better life.

It’s when you believe your circumstance defines you that you get hammered the hardest by life.  That is when you lock yourself into a virtual prison that begets a series of self-fulfilling prophecies.  The endless cycle of disappointment and failures begin to convince you that you deserve nothing better and any attempted rescue from the outside world is not only frowned upon but something that should be shunned and avoided at all costs.

Perfect Theology

I feel so heavy thinking about how many millions of humans have endured perpetual heartache and disappointment.  Yet, we always take courage in hearing the stories of the brave hearts and courageous lions who believed in something more and left this earth with no regrets.

Hebrews 12:2 says, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author (beginning) and perfecter (end) of our faith, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, scorning it’s shame and sat down at the right hand of God.”  Talk about no regrets.  Jesus Christ is perfect theology.  I see a question…and He becomes the answer.

A woman deserves punishment because she committed adultery.  He says she deserves life.  John 10:10 states that Jesus came so that we might have life…and have it more abundantly.  A tax collector deserves rejection and isolation.  Jesus said He’s going to his house today.  A lame man makes the ground his bed.  Jesus invites him to get up and walk…and keep walking.  1000’s of people are starving.  Jesus says eat until you’re full…and they do.  They can drink and never be thirsty, too, because He is living water that never runs dry.  If you are a Believer…that He was, is and is to come…or that those who are in Christ Jesus are a New creation, then it’s time to live fully in THAT identity rather than the brokenness you’ve come to accept as an adopted guardian.

Proverbs 4:23 says, “above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”  Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”  It’s not hard to see that a world that was given to us to take care of and steward has been neglected, abused and mishandled.  The repercussions of it affect all of us.  Yet, we don’t have to be defined by negative effects.  We actually get the opportunity to redefine it through the supernatural relationship we have with Jesus Christ.

To the extent that He becomes your reality, is the extent to which your true identity will be transformed and you will discover the abundant life that Jesus gave you as your inheritanceThat truth has changed my life and it’s changed the lives of countless others. 

It doesn’t mean you get to be happy all the time.  It doesn’t mean you’ll become a wealthy, healthy and problem-stealthy person but it does mean you will walk with inescapable joy and peace.  It also means that the prison cell you created for yourself will remain unlocked regardless of how many times you decide to take a nap on your old bunk.  He who the Son sets free…is free indeed! (john 8:36)

Thanks for visiting LeadershipDude and remember we’re always available for coaching individuals or group seminars.

 

 

 

 

Church Identity

Who Are We … Church Identity Edition

Church Identity

Moving Forward Means Knowing Who You Are and Who You Want To Become

Recently I had a discussion with a local pastor about their church’s struggle to overcome a growth plateau.  This is a very common difficulty for organizations that are aspiring to grow and is especially of concern for many church communities.  Funny thing is, I first encountered dealing with plateaus as a budding bodybuilder in 1991.  Although there were several “expert” (nonscientific, of course) opinions on how to overcome physical plateaus, there was also a wealth of scientifically valid studies on how to adjust your planning and approach in order to minimize and possibly avoid altogether the risk of “hitting a wall.”  As it turns out, there are a lot of parallels I’ve been able to connect throughout my research in strategic people development and leadership principles.

Anyway, I asked this pastor several questions to ascertain some foundational issues.  I’ll share more about this later in this article but let’s briefly discuss why some churches get stuck against a membership wall.  And by the way, there’s always hope if you are seemingly in a rut in regards to church growth, but it may require a good dose of humility and willingness to change directions and invite counsel from others to accomplish it.  So let’s explore this idea of church identity further.

Many churches operationally mirror businesses or corporations except that they are not usually staffed by people with corporate backgrounds, training and expertise.  This has its pros and cons.  They may implement business models without the business experience to correctly analyze the results.  Oftentimes, large businesses hire consultants and experts to analyze growth trends as well as evaluate current employee productivity and efficiency.  Roles are constantly evolving and being redefined so that talented people can (or at least should) focus on their strengths.  Unfortunately, churches are usually started and grown with very little executive input, which can lead to burnout, staff turnover and premature baldness (joke) due to stress and confusion.

Let’s introduce a companion industry for comparison sake:  The Fitness industry.  This beloved field is wrought with entrepreneurial exploits built on callings and passions.  However, the archaic standards and lack of professional protocols held in place mostly by tradition and disorganized experimentation–not that religion has ever had negative consequences from adherence to tradition and experiential evidence (sarcasm)– have prevented many gym chains from experiencing the kind of revenue and growth seen in other industries.  Much like the church industry, you see people passionate about fitness (parallel this with spiritual fervor) who aren’t so great at using excel spreadsheets, managing money wisely and forecasting daily trends.  Gyms, much like churches, are geared towards building (and retaining) membership and providing a quality service for the purpose of helping people become physically more fit.  Financially speaking, the goal was always to increase revenue and sustain high member retention rates.

I was fortunate to have spent most of my career in high-end facilities (member-focused; service-centered; staff-supported leadership) that were extremely adept at successful business practices.  However, I have also experienced my fair share of operational mistakes that resulted in high staff turnover rates, low member retention rates, poor employee morale and overall negative environments.  One of those tenures involved a large company who hired/fired over a few CEO’s in the relatively short time that I worked for them.  After numerous attempts at a concise, consistent and supportable mission statement, they failed to identify exactly who they wanted to be as a company and this created all kinds of company-wide chaos and fickle pursuits of managerial productivity.  Their brand may have been well known but internally there was major evidence of corporate identity amnesia.

As a leadership coach with many years of experience supporting corporate executives as well as pastoral staff of many denominational backgrounds, I am frequently amazed by the similarities in organizational structures and concomitant difficulties in maintaining successful membership involvement.  Passion and devotion to what you believe in (church or work) is great but there are some things I truly believe to be essential to an organization’s success.

IDENTITY…who are we and what do we do (effectively)

One of the concepts I preach over and over in my personal training school is the idea of identity–Who do you think you are versus who you were created to be?  Change agents have to be skilled in the evaluation, nurturing and fine-tuning of the personal beliefs that their clients/patients maintain.  Negative thoughts yield negative actions.  Luke 6:45 comes to mind…The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

Specifically, a preacher or personal trainer can give all the sage advice and beneficial strategies to a person they possibly can.  However, a person with self-limiting beliefs will struggle to implement those concepts and practices because they do NOT feel they are worthy of a better life or that their situation is too insurmountable to overcome.  [see James Prochaska’s “Stages of Change” model]  However, I believe very strongly that anyone can change their circumstances with the right perspective, strategies and support.

There’s a saying that you cannot fix what you cannot measure.  If you can’t identify what needs tweaking, you run the risk of wasting precious time, resources and volunteer support.  This is where it is crucial to establish your organization’s clear purpose for existence as well as how you are going to interact with the community you serve.

Let’s examine an illustration for a moment.  When a large chain fitness club becomes successful, it’s not uncommon for it to be purchased by a holding company.  This usually means that employees of the holding company are inserted into or consult with the current executive team of the gym business.  The goal:  produce more revenue…and maybe create a better product or service while they’re at it.

This sounds great on many levels but unfortunately the emphasis on greater revenue production can put the original vision or identity of the purchased company on the backburner.  Similarly, when churches decide to build a new facility to aid in member growth and ministry effectiveness, they can lose sight of the original purpose, strengths or vision of the church.  It is imperative that an organization develops and purposefully maintains a lucid understanding of what they strive to be.  In addition, the language they use to define and support this identity have to point all individuals involved with this organization towards the growth of their vision.

For instance, let’s look at one of the most influential church voices of the 1990’s:  Willow Creek Church.  Here’s an excerpt from their website:

Willow History

Explore the journey of Willow Creek Community Church

From a College Classroom…

Willow Creek Community Church started as a whisper in a college classroom in 1972. At Trinity College, 20-year-old Bill Hybels sat captivated by the beautiful picture New Testament professor Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian painted of the first church as described in Acts chapter 2. “When I left Dr. B’s classroom that day,” Bill says, “I went out to my car, put my head on the steering wheel, and cried. The dream of being part of such a church had taken root in my soul.”

…to a High School Youth Group

At the time, Bill and some friends were leading a high school youth group in Park Ridge, IL. As they began to apply the Acts 2 principles taught by Dr. B, the youth ministry exploded. “Kids were coming to faith in Christ,” Bill says, “their lives were being transformed, and they were loving one another with the kind of unconditional love you see described in Acts 2.”

…to a Movie Theater

On October 12, 1975 in the Willow Creek Theatre in Palatine, IL, Bill and friends launched the very first Willow Creek church service. The church thrived, quickly outgrowing their space at the theatre. In 1977, they purchased a plot of land in South Barrington, IL—the site of the central church campus today—and construction began. In February 1981, the fledgling church met for the first time in its new home.

…And Beyond

God has taken Willow on quite a ride since those early days. And throughout the past 35-plus years, Bill and the Elders and leaders of Willow Creek have never lost sight of that original vision of being an Acts 2 church. While much has changed over the years, key themes—taken straight from the Acts 2 passage that gripped Bill’s heart in 1972—have transcended individual leaders, ministries, and eras. These themes are part of Willow’s very DNA as a church. And the church’s mission, to turn irreligious people into fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ, remains its singular passion.

Today, more than 20,000 people worship at one of Willow Creek’s six regional campuses each weekend. Churches from around the world look to see what God is up to at Willow, and to find encouragement and equipping for their own ministries. Willow Creek remains, above all else, a local church of Christ followers—a place where people matter to God and to us, where together we seek to live out God’s vision of being an Acts 2 church.

Now, when I read Acts 2, I see an extremely single-minded, unified group of people who not only walked for three years with the real “most amazing man in the world” (apologies to Dos Equis), but also an expectant group of hungry individuals—lucid vision in tow–who had spent 40 days learning about a Kingdom where God was going to add his “Super” to their “Natural” and God Himself was going to insert His Spirit and subsequently empower every individual (and their children’s children) to set the world on spiritual fire.  The Holy Spirit was not going to railroad the “human organization” He was entering in this new partnership…He was going to join, love and empower the partner–male, female, jew or greek–to change the world for His Glory.

In terms of Willow Creek’s initial goal of being an Acts 2 church, it seemed, however, that an alternative vision was being emphasized:  The development of numerous programs aimed at inviting members to get “more involved” which would then facilitate their spiritual growth and cause them to become a “fully devoted follower of Christ”.  Willow Creek became a beacon for many churches to emulate because they were turning their experiences in explosive church growth into reproducible formulas and seminar events.  I don’t think Jesus had lots of church activities in mind when he was heading towards the cross.  Personally, I believe He had intentional and focused discipleship on His mind.

Willow Creek’s Reveal Study and subsequent follow-ups conveyed this very idea so it’s no secret that churches who focus too heavily on church activity involvement find it difficult to advance spiritual formation.  Churches need an unbiased approach to evaluating member spiritual health in addition to feedback on church efficiency.  Far too often, church leadership (which may just be a single pastor) takes “constructive” criticism personally and thus prevents leadership from doing in-depth reviews of church administration. This was just one large example of an approach to help churches find ways to combat ineffective ministry practices.

So what can churches do to grow?

Earlier I mentioned the conversation that I had with a local church pastor.  They had recently evaluated that they were stabilizing (slowing way down) after an initial surge of memberships due to a recent building purchase a few years prior, which had much higher traffic and exposure as well as a beautiful exterior design.

Some of the questions that immediately came to mind were:
–           What is your church’s mission?
–           What is your church’s passion?
–           What does your church do well?  (Does your church KNOW you do this well?)
–           Where do you see your church in 10 years?
–           How does your leadership seek counsel from outside influences?
–           How open is your leadership to “feedback”?
–           What would you change overnight?
–           Any acknowledged weaknesses that your leadership is embracing?

Again, this is a very common characteristic for churches to experience growth after a building upgrade.  Oftentimes, It can create a false sense that internal design and practices are very effective when in reality you are simply experiencing a spurt of people taste-testing the spiritual environment.  To compound the problem, there’s nothing worse than an organization that rapidly grows when the systems that support the organization are in dire need of revamping and realignment.  Primarily because change is very hard for people to accept or implement in large scale, it’s very important that an organization prays long and hard and invites “wise counsel” in the beginning to help shape a vision that is meant to be a foundation for that group.  Leadership also needs to designate a team of trusted in-house or external advisors solely dedicated to truly constructive feedback in order to ensure they are focused on the right things and the right people to support.

jh

Once it (vision) is in place, perfect what you do and love rather than compare yourself to other churches who seem to be “doing it right”.  Bruce Lee once said, “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”  In other words, what you feel the Lord has called you to bring to the world, Bring With PowerSupernatural Power!  This has definitely been the case with my forefathers.  My grandfather was a preacher for over 50 years who had a personal vision of loving unconditionally (he had an inner city church and also worked for a children’s home).  My great grandfather was also a preacher for over 50 years and he LOVED to teach the bible.  My dad is president of an architectural firm in North Dallas who has done numerous design projects for churches in addition to large university buildings.  Dad’s job is to help a church clarify it’s vision and values so that the church and its campus can reflect and support the implementation of that vision.  Some of his work can be seen here (as well as the pic to the left of a church design in AggieLand).  The key to growth is to multiply what you’re church is gifted at doing by strategic discipleship and empowering leaders to help sustain the efforts of your body of believers.  Just make sure that LOVE is the most important thing emanating from your church so that the world will know you are His disciples rather than simply a zealous bunch of religious people telling the world they’re heading to hell in a handbasket.

Hopefully I can spend more time with how you unpack the previous questions that a church leadership contends with in a future article.  As usual, we are always available for consultation with leaders who are seeking a new infusion of strategy and development.  Don’t hesitate to drop a question for us.

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Leading From The Front By Serving From The Back…

Herd mentality...time to think for yourself!

Getting Your Brain Back ( autonomous thinking )

 

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”

– King Solomon

“Our love of being right is best understood as our fear of being wrong”

– Kathryn Schulz

Have you ever been the victim of a fib, half-truth, untrue rumor or fabricated lie?  Well, you certainly would not be alone if you had.  I’ve definitely “enjoyed” being wrong many times and I’m sure it will happen again (frequently) in the future.  When I was pursuing a bachelor of science in the early 90’s, I became increasingly aware that being wrong was not an if thing, it was more like a when thing.  The sheer nature of science implies the perpetual updating of concepts and theories through further research.  However, what happens when people do not take on the attitude of (re)adjustment and simply accept their world as a concrete foundation?  This does little to promote free and autonomous thinking.

Herd mentality...time to think for yourself!

Herd mentality…time to think for yourself!

In this article, we’re going to spend a little time discussing why people can be set up from an early age to believe everything they hear.  Additionally, we’ll consider the importance of keeping an open mind about subjects that can be billed as slam dunk conclusions.  Let’s start with an example that connects with a now issue:  technology.

Most people today know what a smartphone is and what kind of benefits it can enable us to utilize.  I use several “apps” (software application) that enable my job to flow better.  I have apps that help me to monitor my finances.  I have apps that can monitor my current heart rate.  I have apps that can analyze a mole or freckle to determine if it might be cancerous.  I have bible study apps to help me dig deeper into the Hebrew root word for something that an English translation couldn’t quite describe.  I have apps to grab the attention of my smarty pants 2 year old daughter when she’s inconsolable at a public restaurant.  You get the idea.

So imagine what would happen if you paid almost $1000 for an app and it’s sole purpose was to do…wait for it…absolutely NOTHING!  Here’s a snapshot of this app before it was removed supposedly after 8 people had purchased it.  The glowing red shape in the middle was your reward for purchasing this extravagantly priced application.  Can you imagine the excitement of buying this little treasure and believing you were getting something really valuable for your money only to find out it was completely useless? 1000$ nothing app

We present to you a discussion not so much about bad apps but rather on the nature of what happens when people believe something they deem as truly valuable that to varying degrees may be utterly useless, wrong, inaccurate, and possibly even harmful. Before we delve into particular myths and controversies, let’s discuss how we become susceptible to untruths.

There is no way anyone can always avoid being the victim of this but using better tools to wade through our critical thinking (or lack thereof) is a strong preventive measure to being duped.  Let’s get started.

[divider scroll_text=”Transformative Learning vs Informative Learning”]

American education…teaching how to think vs. what to think?

bloomstaxonomyBloom’s taxonomy is a concept that teachers use to help structure and maximize their teaching criteria.  The basic premise was to take the structure of individual learning and break it down into levels that could be adjusted based on the needs of the student.  For instance, the first step in the learning process is sheer memorization of facts and concepts.  Once this information is learned it can be molded and shaped into more useful pieces of knowledge and understanding.

When an educator is trying to reinforce a certain level or stage of Bloom’s, he/she refers to a concrete exercise that represents that particular stage.  In case you’re new to this concept, let’s look at a few examples.

Many of the chemistry and math concepts I learned growing up had no relevance to my thinking until they were plugged into a real world application.  Then my homework made a bit more sense.  This represents an application in level 3.  If I wanted to gain further mastery I would practice the processes of synthesis and evaluation in order to look for potential moments when a concept didn’t work so well.  Situational concepts where something may be true most of the time but in certain cases be construed as incorrect would require the use of synthesis and analysis.  Judges use this concept quite frequently in their verdicts.

Unfortunately, there is a major weakness in our style of education system.  Or consider it a limitation that affects children who will later require skills that necessitate practice in the art of HOW to think abstractly when solutions to their problems are not obvious or attainable within black and white guidelines.

Empower Kids to Think For Themselves

Empower Kids to Think For Themselves

Pedagogy is the method or practice of teaching children but it almost always implies a unidirectional flow of information from one person (teacher) to another (kids).  The teacher then has the difficult responsibility of keeping the learners (kids) engaged and compliant–corporate buzzwords that adult leadership concerns itself with in productivity discussions–while disseminating the day’s curriculum.

Thankfully, adult education has had numerous sources of input as to what kinds of curriculum should be presented to the learner.  Agendas have really been to make courses fun, accessible to all and educationally efficient in order to provide people with opportunities to further their vocational skills, mental growth and/or financial capabilities.  

 

The last few decades we have seen a shift in learning aimed towards adults which involves more lateral participation.  Allow me to borrow a resource to describe my point.

(The following excerpt is adapted and updated from Hiemstra, R., & Sisco, B. (1990). Individualizing instruction. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.) There is little doubt that the most dominadult learnerant form of instruction in Europe and America is pedagogy, or what some people refer to as didactic, traditional, or teacher-directed approaches. A competing idea in terms of instructing adult learners, and one that gathered momentum within the past three decades, has been dubbed andragogy. The purpose of this resource piece is to provide the interested reader with some background information regarding both instructional forms. The pedagogical model of instruction was originally developed in the monastic schools of Europe in the Middle Ages. Young boys were received into the monasteries and taught by monks according to a system of instruction that required these children to be obedient, faithful, and efficient servants of the church (Knowles, 1984). From this origin developed the tradition of pedagogy, which later spread to the secular schools of Europe and America and became and remains the dominant form of instruction. Pedagogy is derived from the Greek word “paid,” meaning child plus “agogos,” meaning leading. Thus, pedagogy has been defined as the art and science of teaching children. In the pedagogical model, the teacher has full responsibility for making decisions about what will be learned, how it will be learned, when it will be learned, and if the material has been learned. Pedagogy, or teacher-directed instruction as it is commonly known, places the student in a submissive role requiring obedience to the teacher’s instructions. It is based on the assumption that learners need to know only what the teacher teaches them. The result is a teaching and learning situation that actively promotes dependency on the instructor (Knowles, 1984). Up until very recently, the pedagogical model has been applied equally to the teaching of children and adults, and in a sense, is a contradiction in terms. The reason is that as adults mature, they become increasingly independent and responsible for their own actions. They are often motivated to learn by a sincere desire to solve immediate problems in their lives. Additionally, they have an increasing need to be self-directing. In many ways the pedagogical model does not account for such developmental changes on the part of adults, and thus produces tension, resentment, and resistance in individuals (Knowles, 1984). The growth and development of andragogy as an alternative model of instruction has helped to remedy this situation and improve the teaching of adults. But this change did not occur overnight. In fact, an important event took place some thirty years ago that affected the direction of adult education in North America and, to some extent, elsewhere as well. Andragogy as a system of ideas, concepts, and approaches to adult learning was introduced to adult educators in the United States by Malcolm Knowles. His contributions to this system have been many (1975, 1980, 1984; Knowles & Associates, 1984), and have influenced the thinking of countless educators of adults. Knowles’ dialogue, debate, and subsequent writings related to andragogy have been a healthy stimulant to some of the growth of the adult education field during the past thirty years. The first use of the term “andragogy” to catch the widespread attention of adult educators was in 1968, when Knowles, then a professor of adult education at Boston University, introduced the term (then spelled “androgogy”) through a journal article. In a 1970 book (a second edition was published in 1980) he defined the term as the art and science of helping adults learn. His thinking had changed to the point that in the 1980 edition he suggested the following: “. . . andragogy is simply another model of assumptions about adult learners to be used alongside the pedagogical model of assumptions, thereby providing two alternative models for testing out the assumptions as to their ‘fit’ with particular situations. Furthermore, the models are probably most useful when seen not as dichotomous but rather as two ends of a spectrum , with a realistic assumption (about learners) in a given situation falling in between the two ends” (Knowles, 1980, p. 43 ). The andragogical model as conceived by Knowles is predicated on four basic assumptions about learners, all of which have some relationship to our notions about a learner’s ability, need, and desire to take responsibility for learning:

  1. Their self-concept moves from dependency to independency or self-directedness.

  2. They accumulate a reservoir of experiences that can be used as a basis on which to build learning.

  3. Their readiness to learn becomes increasingly associated with the developmental tasks of social roles.

  4. Their time and curricular perspectives change from postponed to immediacy of application and from subject-centeredness to performance-centeredness (1980, pp. 44-45).

(Back To Chad again…) By no means an exhaustive treatise on the subject of learning, I simply wanted to set the stage for the fact that learning should be about sharing and learning rather than simply obeying someone with more age, power and authority.  It was in this environment that many adults were instructed NOT to question what they were taught and develop critical thinking skills in their adolescent and teen years.

adult learning

This has been a major contributor to the “mob mentality” that has plagued society throughout the centuries.  Can you hear the Monty Python crew screaming, “Burn her, she’s a witch!”?  monty_python_witch-701441

 

All jokes aside, I spend a good deal of time explaining this process at the National Personal Training Institute in Dallas.  There is a lot of government-backed information that we’re responsible to discuss.  Yet, there is a growing body of more current research that is causing the revisionists in our fields to reconsider the boundaries of what is both acceptable and beneficial for the public.  I try to be fair to the students by presenting both sides of various debates for the very reason of putting the critical analysis in the students’ hands rather than my own.

I want to teach these students to gather their own information so that learning extends well beyond their class graduation date.  These are, after all, adults who will make subjective decisions about many different individuals that will require individualized health solutions.  This is why I believe so strongly in teaching our kids this process at a younger age.  Many teachers do this but they’re still restricted somewhat by the curriculum that must be instructed.

Mythology Beyond The Walls Of Greece

Previous to becoming the director at NPTI, I had thoughts of becoming a Jr./Sr. high science teacher and therefore needed to go through alternative teaching certification.  Ironically, no one wanted to hire a teacher “with no teaching experience” although i had spent 2 decades teaching people the art of personal change in addition to anatomical and nutritional science practices.  Buzzwords in the teaching industry like engagement were a very real part of my previous career, day in and day out.  It was about that time that I was offered the opportunity to use my skills as a personal training mentor to help brand new trainers get their start as a health professional.

As you can imagine, nutrition is one of the most impactful conversations that a health professional can have with a client.  The American Dietetic Association has been espousing low fat, higher carb diets for decades for the purpose of reducing heart disease and a myriad of other health risks that are related.  My college training gave me organic chemistry as a tool to better understand how to defend “our” beliefs.  I was trained to understand research-based ideas such as this to be true and unchanging and this was an industry standard to be defended until the end. When the upstart rebels of the low carb, higher fat diets began to grow, war soon fell upon the industry.  Personal attacks, discrediting all the apparent “diploma mill” PhD experts and other tactics to vilify these anti-establishment ideas were in full bloom.  I was right in the middle of this battle and I vigorously defended the low fat position.

Unfortunately, I can’t say that I ever gave it much more thought than a very shallow glance at their beliefs and simply discarded the conversation.  Not to be deterred, curious professionals from many industries started to research and experiment and disallow preconceived notions to limit any possible out-of-the-box findings. What resulted was a resurgence of low carb tidal waves and this time people were open to anything that could end the relentless onslaught of obesity and diabetes (type 2) in our country.

I finally decided to defect to the enemy territory and give low carb diets a try and not only did I lose that stubborn last bit of body fat but I surprisingly felt more energetic once I had survived the initial few days of my body switching to ketone burning.  When I had my physical last year the doctor told me my blood work was the “talk of the town” for someone my age (43 at that time).  This was all I needed to know and was finally the point that I abdicated my animosity towards the “low carb advocates”.

I’ve learned to appreciate that no diet is right for everyone.  Nor does that mean that all low carb diets are evil as is often portrayed by various government organizations.

Spiritually-speaking…

In a similar fashion, no formal schema that an individual holds true is right for every person.  I think Jesus nailed this idea when he stated that all the law  (600+ laws) hangs on two beliefs:  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and love others as you love yourself.  As much as the rule keepers of the time were baffled by the simplicity of His statement, they undoubtedly were also skeptical and not a little unnerved by his perspective.  Other rabbis certainly would have taken issue with his stance.   This is where individual wisdom confounds others when they are not on the same page.  (Check out Matthew 21:23; Mark 11:28 & Luke 20:2 when the pharisees were debating the grounds on which Jesus had the “authority” to do and say what he did.)

One thing is for certain…Jesus’ “page” was vastly different from many of the religious elite of His day.  It’s important to note that Jesus was not merely acting on His own human knowledge.  He was partnering with the person of the Holy Spirit (a perpetual advisor for believers; 1 Cor 2:11-12) who was actively guiding Him “into all truth” (John 16:13).  We read how Jesus engaged in dialogue/debate with other adult Jews as a young adolescent and impressed many of His listeners.  This indicates his memorization and comprehension (first few stages of Bloom’s Taxonomy) of Jewish principles was firmly in place.  However, His actual ministry and teaching began after being empowered by the Holy Spirit.  The crucifixion was a terminal point that demonstrated that the Holy Spirit was not guiding men lead by jealousy to kill a “conspirator”.

The fruits of the Spirit have never listed rage, malice and murder and this was something the Holy Spirit revealed to 3000 people when Peter preached a simple message at the Upper Room.  The Spirit was moving in their hearts to consider something that their minds would not have normally reacted to.  He was present not only in Peter’s bold proclamations but in the listening of those watching the Upper Room participants act in ways that some misconstrued as drunken behavior. 

As a spiritual support to many pastors and leaders, I have seen many people take the same idea and react to it 20 different ways.  In coaching couples through relationship struggles, I’ve definitely observed how two intelligent people can look at the same scenario through completely opposite lenses.  The fact that my NPTI classes have all kinds of personalities all but guarantees that I am going to be the referee for several debates and disagreements over subjects we cover in class.  I’ve spoken to large groups and had completely different reactions from my listeners that implied that some were not really listening while others were actively engaged and bringing new insight to me that would further progress our conversations.Speaker Listener

As a matter of fact, religious denominations have done that and divided and divorced when no agreement could be reached.  Jesus stated that God hates divorce (broken covenant between 2 people and God—not just between 2 people before God) and in some ways we can see groups of Christ-centered believers doing this very thing simply because of issues that aren’t even salvation issues.  

In the Gospel of John, Jesus prayed that the church would be “one”.  How in the world did He ever hope for that to happen?  (sarcasm) Didn’t he realize how many expert theologians were going to take a crack at scriptural exegesis–and unfortunately a lot of Eisegesis, meaning we first add our own bias to what we think we’re reading and then attempt to interpret what something means–of the Gospel message and therefore create even more disagreement and disunity?  Paul preached that out of sincere love for one another, we should be willing to put others needs above ourselves and even allow the “weaker brother” to have their way out of unconditional love, honor and respect for our neighbor.

We’ve mentioned some topics in society where beliefs can be either misunderstood or utterly wrong.  The truth about the “evils” of saturated fat and it’s link to CVD is definitely one of those topics.

On a spiritual note, I think the concept of cessationism vs continuationism gets a lot of discussion these days.  The Holy Spirit has been traditionally neglected and misunderstood mostly because of fear and ignorance regarding His true role in a believer’s walk.  I’m glad to see that beginning to change but I have to be honest and admit that I was part of the camp that believed the trinity consisted of the Father, Son and Holy Bible.

If we can take a step back and retrace our foundational roots regarding doctrinal beliefs, we might be surprised how much influence someone else’s ideas and teaching had on us.  John Calvin, B.B. Warfield…these were a few people who played a rather large role in portraying the revelatory gifts of the Holy Spirit as simply a validating sign that Jesus and his disciples were legit.  Yet somehow those gifts would only be relevant for the generation that immediately intersected with Christ.  John 17 describes Jesus’ plea to the Father in desperate prayer:

1When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

6“I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 12While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.a 16They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17Sanctify themb in the truth; your word is truth. 18As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19And for their sake I consecrate myself,c that they also may be sanctifiedd in truth.

20“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.22The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

Subsequent generations, some try to argue, were gonna lose the manifestations of the Spirit’s power because we would later have the Bible and that inspired text would replace what the Spirit had been accomplishing through miraculous endeavors.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I LOVE THE INSPIRED WORD OF GOD!  The Holy Spirit uses it as one of His primary forms of communication and communion with us as human beings.  And while He would never contradict what has already been inspired and written, He (Holy Spirit) still speaks, guides and helps us worship in spirit and truth in addition to direct scripture.  Ask any prayer warrior that has received comfort, unspeakable joy or peace that passes all understanding.  Scripture alone didn’t produce that.  The Presence of God within us as believers did! (Ephesians 1:14, 2 Corinthians 1:22).

So tell me what to think, Professor!

I know many of my personal training students come to our NPTI course expecting me to tell them WHAT to think.  They soon learn that I often hesitate to do this and instead focus on showing them HOW to think in regards to their newfound trade.  Kathryn Schultz, in both her book and lectures, discusses the possibility that maybe we should grow more accustomed to not having all the correct answers and avoiding the traps that error and inaccurate convictions about our perspective bring us when we’re prideful, assuming and “certain of our rightness”.

I can teach them where to search for answers as well as what the current beliefs and guidelines look like.  I can demonstate what has worked in the past.  I can discuss popular theories.  But I don’t want to limit their discoveries and questions by putting a lid on their mental container, so to speak.  If I answer their queries, they potentially turn their brain off and just accept my “expert opinion” as bona fide fact and never question it again.  As much as I would like to say that the field of science is based purely on fact and complete findings…well, I can’t.

Nor will I for the rest of my life, I suppose.

There is a certain element of controlling people (cattle herding) into believing what we believe and that is a scary scenario.  Cults have benefitted from that approach for thousands of years.  Many marriages have failed because one or both spouses were too fixated on changing the other into thinking the same way rather than sharing the transformation.

Parenting research and strategic leadership books have lamented the adverse effects of coercing or controlling our kids or the people we manage in the workplace into behavior that makes us feel secure.  We don’t handle mistakes very well and often work really hard to ensure that others don’t make them as well.  External motivation (like punishment or consequence) rather than internally-derived motivation (like passion or enjoyment) is usually short-lived and less effective but it’s often the most innate form of “leadership style” that people know how to use.  Compliance at its best, .:snicker snicker.

This leads me back to why we continue to depend on and cultivate intimacy with the Holy Spirit.  Developing our spiritual senses through consistent fellowship and communion will help us in our quest for “truth”.  I know that there have been times where my flesh was perceiving the right decision rather than my spirit petitioning the Holy Spirit for direction and understanding.

I have a strong sense that this is why revivals in previous generations have stopped.  Rather than a “revived” group teach the next generation how to “get their own revival” and keep the fire burning, the “revived” group enacts a new series of doctrinal rules and beliefs which handcuff the next several generations to live off the energy of the initial church pioneers.  In some ways, I’m reminded of how the Israelites wanted Aaron to erect a golden calf so they could have something tangible and concrete to worship rather than an invisible God that they were too scared of engaging in person.  It’s difficult to trust what we don’t understand or can’t predict.  So we prematurely try to create a concrete or tangible memorial, idol, or other representation because it can fit under our jurisdiction and control.

It’s much easier to develop a monument to remember something important from the past.  Imagine, however, if we maintained ongoing dialogue as well as wisdom and revelation (Ephesians 1:17).  We would always have guidance and direction to light our path.  Prov 16:9 states, “in his heart a man plots his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”  We should strive to trust that to be true and teach our kids and fellow church patrons to seek a vibrant, robust and intimate relationship with the Trinity.

So in conclusion, let’s begin to trust people with their own ability to think and act under the leadership of the Holy Spirit and not be afraid of letting people…that includes our children…think for themselves.

4 TieRs of Leadership

4 TieRs of Leadership

Have you ever known someone who looked great on the outside but was an absolute mess on the inside?  Have you ever known someone who desired to improve some aspect of his/her life but seemed to encounter road blocks that were too insurmountable to overcome?  I have been that person and I’m sure every reader of this article has been there at some point.  Take one look at a Hollywood actress or famous musician and chances are that you are looking right at someone adored and envied by millions who is struggling to deal with the reality of unhappy or unfulfilling personal circumstances. I have invested over 2 decades pouring through research, expert opinions and techniques to help guide people through these obstacles and one of my coaching creations is the 4 TieRs system.  (All 4 pillars start with the letters, “T” & “R” so I simply chose a catchy word that embodied this idea.)

4 Tiers.pdf-page-001

This diagram conveys the interconnected pillars or TieRs, if you will, for people to strengthen themselves within any external cause, endeavor or discipline.  For example, a person choosing to pursue a spiritual dynamic in Christianity would need to focus first on what particular “truth” (Jesus Christ) to anchor him/herself.  Another person might choose a particular dietary discipline such as Paleo or Atkins (Low Carb/Gut Health) as her anchor point.

Our presence in this world would mean very little if we could not make sense of what occurs around us as well as contemplate what our own personal significance amounts to.  So when we pursue an endeavor that changes us in some way we have latched onto a truth that ends in transformation.  This change does NOT always end up being a positive change and that is an important distinction for us to consider when we decide to follow someone or something that brings “a better me”.

Now, before I go into more detail about the 4 TieRs I need to state that at any given time, these components remain fluid and cyclical in nature.  You don’t master one and “graduate” to another.  They all must remain balanced and individual attention given to support and strengthen each TieR.  So let’s talk LeadershipDude philosophy and then delve into TieR specifics.

LeadershipDude’s coaching philosophy begins and ends (literally) with two things:

  1. What is the problem to be considered, addressed or solved?
  2. What is the solution to rectify, resolve or complete the process?

portal-bookends-750

Everything that follows goes in between the two “bookends” (Portal game fans will totally get this) of problem and solution.  We can adjust these two components throughout the journey but they will continue to contain and define the parameters of which actions to engage and which to avoid for successful attainment of the goal.

For example, if a person comes to realize that carrying 100 lbs of excess body fat (problem) is dangerous to her health, she will hopefully decide to go to a good health practitioner to develop a plan of action to lose weight (solution).  The “in betweens” to address might include whether or not to eat 2 donuts when the goal is to lose weight.  If the action supports our solution…Do it!  If it hinders or prevents the solution…do NOT do it.  Pretty simple stuff.  If we’re talking about diet, we use the same principles.  If choosing a low carb approach we are quite sure that the answer to the donut question is a resounding, “NO!”

We use this philosophy not only with our clients but also with the personal training students at the Dallas NPTI location.  The fitness professionals we equip and send out leave a very different student than when they arrived.  Today’s personal (fitness, spiritual, life) coach has to be able to embody the 4 TieRs of leadership in order to become successful coaches.  So let’s introduce the 4 TieRs.  I’ll not only share what they are but how they are relevant either in personal or group settings.

  1. TRuth
  2. TRust
  3. TRansparency
  4. TRansformation

I mentioned earlier that they were fluid and not necessarily in a particular order.  That is both true and not true depending on the circumstance.  Lets unpack this idea.  We’ll choose someone in a spiritual setting who wants to engage in a pursuit of Christianity.  Since our truth will set the stage for our transformation, we first need to know what our theology will revolve around.  Jesus Christ sits on the throne of this conversation so that becomes our TRuth.  Next, we proceed to educate and familiarize ourself with the subject of choice and begin to decide what we’re willing to receive or capable of accepting as truth.  In adult learning circles (transformative learning) this is possibly the arrival of a disorienting dilemma.  As you can guess, this new bit of information can make us feel uncomfortable or feel more intense negative emotions.  This sets the stage for the next tier…TRust.

Committed.pdf-page-001

Trust begins when the person or thing we’ve connected to is perceived as an ally rather than a potential enemy.  Anyone who’s made money in sales realizes the importance of a first impression.  Trust is the first rule of engagement and serves as a springboard for repeat customers.  In much the same way, a person seeking to understand more about Jesus must believe a few things about Him before moving on to serious engagement with the process of becoming a believer.

  • Was Jesus real?
  • Will I benefit from learning about Jesus?
  • Will I waste my time learning about Him?
  • Are people who follow Him dumb and out of touch with reality?
  • Will I encounter freedom from everything that has caused me to feel chained up?

Once these questions and others like them have been considered, a person will feel more comfortable in moving forward with the search.  I’ve created a simple illustration to the left that shows a person moving from “trying out” to “engaged” and finally toward “Championing” a belief or principle en route to becoming a committed follower of his/her chosen pursuit.  Relative to the bookend model of problem/solution, we could see Jesus as a possible answer to the problem of loneliness, guilt, perpetual sin or addiction.  Joining a friend or church in order to increase or strengthen our pursuit would be a strong indication that we TRust this particular TRuth and are ready to consider being TRansparent.

Transparency is the degree to which something can be seen or looked through.  A muddy lake might cause unnecessary fear of a hungry alligator chomping on the legs of an unsuspecting water skier.  Fear of the unknown coupled with the insecurity we encounter as vulnerable children and adolescents can lead to defense mechanisms that keep us from showing ourself to the world.  Why would anyone want the world to know they were hurting or too weak to overcome a problem?  No one enjoys feeling exposed and so we find ways to protect or hide those perceived weaknesses.  The problem is that adults have trouble STOPPING these often harmful and/or selfish defense mechanisms and when stressful moments occur we let our old self come to the “rescue”.  When a person is willing to allow himself to be transparent, he is allowing himself the opportunity to be completely honest with others that he doesn’t have it all together and could possibly use some help from others.  When we cultivate a regular habit of being honest with ourself as well as with others, we discover how liberating and empowering that process can be.  This is why people find strength and encouragement in getting involved with others who are seeking to understand who Jesus is.

TRansparency then sets the stage for TRansformation and this is where a person consistently experiences the benefits of this entire process.  The enticing appeal of protecting our vulnerabilities at any cost loses its luster and we encounter a new perspective…one usually empowered and strengthened to see ourself as a new and improved version.  2 Corinthians 5:17 (amplified version) states, “Therefore if any person is [ingrafted] in Christ (the Messiah) he is a new creation (a new creature altogether); the old [previous moral and spiritual condition] has passed away. Behold, the fresh and new has come!”

Now understand that even though we progress from one TieR to another, at any given moment we can slack off and allow one of the TieRs to grow weak or become neglected.  This can lead to regression toward a previous struggle or emotional difficulty.  When you notice this happen or someone shares with you that they are seeing this in you, stop and consider why.  There is no need to dump burning coals on your head and feel tons of shame and guilt.  Simply take an honest inventory of what is missing or needed and take action.  Remember to reassess your problem and solution and make sure they are still guiding your journey towards personal strength.

In my next post, I’ll focus on a few examples to serve as walkthroughs of the concept.  Thanks again for joining us over at LeadershipDude!

Change Model

Changing Your Perspective

A few months ago I flew to a leadership seminar in Chicago.  Chicago was hammered by snow back in February (2013) but this made for an adventurous time.  We don’t get that kind of snow in Dallas so it’s a nice change of pace.  The biting wind was a little annoying but nothing a little deep-dish “thin” crust pizza couldn’t pacify.  (And yes, deep dish and thin crust are quite the paradox but I avoided getting into a debate with my waitress).  I always enjoy going new places and seeing new things but the fun all starts on the plane trip.

My favorite part of flying is the rush of the plane taking off from the ground.  Acceleration is such a beautiful thing to behold.  Having coached world-class athletes for many years, the subject of speed is always near to my heart.  Just recently I even had the opportunity to watch a friend (Olympic-caliber and world-ranked athlete) do a sprint analysis with Dr. Peter Weyand at his speed lab at SMU University.  That level of speed is a thing of beauty…but I’m digressing.

During my plane trip I just happened to have a new book on football speed in my lap when a young male cheerleader next to me starting asking how he could become more explosive.  I love coaching people to achieve new successes so I didn’t hesitate to let him know how smart I (thought I) was.  He graciously acted like he understood my explanation and then went back to his Drake cd.

Another favorite part of the flight experience happens during stormy weather conditions.  You can experience bad weather on the lower side of the clouds and instantly ascend above the clouds and experience beautiful panoramic views that can take your breath away.  It always reminds me that we can often change our negative surroundings if we’re willing to change our vantage point or perspective.

I spent two days experiencing extreme cold and snow.  It wasn’t an abstract idea or thought.  I could feel the frozen snow.  My fingers experienced painful sensations when exposed to the icy winds while waiting for an available taxi to rescue us from the fast approaching evening and its lack of warm sunlight.  I was excited to get back home and see my wife and daughter.  However, in a matter of seconds my plane (window seat, of course) transported me to the exact opposite of cloudy, snowing conditions.  Bright sunlight and blue skies were all around with no trace of snow or depressing conditions.

I’ve often marveled at this idea:  change the perspective and you often change the outcome.  As humans, we can all attest to those moments when we felt like a rat running on an endless wheel.  It seemed as though we would never reach a destination or resting point.  Is our momentary misery really based in reality or our interpretation of the events we perceive around us?  That’s a question I’ll leave you to wrestle with and ponder.

For me, the change in scenery often serves as an impetus for paradigm shifts or re-evaluation of a current goal.  Many people set goals for themselves that can often get derailed for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s a lack of information or techniques that prevents us from finishing.  Sometimes there’s a lack of willpower to complete the task.  Everyone knows what it feels like to have resistance when we decide to move or change something.

One of the obvious keys to achievement in any area of your life is to have a well-marked destination or goal.  However, you can create the best plan in the world and still fall short of that goal without assessing your progress.  I have found that frequent self-assessments serve as gauges (empty/full; hot/cold) for personal success and achievement.  Without assessment, goals and destinations become ambiguous, amorphous wanderings that can end in a stagnant season in one’s life.

Weight loss is just one example.  Although I’m not a fan of using scales, it does give a person (the appearance of) concrete evidence things are changing (weight loss).  I prefer people using the “How-do-your-clothes-fit?” method of progress evaluation but that drives many impatient individuals crazy.  Weight loss is of little value if you’re losing water rather than body fat.  Scales can’t (accurately) tell you what kind of weight you’re losing.

Lately I’ve been revisiting a book I read many years ago called Motivational Interviewing (2nd ed).  Its focus is helping prepare people for successful change.  Just this week I was coaching a counselor (paradox #2 of the weekend) who is seeking to make some personal changes but in the context of exploring his personality strengths/weaknesses.

Over the years I’ve developed more of a comfort with the Myers-Briggs personality assessment as a coaching tool.  Its usefulness and flexibility have helped me coach individuals who struggled through various relationship, vocational and/or health difficulties.  I don’t use it to solve every problem because it’s simply a tool but it works well when you know how to implement it.

In the conversation with this counselor, we discussed what I like to refer to as the Action Gap.  Quite simply, it’s the physical distance between the idea of changing and the actual act of changing.  This conversation was fresh on my mind when I was reading Motivational Interviewing on the flight home.  I had skipped towards the middle of the book where all the highlighting was hanging out and read the chapter on the interrelation of (Prochaska’s) stages of change and motivational interviewing.  The contemplators (2nd stage that is beginning to consider options before engaging in an actual plan to change) can get stuck in a rut (rat on a wheel) of wanting or hoping to change but not actually committing to this change)

I’ll create a visual that allows you to see the progression from stage 1 (precontemplation) to stage 5 (maintenance).  In his original work, Dr. Prochaska indicated a 6th stage called cessation but this has been modified because so much of what I encounter deals with things that should be ongoing (health modification, image improvement, spiritual pursuits, etc).

Change Model

 

Many of you reading this may be experiencing some difficulty in committing to an actual plan.  I’d like to outline some strategies to help you reach your goals rather than simply dream about them as a possible outcome that could occur sometime in the future…how is that for ambiguous and open-ended?

The Process of Goal Achievement

Step 1 – Define and clarify the problem, question or place of difficulty.  Too much time is wasted when the REAL issue is not addressed.

Step 2 – Create and implement a solution to the problem that concisely addresses the issues listed above.  These will always set the stage for everything else.

Step 3 – Once we’ve established a starting point and a proverbial conclusion (otherwise known as a goal), it’s time to delineate action measures to move forward towards this new vision.

Step 4 – The framework has been set.  Now, it’s time to create a support system.  Anyone invested in personal change must realize that there is strength in numbers.

Amazing post with all the goodies

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Amazing standard post

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Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear

Ambrose Redmoon

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Action gets results

Training athletes…Tips for trainers and coaches

People have often asked me what it’s like training athletes versus the average person who simply wants to lose weight and/or gain some muscle.  I usually respond that it’s not really that much different (unless we’re talking elite collegiate or pro athletes) but there are some unique aspects.  I’ll start with a few observations about the nature of training athletes.  I’ll write about the nuts and bolts of training design in a second article.

In my 20’s and 30’s, I directed sports camps for both middle school and high school athletes in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.  As with all organizations, the top leaders should focus their energies on younger leaders who then pass their energies on to others who may struggle to find their own identity within a larger group.  In leadership talks that I’ve given, I’ve referred to this as the Exit Strategy for Leaders.  It was ALWAYS my goal to encourage leaders already within the group because they would remain long after I was done with the summer or preseason program.  It’s NEVER my goal to babysit athletes which means I’m doing all the work as a leader.  Instead my focus looks to hand over the leadership to the group itself.

What I came with–vision, goals, training expertise, leading the mindsets of a group of participants–at the start of a program was exactly what I left with at the end of the program.  This wouldn’t be much of a “gift” if I took it home with me.  For those who’ve been under my leadership, they are already familiar with one of my favorite tenets:  You should never be solely in a relationship for what you can GET out of it but for what you can GIVE to it.  This necessitates being focused on a relationship centered on sacrificing for others rather than being self-centered in your relationships.  This creed SHOULD be something every coach or trainer lives by but unfortunately it’s usually the opposite…especially in sales-driven training jobs.  When you see an athlete on t.v. thanking his unsung heroes and supporting cast, you see good character qualities.  Emmitt Smith, for instance, gave his lineman Rolex watches when he was winnning NFL rushing titles.

The first thing a freshly anointed leader should do is find his/her replacement.  This ensures that the leader is intentionally training others to help implement a strategy for the group.  It’s also a hallmark of unselfish character.  Leaders who allow ambition and power to bias their goals will fight for attention and glory as an individual and that is usually one of the greatest reasons for a group to struggle with success or even be destroyed.

a master leader on the field...and off.

a master leader on the field…and off.

Ray Lewis has embodied this servant leadership ideal his entire career and is now passing the torch to his super bowl champion (2013) Raven teammates.  It’s like a spider who builds a web and everything that touches the web gets stuck to it.  The coach or trainer is the spider.  The web represents the CULTURE.  Culture is a term that leaders discuss to define both the people and the environment the people interact with.  The athletes whom the trainer wants to focus on developing as leaders are similar to the spider’s family.  All the spiders are able to navigate the web just as the main spider who spun the web.  This is the basis of discipleship which is simply creating extensions of yourself.  Hopefully you are always mindful that your disciples can reproduce your bad qualities just as much as they can copy your good qualities but that’s another conversation.

Delegation becomes an integral part of the leadership equation.  Trainers/coaches who try to do everything him/herself make a grave error.  Not only is there not enough time to adequately attend to everyone, but it makes everyone reliant on one person.  If that person leaves or is not around, it creates chaos and uncertainty.  The programs that master this delegation mentality consistently produce successful teams and more importantly these athletes learn to apply these principles into other parts of their life and career.

Head coach Kevin Sumlin is another leader who transformed an Aggie culture almost overnight.  His predecessor, Mike Sherman, laid a foundation of building positive character and leadership.  However, it was coach Sumlin’s spark of enthusiasm and uncompromising focus which catapulted the Texas A&M squad to an outstanding year including the stunning upset of the #1 Alabama Crimson Tide.

Leaders step up when it matters most!

Leaders step up when it matters most!

Another observation I’ve seen occurs with younger athletes:  you generally have to keep them moving and motivated.  The frontal lobe of the brain is not fully developed until the early 20’s.  This is where abstract thought is developed (thinking outside the box).  It’s important to focus on concrete examples and lots (and lots) of repetition of the basics you desire for them to master.  This is important to leadership development because this becomes the practice ground for many young leaders to fail and fail safely.  We never want to punish young leaders when they mess up.  We instead look to CORRECT their mistakes and allow them to salvage their self esteem and dignity.

At one of Jason Garrett’s youth football camps in the early 2000’s, I was responsible for the agility portion of the camp.  As much as I would have liked to work on top speed development, those young athletes lacked the mental concentration to avoid playing around and throwing rocks at each other.  It was funny at the same time that it was frustrating.  Thankfully that lack of concentration improves as the players mature but it can take awhile and it forces the trainer or coach to be organized, structured and above all, patient.

As far as more elite athletes go, its very important for trainers not to act “star-struck”.  When I was the athletic director at the Texas Club in the mid 1990’s I had the privilege of meeting Michael Jordan while he was still playing for the Chicago Bulls.  We often had visiting NBA teams come to our gym because we had a full basketball court, a track and nice equipment as well as being the official club for teams playing at Reunion Arena (pre-American Airlines center).  I had been told in advance that Michael would be working out there with his personal trainer, Tim Grover.  When he arrived with his 4 rather large bodyguards all dressed in red, my heart started to pound.  I kept staring at them during their workout hoping to pick up some amazing and cutting edge techniques.

As I continued to spy on their workout, I came to the conclusion that they were simply doing a typical in-season program.  There were no fireworks.  Just some average lifting exercises.  However, the real magic came later when they were done.  Michael approached me to ask where the back extension machine was and I humbly (a little kid shaking in his shoes more accurately described my emotional state at the time) showed him the make-shift machine we used in place of a dedicated back extension machine.  Of course, he was way too tall to fit in it but at least we tried to solve his dilemma.  I got to show Michael Jordan how to do an exercise he never actually did.  He graciously thanked me for trying to help and smiled as he walked off.  As much as I would like to brag that I once trained Michael Jordan, that would obviously be stretching the truth.  What was true is that he was a world-famous star and I was just another trainer hoping to become somebody special one day.

I learned that Michael ties his shoes just like everyone else does.  This helped me to see athletes as normal people rather than somebody vastly different from me.  Later on when I would work with professional athletes I always remembered to treat them the same and they would respect you as an authority rather than a friend.  Unfortunately, when trainers don’t maintain that level of respect with clients, the clients/athletes will often walk all over the trainer because of an ambiguous line of professionalism and friendship and the trainer will allow it in order to avoid confrontation.  This is why you see athletes being rebellious and talking back to their trainers or coaches.  Respect is earned not given.

Respect must be cultivated in any relationship and this is another crucial aspect of good leadership that must take place if you want to produce a positive culture where everyone is thriving and growing as a team.  This is true in the office as well as on the playing field.  While I’m thinking of athletes I respect (and there were many), allow me to mention another scenario.

I’ll never forget my first conversation with Emmitt Smith.  He joined me and another nfl receiver for dinner at a local restaurant in Dallas, Texas.  Even though I had worked with many athletes in the pro and collegiate ranks, he was someone I was nervous about meeting.  After our conversation, I was an even bigger fan and at the same time very impressed with his humble approach to hard work and perseverance.

Emmitt SmithBeing curious about his approach to training, I peppered Emmitt with questions about his training protocol and got every answer I was looking for and then some.  He was very clear in stating that the answer to staying ahead of your competition was not just a singular approach to training.  It was the collective synergy of taking care of your body through strict eating regimens, disciplined and clearly-mapped training plans, medical support (doctors, chiropractors, dietitians, etc) and lots of prayer (spiritual training…reminds me of 1 Timothy 4:8 which states that “physical training is of some value but godliness holds value for all things…”).

It was refreshing to see an athlete be resolute in bridging the power of his spirituality with the potential power of our physical body.  I had grown up watching my father and grandfather demonstrate this so I naturally thought everyone else felt this way about their approach to staying in shape.  In addition, most of the martial arts movies I grew up with carried this same notion of allowing your spiritual focus to help sustain and partner with your physical efforts.  Not only does this improve mental and emotional focus but it also serves as a moral guide to staying out of trouble off the field.

I have so many stories but I’ll save more of them for future articles.  I will soon post a follow-up story to this one that describes more specific aspects of developing speed and power.  Thanks for taking the time to read this and remember, Leadership starts in the mirrow!

LeadershipDude

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll never forget my first conversation with Emmitt Smith.  He joined me and another nfl receiver for dinner at Humperdinks restaurant in Dallas, Texas.  Even though I had worked with many athletes in the pro and collegiate ranks, he was someone I truly admired.  After our conversation, I was an even bigger fan.
EmmittBeing curious, I peppered Emmitt with questions about his training protocol and got every answer I was looking for and then some.  He was very clear in stating that the answer to staying ahead of your competition was not just a singular approach to training.  It was the collective synergy of taking care of your body through strict eating regimens, disciplined and lucid training plans, medical support (doctors, chiropractors, dietitians, etc) and lots of prayer (spiritual training…reminds me of 1 Timothy 4:8 which states that “physical training is of some value but godliness holds value for all things…”).

That conversation helped me to be resolute in bridging the power of our spirituality with the potential power of our physical body.

Specifically,