How Do You Grow as a Leader?

How do you grow as a leader? Read books, meet over coffee with like-minded friends, listen to God, get a life coach? Each of those in and of themselves are good but none of them alone is likely enough.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about this over the past year and it’s clear there are many ways leaders grow. Problem is, sometimes we only participate in one part of a multi-part ecosystem.

Some people learn from their participation in a peer group in which they learn from each other, dive into case studies, advise each other on business issues and more. Some people love their books (I’m guilty!) and can’t wait for the next self-help book or podcast to download. They are lifelong learners. Some of you have a coach and some of you have a mentor. Some of you have your DiSC or Myers–Briggs or 5 StrengthsFinder strengths posted on your office door.

Here’s the breaking news: none of these things by themselves are enough to help leaders grow holistically. You can always mislead your coach about how others view your leadership. Too many books puff you up with head knowledge if you’re not careful. Too much conflicting advice from peers can be confusing if God is not your ultimate source of direction.

I do know one thing – real learning happens over time in community. That’s why Jesus spent time with his closest followers. It’s why Jesus was full of wisdom as a young boy before he got to the church leaders; he was studying regularly. That’s why we often need an outside coach to help us get unstuck from our paradigm ruts. That’s why an outside consultant is helpful for what we don’t know how to fix alone.

“Real learning happens over time in community.

One thing is also true: we all experience spiritually poverty. Are you honest enough with yourself to admit that because of man’s fall in the garden, you might experience weakness, unfulfilled needs, emotional injuries and pain at the hands of others, or your own immaturities and sins? We cannot always repair in our own strength. When we realize we need each other, it helps us get closer to God and to live in community.

At Convene, we have all these leadership learning modes in play with our members. Check us out and see how you might learn from a thought-provoking faith work article or engaging podcast. Maybe it’s time to join a peer to peer group of leaders, to journey with an executive coach that will help you get unstuck, or to hire a consultant to help you peer into the future. At Convene, we exist to help you in all these areas because we exist to help you grow as a leader.

Let’s do this together!


An Ordinary Day with God

I was in India for a mission trip in 2009 and I was as sick as a dog. The long train ride to Nepal from Delhi was one where the clickety-clack of the train coupled with the food I was not used to just about did me in. I ended up in a little tiny train bathroom turning green with people shaking the door trying to get in since I’d been there so long. Enough said.

When we arrived just short of the Nepal border and checked into our rather run-down lodging, I was given some medicine by our trip leader that knocked me out for 24 hours. I awoke groggy and weak only to hear the news that we were going to Nepal that morning. Everything in me wanted to crawl back into my little lumpy bed, but we jumped into the vehicles that would drive us to the Nepal border.

We entered the little Nepal village and went house to house talking about Jesus to people who spoke precious few English words – the translator did the rest. We had tea with one couple and spoke to many. By the end of the day, I felt we had accomplished absolutely nothing. It was just an ordinary day with ordinary people doing ordinary things. It seemed not to be “radical” or “passionate”, like some of the book titles or conference titles I was used to back in the USA. So, we got back on the train and headed home. For me, I was glad I at least felt better!

I pretty much forgot about that ordinary day there in a tiny ordinary village in Nepal in 2009 till today. My email dinged me this morning and said I had a newsletter from the Indian leader who took us to Nepal.

”Dear friends,

The sharing of God’s Love among our neighbors in western Nepal began in the year 2009. A short-term mission group from Saddleback Church in California came out to visit us in India and decided to take a day trip to shower the love of God into a Nepal village. On seeing the unengaged communities in Nepal the team was inspired to dedicate their efforts to sharing the good news among various tribes in Nepal. Today, 10 years later, we have started over 40 house churches.”

Wait, what?! My ordinary day, plus God’s extraordinary Spirit driven power, plus the strong, regular, 10 years of work by local missions professionals, created over 40 little churches?! Here I thought my day in 2009 was wasted for God. Instead, God used my wasted body for his glory.

At Leadership Collab 2019 in San Diego, California, we aren’t going to try to blow you away with a light show, a cast of superstars, racy graphics or a perfect worship set. We are going to ask God to use ordinary, exceptionally gifted communicators and award-winning musicians and artists to strengthen you, to inspire you and to encourage you to be all you can be as an ordinary leader out on point for God’s Kingdom. We are going to send you home from the Hotel del Coronado with your ordinary briefcase or backpack loaded with ideas as to how you can use your business as a platform of influence for God. We’ll be sure to give you a file folder full of straight-up block-and-tackle business ideas too. Things like how to scale your firm, how to lead well and how to be up to date on critical issues of our day.

You’ll rub shoulders with other ordinary leaders who all want the same thing you want, Kingdom impact. Maybe what we need right now is to do ordinary things better, to not look to change America, or to fix the world, but to love the neighbor (aka, employee) that God has given us the responsibility to lead. Let’s not miss God in the regular while we’re looking for the fireworks show to happen outside our window.

All in all, we’re going to learn how to “take our ordinary life … and place it before God as an offering”. Who knows, maybe 10 years from now if we’re faithful and God infuses our work with his power, someone who works for us as a shipping clerk, a VP of Finance, a janitor or a VP of Marketing, will have been loved in Jesus’ name. And maybe, just maybe, someone who works with us will find a relationship with the God who made them.    

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Sexual Temptation and the Spiritually Healthy Leader

The book arrived on my doorstep unrequested. It was going to go in the “TO READ” pile that never actually gets read. There was one show stopper, however. It contained a note from a dear friend. He was endorsing a book by his friend Jay Stringer. The book was entitled, Unwanted: How Sexual Brokenness Reveals Our Way to Healing.

As a psychotherapist and ordained minister, Jay had done groundbreaking research on 3,800 people about their unwanted sexual behavior. I was intrigued. The world is telling us to put blocking software on your computer and pray hard to rid yourself of unwanted sexual behavior. Make no mistake, both of those actions are good ones, however, Jay was saying something new, something different.

He said our unwanted sexual behavior leaves clues like breadcrumbs in a mystery novel that lead to the secret of unlocking years of pain. This was no “writer’s opinion” of how to avoid things like unwanted pornography viewing, buying sex, visiting massage parlors or affairs. This was a solution based in clinical research. Jay shared how we get to this place of pain, why we stay there and how we can get out of the mess. I was ready to dive in.

I called Jay out of the blue,

ME: You don’t know me but I got your book from our mutual friend, Bruce McNicol, President of Trueface Ministry.

JAY: Nice to meet you, Greg!

… After some pleasant conversation…

ME: I was wondering if there was a correlation between your research of unwanted sexual behavior and the power of a leader to do what they want when they want to? It seems the work world is rampant with leaders abusing their power over people in sexual ways.

JAY: Yes there is! Leaders and their abuse of power can make everything even more pervasive and rampant.

ME: Would you be open to doing a video podcast about this to share the secrets you’ve learned in your research?

JAY: Of course!

The result is here now for you to take in. Jay and I met in Seattle and filmed something that could release you from the grip of unwanted sexual behavior. I asked Jay what happens when we mix the power of the leader’s role with unwanted sexual behavior. Leaders are at times fighting loneliness, anxiety, complexity, overload, decision fatigue, and multiple pressures. They can create “alone spaces”, feel entitled to a reward, know that almost anything can be theirs or feel they deserve a break.

Oddly enough, Jay shares in the interview we had that lack of purpose can lead to sexual failure. There’s been failure at the C-Suite, the White House, the Hollywood casting couch, the sports world and our own living rooms in the dark of night when no one is watching. It can rip your relationships to shreds in a moment and make you feel at loss as you try to wash away the shame.

Turns out there’s a solution to all this shame and pain. Jay shares the strategy for confronting unwanted sexual brokenness, and has a plan for a pathway to wholeness. Listen in:

Jay will be sharing live and taking audience questions at Leadership Collab 2019 in San Diego, California.

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Who's Sitting in Your Pew?

This is really written to the world’s pastors… you’re welcome to listen in as we sip our coke.

So, pastor, have you thought lately of who’s really sitting in your pew? As you know, most of your adult church members live Monday to Friday in the workplace. As the old rock music song ‘Takin Care of Business’, by Bachman Turner Overdrive belted out: “You get up every morning from your alarm clock’s warning, take the 8:15 into the city. There’s a whistle up above and people pushin’, and people shovin’…”

Your members live in this world that is often fraught with pushing and shoving and swearing and off-color jokes and more, and they often feel like it’s not a place they can raise the banner of faith. As a matter of fact, a recent Barna Research study showed that only 26% of Christian workers see how the work they are doing serves God or a higher purpose.

Our author friends have been writing about faith-work integration for folks in your pews who are company owners, leaders and workers since the 1980’s. Fresh new books are coming out regularly. Many of the books have the same basic message. Something like, “Hey Business Person! Your work is a holy calling!” and they remind us to “be like Jesus in the marketplace.” The thing is, some of the business leaders sitting in your pew would love to feel like they’re in ministry, but they don’t. They feel like second-class citizens who imagine someday they will finally be in a “real ministry” . . . in a soup kitchen or crisis pregnancy center or in a foreign land, and then finally God will smile on their life.

I know, I was one of them, way back in 1990. I was one of those deacons who prayed Sunday night for the visiting missionary and then hopped a Sunday night plane to business in another city, hoping I too would be a missionary someday. So, your business leaders and workers that sit in your pews keep going on mission trips where “real ministry” happens. Unfortunately, the mission trip seems more spiritual to the man or woman sitting in your pew than it does if they balance the books or write a new marketing plan or hire a new team member or invent a new product or care for a patient or teach a toddler new skills.

Dorothy Sayers, one of the first women to graduate from Oxford and possibly one of the most influential Christian thinkers of the twentieth century, wrote some powerful things that help workers and leaders live out their faith at work. Let’s read:

The Church's approach to an intelligent carpenter is usually confined to exhorting him not to be drunk and disorderly in his leisure hours, and to come to church on Sundays. What the Church should be telling him is this: that the very first demand that his religion makes upon him is that he should make good tables.[1]

Have you told the folks sitting in your pews to ‘make good tables’ and to love their neighbor while they’re at work? They’re dying to know how their work matters and they trust you to tell them what God says about it. They’ve been under the impression that their work is something they do just to make money. The problem is, that premise does not live out well. Logically, it would mean that after God kicked Adam and Eve out of the garden, he set them up to do meaningless drudgery for 70% of their life. THIS ISN’T TRUE! The truth is that meaning can only be found in God’s purposes for work. God’s hand is not absent from accounting, teaching, cleaning, wood carving, leading, painting, owning a business or piloting an airplane. In Psalm 90:17, the Psalmist asks God to “establish the work of his hands“. Jesus talked about not hiding our talent and being a faithful steward for His Kingdom. Jesus knew that the people hearing his voice had to go back to work when he was done talking, and he wanted them to know that work matters. The workplace is where the world is Monday to Friday. It’s where we as Christ followers must show up to redeem a world craving hope, love and meaning. We must turn the Sunday stuff into Monday stuff.

What can you as a pastor do to truly see and engage a business leader and champion them in their calling outside your church? I get the pleasure of talking with hundreds of Christian CEOs in our network as the CEO of Convene. You can start your learning journey at our website.  We meet monthly to try to “turn the Sunday stuff into Monday stuff.” If I could bring along one of our leaders and we met in your study as you worked on your next sermon, here’s what we’d likely suggest as to crafting your talk with the worker or leader in mind.

  1. Teach your members they are in ministry, each day from sun up to sun down

  2. Go visit your members at their work if it’s appropriate. They’d be honored and likely would even buy you lunch! If you can’t visit, call them and pray for them as ministers of the gospel living out their faith at work.

  3. Add to your reading list a few books on faith and work such as Giving it all Away by David Green or Every Good Endeavor by Pastor Tim Keller. Better yet, why not get a gift for your business leaders such as the Maxwell Leadership Bible, or grab the practical daily devotional for all of us who work called 10X For Christ by Carlos Rosales. They’ll feel so understood by you!

  4. Send an email to all your members who serve in the workplace asking how you could pray for them.

  5. Send a video learning link on faith at work. They’ll know you’re thinking about them.

One more thing. My friends and I are assembling a group of thinkers who understand the faith-work space deeply. We’re all gathering in San Diego, CA to talk about how we can show up with God’s love in the workplace. The learning event is this fall. We’d love to welcome you to learn with us. Details can be found here. Email us if you are a pastor or would like to invite your pastor to the conference at a 30% discount. We’ll be waiting to greet you.

[1] Dorothy Sayers, Creed or Chaos

How’s Your Spiritual Health?

How is it with your soul? That’s a question the Puritans asked each other in the 16th and 17th centuries. Today, if someone came up to you at the office water cooler and asked you how it was with your soul you might expect they’d be prying… but why? Why don’t we want to know how someone is doing with what the brilliant Christian writer Dallas Willard said was “the hinge on which the rest of your life hangs.”

Willard goes on to say “many souls are starved and unhealthy, unsatisfied by false promises of status and wealth. We’ve neglected this eternal part of ourselves, focusing instead on the temporal concerns of the world—and not without consequence.”

So, hey, it’s just you and me here, unless someone is looking over your shoulder while you’re reading…

How is it with your soul? Would you call yourself spiritually healthy?

Morris Dirks, who wrote a magnificent book entitled Forming the Leader’s Soul, notes that as leaders we often work under a set of unrealistic responsibilities, resulting in us never ending up helping people. We’re often emotionally drained, we neglect our spirituality, we’re often relationally isolated and even at times wonder who we are as a person. It’s no wonder our spiritual health could be running low.

Think about your last week. What kinds of things did you get involved in? Helping employees, solving conflicts, dealing with budget irregularities, predicting the future, assessing the present, creating vision, changing a vision, crafting your speech, crossing time zones, taking calls at 6 a.m. and 9 p.m., dealing with infected computer systems, figuring out who to hire or fire and so much more.

Leadership is demanding and our spiritual health can suffer.

This Fall from September 29 – October 2 in San Diego, we’re creating a bit of an island of peace and learning on the literal island of Coronado, California. It will be a place of rest, a time of reflection, a few days living in community discussing the big issues around your health as a leader.

It’s called Leadership Collab, and we’re focusing on your health as a leader because you’re too important to God’s Kingdom to burn out while doing good things. We’re going to talk about the health of your organization, the health of your soul, the health of your family, your emotional health, your spiritual health, the economic health of our world and even your sexual health (yes, you read that right).

Right now, before we have to run, why not start with a soul resting, health injecting, peace promoting moment right now, right where you are. (Don’t skip this part just because you might think, “I’ll skip the bible verse part”. This is the part that might help you hear the voice that’s been haunting you for months. It’s likely the voice of God asking you to live life at God’s pace, not the world’s)

These thoughts were penned by a leader who was busy just like you. He had just finished a big building project called The Tabernacle. His name? Moses. Here’s what he wrote down. See if you can listen for God’s voice speaking to your weary soul.

“We live within the shadow of the Almighty, sheltered by the God who is above all gods. This I declare, that he alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I am trusting him. For he rescues you from every trap and protects you from the fatal plague. He will shield you with his wings! They will shelter you. His faithful promises are your armor. Now you don’t need to be afraid of the dark anymore, nor fear the dangers of the day; nor dread the plagues of darkness, nor disasters in the morning. Though a thousand fall at my side, though ten thousand are dying around me, the evil will not touch me. I will see how the wicked are punished, but I will not share it. For Jehovah is my refuge! I choose the God above all gods to shelter me. How then can evil overtake me or any plague come near? For he orders his angels to protect you wherever you go. They will steady you with their hands to keep you from stumbling against the rocks on the trail. You can safely meet a lion or step on poisonous snakes, yes, even trample them beneath your feet! For the Lord says, “Because he loves me, I will rescue him; I will make him great because he trusts in my name. When he calls on me, I will answer; I will be with him in trouble and rescue him and honor him. I will satisfy him with a full life and give him my salvation.”

Psalm 91 (Living Bible)

If You Dream It, You Can Do It?

“If you can dream it, you can do it!” said Walt Disney… and then came Disneyland!

“I have a dream,” shouted Martin Luther King on the National Mall to 250,000 people.

“Through hard work, perseverance and a faith in God, you can live your dreams,” wrote Dr. Ben Carson whose life was one of hardship before becoming a surgeon.

So, how’s it going with your dreams? Do you have a big dream that you’re working on achieving? Have you given up on one that was not working quickly enough? Is your dream rooted in God speaking to you? Is your dream something you dreamed up on your own? If you employ people, do you know what their dreams are? Do you know your kids’ dreams? Do you know your spouse’s dreams?

Not too long ago, five amazing leaders who have partnered with God and dreamed big for Kingdom impact got together to talk about faith in the midst of building movements from the big dreams God gave them. The panel participants were Lorne Cunningham, who founded a global missions enterprise called Youth with a Mission (YWAM); Paul Eshelman, who made The Jesus Film come to reality which brought over 500 million to faith in Jesus; Rick Warren, who wrote one of the bestselling non-fiction books of all time and started a mega church in Southern California called Saddleback Church; Amani Mustafa of Al Hayat, who operates a television program that reaches 300 million Muslim households; and Pastor Jimmy Siebert, the founder and senior pastor of Antioch Community Church in Waco, TX.

During the hour-long discussion, Dr. Rick Warren shared the six phases of what happens after you hear from God about a dream he wants you to pursue. You may be thinking the phases are: 1) Dream, and 2) Dream accomplished! However, it seems that God has a significantly longer process in mind. He uses the dreams he gives you to build your faith and your character, not just to achieve something.

Here are Dr. Rick Warren’s 6 phases of a dream:

  1. DREAM

    God gives you a dream to create something, do something. Some examples are when God gave Noah the dream of building an arc, and God giving Nehemiah the dream of building the wall around Jerusalem. Great leaders dream of things that are yet unseen.

  2. DECISION

    You decide to do something about the dream God gave you. Leaders act, leaders move out, leaders make things happen, leaders turn dreams into reality and leaders create change.

    Question: Is there a dream you put in the hold file? Is that dream gathering dust? Should you revive it and let it live again in concert with God’s plan for your life, family or company?

  3. DELAY

    There is always a delay when it comes to God laying His plans… this is meant to shape you. While you’re working on the problem, God is getting you ready. Remember Noah’s arc? The time between hearing God and the rain beginning was 120 years!

    Question: How are you doing in the God’s waiting room? Are you pressing your team members too hard to speed up God’s plans?

  4. DIFFICULTY

    It’s not as easy as you think it will be. Think of Joseph; he dreamed of being a ruler but had to take a lengthy trip into captivity on the way to his leadership.

  5. DEAD END

    This must not be something that will happen after all. Imagine getting to the Red Sea with the Egyptian army on your tail. That’s a big dead end!

    Question: Did you get to a dead end, stop trusting God and give up on your dream?

  6. DELIVERANCE

    The Dream happens in God’s timing and God gets all the glory.

God is building you, and He allows you to be an agent in building His dreams for your life. He invites us as leaders, to come help change the part of the world He has called us to. If you’re willing to join Him, the journey will not be quick, it will not be easy and it will not be without hardship. That’s all part of the shaping process God designed for you as the leader He has chosen to accomplish His purposes. Buckle up! The journey will honor God and you’ll grow in the process.

Have We Forgotten About Mary?

Have you forgotten about Mary? I sure had! I had her down in history simply as a blessed young girl. Oh, I was grateful for her, but I had missed her wisdom and spiritual depth.

Mary had been visited by an angel named Gabriel who was sent by God to tell her some earth-shattering news. She would be impregnated by the Holy Spirit and bring forth the savior of planet Earth. Wait… what?! The news was so big that Mary decided to go see her cousin Elizabeth to process it all. As she arrived at Elizabeth’s home, Elizabeth exclaimed, “You are blessed among women!” (Luke 1:41). Then, Mary responded to her cousin. Take a minute and read her response to her cousin as told by the writer Luke.

46 And Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord,

47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.

48 For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.

49 For He who is mighty has done great things for me,
And holy is His name.

50 And His mercy is on those who fear Him
from generation to generation.

51 He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

52 He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
And exalted the lowly.

53 He has filled the hungry with good things,
And the rich He has sent away empty.

54 He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy,

55 As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and to his seed forever”

NKJV, 1:46-55

Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones, initially trained as a medical doctor, became a preacher and is often spoken of as the greatest preacher of the 20th century. Here, he unpacks the depth of Mary’s words for us. He notes that Mary’s words demonstrate these powerful principles. Take time after each point to ponder the questions.

  1. Mary’s response has strong depth of feeling (my soul magnifies the Lord, my spirit rejoiced). (v 46)

    1. Have you deeply responded to God’s gift of Jesus this Christmas? Is your depth of feeling deep enough that you would share with your friends or staff?

  2. Mary sees herself for who she is, a maidservant, for whom God will do great things. (v 47)

    1. Do you see yourself as powerful, or do you see yourself as a servant of God?

  3. Mary magnifies, the Lord. Not just a tiny baby crying in a manger. (v 46)

    1. She sees the future of the baby as Jehovah God. We can’t really understand Christmas until we grapple with this amazing truth. Is God the Lord of all you do?

  4. Mary sees the baby Jesus as God her Savior. (v 47)

    1. Do you see Jesus as your Savior? That’s why He came to Earth. That’s why his name is what makes up the holiday name! That’s what Christmas is all about.

  5. Mary realized God is mighty. (v 49)

    1. Is there hope for your business, your family, your life? Yes! God is mighty!

  6. Mary says that God is holy. (v 49)

    1. God hates the immoral and unethical stuff of life. Is everything in your leadership and your company operating under the truth of God’s principles?

  7. Mary notes that God shows mercy to those of us that fear him. (v 50)

    1. Do you fear God? He’s not just mighty and holy. If that were the end of His character, He’d snuff us out in a second. God is not just gracious, He is merciful towards you and everything wrong you’ve ever done. Mary just summarized pretty much the whole Old Testament! She was a student of God’s teaching. Are you studying God’s word?

  8. Finally, Mary praises God’s faithfulness. (v 53, 54). God never forgets His promises and He was about to fulfill one of them through her.

    1. As you ponder all of your life and all of God’s story from Genesis to today, do you see God’s hand in your life? Do you see his plan for humanity? What if you allowed his grand plan to calm your fears today? What if you allowed his future plans for mankind to put your present tense into a calmer place?

Read over Mary’s words again. Why not take 10 minutes this week to ponder them deeply. You may enjoy hearing Mary’s words in song. If so, tune in to singer Steve Bell’s website and listen to his rendering of Mary’s song. Here’s the link: https://bit.ly/2E6H4eM

It may just re-ignite your passion for Christmas and enliven a love for that teenager named Mary who helped transport Jesus into a human body so He could save the world and give your life meaning, hope, purpose and peace. Be careful, you may just find yourself on your knees in worship!