A Time for Preaching and Listening

I came across Amy Cuddy‘s book while browsing in Barnes & Noble. The cover intrigued me.

I ho-hummed through the first two chapters. Then came #3, “Stop Preaching, Start Listening.” Highlighter activated. And mostly because of the illustrative work she retold of Boston minister Reverend Jeffrey Brown. Follow this link to his Ted Talk.

His story of turning around gang violence in Boston in the 1990’s definitely brings light to the definition of presence. You could say that he defines presence as simply showing up. But how you show up is what Cuddy emphasizes with this statement:

When we meet someone new, we quickly answer two questions: “Can I trust this person?” and “Can I respect this person?” In our research, my colleagues and I have referred to these dimensions as warmth and competence respectively.

She ties warmth and trust together, competence and respect together. And whether we realize it or not, we first check a new acquaintance’s trustworthiness before their competence. Yet, when people are asked which they’d rather be seen as, most choose competent. Cuddy believes that desire can lead to costly mistakes.

To avoid that mistake, she encourages us to focus on the value of listening. Here are five reasons why:

  1. People can trust you.
  2. You acquire useful information.
  3. You begin to see other people as individuals-and maybe even allies.
  4. You develop solutions that other people are willing to accept and even adopt.
  5. When people feel heard, they are more willing to listen.

In order to get somewhere with the gang members, Reverend Brown had this attitude: The youth have to be looked at not as the problem but as partners. How much farther might we get in all life’s arenas if we adopted this mindset? In our families, in our offices, in our courtrooms, in our churches, in our schools, in our legislative bodies, in our town halls, in our social media posts, in our spotlight moments, in our journalism, in our prayers?

There is a time for preaching and a time for listening. How much further might we get if we honored those times?

2020 Library

For a third year I have followed a self-developed reading strategy with the objective to read broader. The goal: read 30-35 books falling under 9 headings. This strategy is still working for me.

For the curious, here is the library of 31 books listed alphabetically and avenue of reading:

A Life God Rewards by Bruce Wilkinson (hard copy)

A Spirituality of Listening by Keith Anderson (kindle)

Awe by Paul David Tripp (kindle)

Born A Crime by Trevor Noah (kindle)

Before You Go by Wade Hodges (kindle)

Chasing Dreams by Jerry Kill (hard copy)

Choosing to Lead by Harvey Kanter (kindle)

Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers by Leslie L. Fields & Dr. Jill Hubbard (kindle)

Honor’s Reward by John Bevere (hard copy)

How to Pray by Ronnie Floyd (hard copy)

I Choose Honor by Rich Wilkerson Sr. (kindle)

I Hear You by Michael Sorensen (kindle)

It’s Not My Fault by Henry Cloud & John Townsend (kindle)

Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson (hard copy)

Me and White Supermacy by Lyla F. Saad (kindle)

Note to Self by Joe Thorn (kindle)

Spurgeon’s Sermons on New Testament Men by Charles Haddon Spurgeon (hard copy)

Talking to High Monks in the Snow by Lydia Minatoya (hard copy)

The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity by Matthew Kelly (hard copy)

The Dog Who Saved Me by Susan Wilson (hard copy)

The Genesis of Justice by Alan Dershowitz (kindle)

The Grand Weaver by Ravi Zacharias (hard copy)

The Pastor’s Wife and The Other Woman by Joe & Pennie Wright (hard copy)

The Power of Christian Contentment by Andrew M. Davis (kindle)

The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller (hard copy)

Unwanted by Jay Stringer (kindle)

Uniquely Bivocational by Ray Gilder (hard copy)

What If Jesus Was Serious by Skye Jethani (kindle)

What Now?  by Jim Henry & Deb Terry (hard copy)

When to Leave by Wade Hodges (kindle)

Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor (kindle)

A Minister Myth

There’s a leadership philosophy that ministers and other leaders are often encouraged to adopt. I believe it’s a myth. I’ll go a step further to say it’s not biblical; in fact, an argument could be made to the opposite.

This philosophy, which I’ve never heard spoken on in any seminar nor was it taught in any of my seminary classes, goes something like this: Pastors can’t have, shouldn’t pursue, and must avoid friendships in the church. If you’ve never heard that before, read that again. And stop and meditate for a moment about it.

One commentary note I come to is this: No wonder ministers find themselves in unhealthy places. For whatever reason, they ignore the “one anothers” of scripture, miss the example of Jesus, then find themselves isolated in a kingdom of one wondering where everyone else is.

I’ve observed everyone else is enjoying and learning to embrace the benefits of the kingdom. In the kingdom of heaven, the citizens receive both encouragement and challenge to be like Jesus. While on earth, he intimately lived this out with his disciples. And it appears his relationship with three of them was a deeper level-one would probably call them friends.

I can’t imagine the last 23 years of my life had I lived by this philosophy. Do I get exemption because I’m single? May I say for all the single people, “Wake Up!” Your marital status doesn’t automatically determine your friendship need. All kingdom dwellers need other dwellers to encourage and challenge them. We all need friends.

Today, thank God for your cheerleaders, your encouragers, your challengers. Pastors and leaders, if these people are scarce in your life, what are you willing to do about it? Your isolated kingdom lacks. Take a step toward the life of your Redeemer. Pursue friendships. Live in the blessing of Jesus’ hope for all kingdom dwellers (John 17).

Your Summary

Chapter three in Ravi Zacharias’s book The Grand Weaver is entitled “Your Calling Matters.” Here’s how he defines God’s calling:

A calling is simply God’s shaping of your burden and beckoning you to your service to him in the place and pursuit of his choosing.

When I think of Ravi Zacharias, I believe he knew his calling. Who comes to mind of people you believe knew their calling? Whomever it is, see if they exemplify this next sentence that ends the same paragraph including that definition:

When your will becomes aligned with God’s will, his calling upon you has found its home.

The challenge is maintaining that alignment. If the tapestry God desires to design through one’s life is to be completed, staying pliable and surrendered in the Grand Weaver’s hand is required.

When he summarized leaders in the Bible, God pronounced their pursuit of their call with one of two statements: “he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord” or “he did evil in the eyes of the Lord.”

This Matters. 

Your Calling Matters. 

Your Summary Matters.
Photo Credit: Unsplash/Jamie Street

Choosing To Lead (a book review)

As we walk daily through COVID-19, at times it seems minute by minute, we observe leadership. Regardless of the outcomes and personal opinions of decisions, we are learning what choices mean to leadership.

After finishing Harvey Kanter’s book Choosing to Lead, I’d encourage all leaders of any position to use your downtime in the next few weeks to dialogue with it. He addresses several practical and vital aspects of leadership such as communication, optimism, values, curiosity, humility, and decisiveness. His definitions are experientially based; his directions are growth oriented. His encouragement is that many people have position to lead but have yet to actually choose to do it, and pursue doing it well. Kanter doesn’t claim to have all the answers; maybe that’s why his thoughts are worth considering. His words model his values based on his choices. Below are a dozen highlights.

  • I am not my resume.
  • Leaders keep seeking answers until they find them…asking questions is paramount to leading well.
  • When a leader is seen “doing what needs to be done,” a precedent is established for the team that you need to jump in and take action, not wait for someone else to act.
  • Your ability to learn through the unexpected will grow your leadership capacity…the kind of leader you are shows up in adversity.
  • Your ability to grow is in direct correlation to your level of curiosity and inquisitiveness. Your orientation towards learning will either stretch you to expand your thinking or constrain you to live in a static world.
  • A confident leader is one who recognizes the best qualities in others without being threatened.
  • We like to work with people we can believe in. We tend to believe in people who genuinely believe in themselves.
  • Leading people in sharing their views, risking that they may be misunderstood or that their view may not be appreciated by others, is a critical leadership skill.
  • Trying things new and unfamiliar stimulates subconscience problem-solving, forcing you to see things from a new point of view.
  • Actions are the truest reflection of values.
  • Accountability requires vulnerability.
  • The smartest people surround themselves with even smarter people.

Wordlessly

Harvey Kanter’s recent book on leadership, Choosing to Lead, is my current read. If you want a practical, straightforward, fairly quick read on leadership, give this book a look.

I just finished chapter 13 entitled Decisiveness. Two thumbs up. His main illustration is a familiar one, the 2009 event of Flight 1549 leaving LaGuardia and crash landing in the Hudson River-a scrutinized decision by Captain Sully Sullenberger. Here’s an excerpt from the chapter:

The entire scenario from the first bird strike to the initial impact of a water landing took just under 3 1/2 minutes to play out. Relying on their training to save everyone on board, the response of Captain Sully and his crew was to act decisively. In a much later interview Sullenberger said, “…he worked sometimes wordlessly with his first officer, Jeff Skiles, in dividing urgent chores despite never having flown together before… ‘We were able to collaborate wordlessly,’ Sullenberger said, ‘I didn’t have time to direct his every action… You have to deal with the most time critical things first… Situational awareness is the ability to see the entirety of the forest, but knowing at any given moment which tree is the most important one.'”

When I read that, one word struck me-wordlessly. Both of these men brought all of themselves to the situation resulting in a terrific outcome-wordlessly.

Sounds pretty unrealistic to expect all our relationships to reach such a high level. But here’s what’s not unrealistic-working to show up ready to be that for others whom God has put me in relationship. I cannot control how they show up. But I am completely responsible for bringing all of myself, ready to respond wordlessly.

2019 Library

For a second year I have followed a self-developed reading strategy with the objective to read broader. The goal: read 25-30 books falling under 9 headings. Having read 27 books across these topics, I testify I still enjoy this strategy.

For the curious, here is the library of 27 books, listed by order read and avenue of reading:

A Child Called “It” by Dave Pelzer (kindle)

The Crib, The Cross, & The Crux by Lisa Fulghum (hard copy)

Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Chambers (kindle)

Every Square Inch by Bruce Ashford (hard copy)

Bravo Two Zero by Andy McNab (audio)

An Autobiography or The Story of My Experiments with Truth by M. K. Ghandi (kindle)

Canoeing the Mountains by Tod Bolsinger (hard copy)

Saying No to Say Yes by David C. Olsen and Nancy G. Devor (kindle)

Them by Ben Sasse (kindle)

When to Leave by Wade Hodges (kindle)

Before You Go by Wade Hodges (kindle)

Awe by Paul David Tripp (kindle)

Our Presidents and Their Prayers by Rand Paul and James Randall Robison (audio)

Calico Joe by John Grisham (audio)

The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott (audio)

The Bait of Satan by John Bevere (kindle)

Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris (kindle)

Boundaries For Your Soul by Kimberly Miller and Alison Cook (kindle)

Forgiven by Terri Roberts (hard copy)

Dare to Lead by Brene Brown (kindle)

Something Needs To Change by David Platt (hard copy)

The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller (hard copy)

Leading Change Without Losing It by Carey Nieuwhof (hard copy)

It’s Not My Fault by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend (kindle)

Replenish by Lance Witt (hard copy)

The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer (kindle)

Integrity by Dr. Henry Cloud (hard copy)

A Memorable Human Encounter

Once in a while we’re fortunate to have a memorable human encounter. When it happens, I believe we should share it. I had one yesterday.

Actually, several dozen people were present, but I suspect few of them would classify it memorable. We all got to hear a few words from a local leader in sports and education. He shared some life principles as part of a community gathering at our church. His words were well said and presented. He knew what he wanted to say, he said it, and no more. He represented himself and his position honorably.

His words weren’t necessarily his. The majority of what he shared retold what he remembered learning from his grandfather, a Baptist minister. He recalled them with fondness and admiration acknowledging they started the journey he is continuing himself and now works to pass along to students and athletes under his leadership. Everyone listening had a human encounter.

But mine was memorable, not because of what he said but because of what he didn’t say. Until last night, he and I had only communicated through email and voicemail where I extended the invitation to him to come speak and then our prepping for it. In them and through all he shared with me privately and publically last night, not once did he mention his title, his success, his credentials, his history, or his current victories. Only since last night through the wonders of the Internet have I learned there is plenty he could have mentioned. His lack of being about himself was refreshing and honestly unexpected. That shows character. That reveals humility. That deserves memory.


Thank God for this servant leader, Coach Shakir. I’m grateful for this encounter. I pray God blesses his future encounters to continue to be memorable for all the right reasons.

Hey Leader…Get Some Help

A copy of this Carey Nieuwhof book was given to me recently. Just finished reading it. Worthwhile.

I want to pass along one paragraph that may be one of the most helpful practices in the book. In chapter five entitled “Don’t Quit,” Nieuwhof lists five practices that have helped him, the founding pastor of a multi-site church near Toronto, persevere. The second practice reads:

2. Get some help. A decade ago I sat down with a counselor for the first time. Jim helped me get through some key issues, and he helped my wife, Toni, and me navigate some of the pitfalls common to couples when one is called into ministry. I’ve seen a few counselors over the last decade during different seasons and am quite sure I wouldn’t be in ministry today if it weren’t for their influence in my life. When I’ve been tempted to quit moments before a key breakthrough, my wife, prayer, wise words from others, and the help of a counselor made all the difference. I really believe God uses other people to speak to us. Interestingly enough, I don’t know of a single influential ministry leader who’s made it over the long haul who hasn’t been through some form of formal or informal counseling. My only question is why I didn’t go sooner.

Leader, consider the practice of your colleague. Get some help.

Are We Doing Church Right?

A friend (thanks, Pat) recently loaned me a copy of David Platt’s latest book, Something Needs To Change. If you’ve read anything by him, I’ll go ahead and suggest you haven’t read anything like this one. Platt chronicles his week-long journey through the Himalayas where he came face to face with some of the most difficult questions and challenging needs in the world. Because he’s reacting, you react. Because he’s questioning, you question. And nothing is outside the realm of analysis. Even the church.


In chapter six, Platt shares the lives of church leaders in the Himalayas. Their work is not easy. And it’s quite different than the majority of church leaders in other countries-vastly different from American churches. At the end of the day, he was asked to do some teaching and training. Here’s an excerpt of his thoughts about that time:

Over the coming hours, we walk through all kinds of pictures and passages in the Bible describing the church as God designed it. As I’m teaching and we are all discussing what we see in God’s Word, I am struck with a fresh realization.

Looking at the Bible to see how God has designed the church is exactly what needs to be done. As I had reflected a couple of days ago, these villages needed the church in them, but they don’t need an American version of church; they need a biblical version of church.

As I walk through the Word with these leaders, it hits me that so many of my conversations about the church in America are often focused on cultural traditions that are extrabiblical at best and unbiblical at worst.

For example, as I read the Bible with these brothers and sisters, we don’t see anything about constructing church buildings or organizing church programs or managing church staffs, topics that so many church conversations in America revolve around. It makes me wonder, Why are Bible-believing, Bible-preaching churches in America so focused on what is not in the Bible? As I ask myself this question, I can’t help but think that one of the greatest needs not just in the church in the Himalayas but in the place where I live is for us to open our Bibles with fresh, unfiltered eyes and ask, “Are we really doing church the way this book describes it?”

American Christian, it’s a fair question. If you aren’t convinced, get a copy of this book. After you’ve read it, come back to the question. We must be open to the possibility that we are not doing it right. And if that’s true, what are we going to do about it.