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.

Offering Generosity

For my second favorite takeaway from Dare to Lead, I’m going to part three entitled “Braving Trust.” This part focuses on the process of trust. Brown’s team identified seven behaviors that make up trust’s anatomy, which she came up with the acronym BRAVING to define. Those seven behaviors are:

  1. Boundaries
  2. Reliability
  3. Accountability
  4. Vault
  5. Integrity
  6. Nonjudgment
  7. Generosity

After reading the definitions and unpacking of these seven, the one that most challenged me was #7. Read this definition, and you might see why:

Generosity: You extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words, and actions of others.

There are so many opportunities for us to make up what we think other’s intentions are, why they said what they said, or did what they did. And many of them aren’t based on generosity. Many are based on our shallow trust levels.

So here are scenarios where I’ve put this to the test since reading this:

  • When someone doesn’t return my call/voicemail/text/email in the time I think they should
  • When someone appears to have over promised…again
  • When someone clearly didn’t read all the details of my email
  • When someone gives the wrong impression, in my opinion

See what I mean? All these scenarios have potentially opposite outcomes when I practice generosity. Generosity deepens trust and diminishes suspicion or accusation.

Generosity is a gift that can come in various packages. Here’s to offering it more every day.

Self-Compassion

Finished my first Brene Brown book this weekend. 

Walking away with so much. I’ll share my two favorite things in a few posts. Here’s the first one:

Talk to yourself the way you’d talk to someone you love.

This quote came from a section entitled How To Practice Self-Compassion. She shares this definition of self-compassion by Dr. Kristin Neff of the University of Texas at Austin: “being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism.” Brown translated that definition to her simple mandate.

I’m guilty. Chances are the vast majority of us are. Sharing high criticism like, “John, that was stupid,” or, “You are such an idiot.” I’ve even said recently, before I read this section, that that is how God talks to me because he speaks my language. So, I’m going to go ahead and call myself out. “John, that’s a lie. When you come to him with honest repentance, God doesn’t respond like that. Stop putting God in your shoes. Try stepping into his shoes filled with love for you.”

If you share my tendency, I issue you this 7-day challenge: 

For the next week, listen to your self-talk. When you catch yourself saying something that doesn’t sound like God would say to you, hit the pause button. Restate the sentence how you believe he’d say it. And, just in case you can’t figure it out, ask him. This could be a classic “you have not because you ask not.” Go ahead. Call yourself out for some self-compassion.

Twist on a Good Question

If you are in church leadership, it’s possible in some conference or workshop you’ve been asked this question: “If your church closed its doors, what would the community lose?” Another way to word it, “Would anyone notice if your doors closed?”

Someone at my church recently shared they’d heard this for the first time. They responded like we probably all did the first time we were asked: Thoughtful, Challenged, Evaluating.


Last week I shared that question with someone else, but for a different reason. A comment had been made about my role at the church, to which I made a twisted connection with this question.

What if this question dropped from the corporate level to a personal level and every church member and staff member asked, “If I walked away from this church, what would be lost?” Another way to word it, “Would anyone notice if I stopped bringing what I’m currently bringing to the table?”

Now that’s completely different. But what would happen if every child of God thought more about what they bring versus what they receive? What would happen in the community if believers said, “I’m here. I’m for you. I’m bringing what I got to the table. I’m not going anywhere. How can I help?”

Leadership Points

If you aspire to be a leader…If you currently have a leadership post…If you wonder how you’re doing as a leader, here are some points to consider (random and not exhaustive), especially for those serving the church world.

  • The only person to fear is the Holy Spirit.
  • Weigh carefully every “yes” and every “no.”
  • Be ready to say at any time, “I messed up.”
  • Expect disappointment, but don’t let it root bitterness.
  • Going to bed angry is always a bad choice.
  • You will never regret praying.
  • Professional Counselors are your friends.
  • Your weaknesses aren’t meant to bring you shame. They are reminders that you shouldn’t go it alone.
  • Horizontal affirmation will never be enough.
  • When you think you’ve communicated something well, ask yourself, “Did Grandma get that?”
  • God determines when you’re done.
  • The broader your reading the deeper your growth.
  • Your awe of God level produces your peace and contentment level.
  • Arrive prepared. Confess if you aren’t.
  • Assume you can always build more trust.
  • Thank the person or group who discovered the solution.
  • Believe someone else is the smartest person in the room.
  • You must meet people where they in order to lead them where they need to go.

Canoeing the Mountains (book review)

Finished this book last night, following a simulcast with the author on Monday.  I’ve tweeted quite a few quotes while reading.  Here are two from the end of the book that summarize it, in my opinion.

  • “We are all called to take the hill – with grandma.”
  • “God takes us into uncharted territory to transform us.”

Yes, the target of this book is leaders. Yet, anyone could gain much from this insightful work by Tod Bolsinger.

Yes, the target is mostly church leaders. Yet, business leaders who face a new day they didn’t see coming could also benefit from this read.

Bolsinger takes several pages from history through the 19th century story of Lewis and Clark to relate to those in 21st century leadership. Leaders today face uncharted territory which may feel like you have the wrong equipment for the job-like having a canoe to cross a mountain.

If this sounds remotely like what you are feeling, you should get this book and read it soon. Then have those you lead read it. Then start asking better questions together that may totally change everything. Instead of trying harder, maybe the answer you’ve been looking for is in reframing the question. As for you, your transformation can happen when you face uncharted territory, when you canoe the mountain.

Boundaries For Leaders (Book Review)

The first tweet I shared about this book was two months ago. I finally finished it today. It fell victim to multiple books being read simultaneously, not being on my kindle while traveling, and other excuses.


But I did not want this book to be read hurriedly. Dr. Cloud’s works should require margin in the reader’s heart and mind to receive the full impression. And this book, for leaders in particular, should be given the fullest margin.

I had only managed to get through a couple of chapters before last weekend. I determined to give it my full attention and get it finished. Let me say, last Saturday was a memorable reading day. My highlighter was busy. My mind was engaged. My heart was encouraged.

Leaders, no matter what size your tribe/company/organization/ministry, this book has something, probably lots of somethings, for you. For those in church world, that goes for paid staff leaders as well as volunteer/lay leaders. It order to fully serve as a body, we all must pursue being people who get results. If read with an open mind, this book will resource a team to do better for the kingdom, particularly mentally and emotionally. Here are 15 quotes to illustrate:

If you have the right people on board, they will exceed your wildest expectations.

The gap between where we are and where we want to be, which is the goal, does not go away by itself. We have to close that gap. And we have to deal with gaps that, sometimes, are difficult to face but motivating.

Two sets of reality consequences – the promise of positive outcomes and the fear of losing something of value – are among the most fundamental drivers of human performance.

Research shows that a “getting better” orientation goes much farther than a “being perfect” orientation.

The first element missing in many leadership scenarios: the right kinds and the right amounts of time together.

Don’t allow big problems to become elephants in the room. Name the elephant.

Put your smart phone in your pocket, purse, or bag. Some of the best leaders I know have a “no cell phone or email during this meeting” rule.

What you create, and what you allow, is what you get as a leader. Especially thinking.

Great leaders do the opposite of exercising control over others. Instead of taking all the control, they give it away.

When people assign a specific time and place for completion of specific tasks and goals, their chances of success increase by up to 300%.

The best leaders and organizations I know make use of outside sources for coaching and lifelong learning in a very organic fashion.

To be the best you can be, you must develop a hunger for feedback and see it as one of the best gifts that you can get.

“Fearful” is when you let your fears make your decisions for you, so…don’t let fear make your decisions for you! Having fears is normal. Being “fearful” is dysfunctional.

Many leaders allow too much lag time between knowing and doing.

If one person calls you a horse, blow it off. But if five do, buy a saddle.

Onward (book review)

A few weeks ago I saw Howard Schultz, Starbucks’ CEO, interviewed about his book Onward. He and his book’s message intrigued me, so I downloaded a copy. Plus, I needed to check off a book on leadership in my 2018 reading self-made requirements.


Onward did not disappoint. It was even more than I expected. A bottom line summary is the book tells the story of the transformation of the company in 2008-2009. This transformation involved many things which required excellent leadership by Schultz and the partners he empowered to lead at various levels in the company.

The writing is strongly narrative without too much direct leadership application. However, here are a few leadership principle highlights:

  1. Communication is always important, but it is even more essential when things are not working. Ensuring that communication is narrow, clear, and repetitive to set expectations wins people’s trust.
  2. A core capacity of leadership is the ability to make right decisions while flying blind, basing them on knowledge, wisdom, and the ability to stay wedded to an overriding goal.
  3. People have to stay true to their guiding principles. To their cores. Whatever they may be. Pursuing short-term rewards is always shortsighted.
  4. How leaders embody the values they espouse sets a tone, an expectation, that guides their employees’ behaviors.
  5. Growth for growth’s sake is a losing proposition.
  6. Every enterprise and organization has a memory. And those memories create a path for people to follow.

Besides the narrative of the New Orleans conference, worth the purchase of the book alone, this is the quote I most liked:

Wherever the location, the best beans – the ones with enchantingly complex flavors and compelling characters, known as arabica – grow under some degree of stress, like high altitudes, intense heat, or long dry periods.

This truth exemplifies the story of Onward. We can all learn from these beans. We can all be on the mission of moving onward.

Quiet (book review)

My guess is most readers of my blog have not read Susan Cain’s book Quiet. My encouragement is that you should.

Her book first came on my radar in 2012 when I heard her interviewed briefly about it at a Catalyst conference. I was intrigued but didn’t reach for it until now. Too bad I didn’t read it earlier.

Why? Because she helps you get it-the differences between extroverts and introverts. She helps you embrace your introversion, if you are one. And she helps the extrovert understand you. Yes, that’s possible. She even gives you insights into those people who appear to be one but are really the other. You’re intrigued now, aren’t you?

So who should read this book?

  1. Anyone who suspects they are introverted but aren’t sure
  2. Anyone who knows they’re introverted and struggle with it
  3. Anyone who lives with an introvert
  4. Anyone who works for or leads introverts
  5. Anyone who wonders why they are drawn to have introverted friends

Whoever you are, bear in mind that appearance is not reality. Some people act like extroverts, but the effort costs them in energy, authenticity, and even physical health. Others seem aloof or self-contained, but their inner landscapes are rich and full of drama. So the next time you see a person with a composed face and a soft voice, remember that inside her mind she might be solving an equation, composing a sonnet, designing a hat. She might, that is, be deploying the powers of quiet. P266

This is one of those books to not only read but add to your library. Power Up!