Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? (New York: Penguin Group, 2010)

Seth Godin posts on his website 365 days a year. About once a month he comes up with a classic, worth saving to a PDF, categorizing, tagging, and saving. If you are not already subscribed to his blog, I recommend it: Seth Godin

The featured book of the quarter is Linchpin.

Here are “mustard seeds” I highlighted:

Is there anyone in an organization who is absolutely irreplaceable? Probably not. But the most essential people are so difficult to replace, so risky to lose, and so valuable that they might as well be irreplaceable. Entire corporations are built around a linchpin, or more likely, a scattering of them, essential individuals who are worth holding on to (page 49). Kindle Edition.

Art, at least art as I define it, is the intentional act of using your humanity to create a change in another person. How and where you do that art is a cultural choice in the moment. No one wrote novels a thousand years ago. No one made videos thirty years ago. No one Twittered poetry three years ago (page 99). Kindle Edition.

Successful people are successful for one simple reason: they think about failure differently. Successful people learn from failure, but the lesson they learn is a different one. They don’t learn that they shouldn’t have tried in the first place, and they don’t learn that they are always right and the world is wrong and they don’t learn that they are losers. They learn that the tactics they used didn’t work or that the person they used them on didn’t respond. You become a winner because you’re good at losing. The hard part about losing is that you might permit it to give strength to the resistance, that you might believe that you don’t deserve to win, that you might, in some dark corner of your soul, give up. Don’t (page 115). Kindle Edition.

Going out of your way to find uncomfortable situations isn’t natural, but it’s essential (page 116). Kindle Edition.

The road to comfort is crowded and it rarely gets you there. Ironically, it’s those who seek out discomfort that are able to make a difference and find their footing (pages 115, 116). Kindle Edition.

Discomfort brings engagement and change. Discomfort means you’re doing something that others were unlikely to do, because they’re busy hiding out in the comfortable zone. When your uncomfortable actions lead to success, the organization rewards you and brings you back for more (page 116). Kindle Edition.

When someone says to me, “I don’t have any good ideas . . . I’m just not good at that,” I ask them, “Do you have any bad ideas?” Nine times out of ten, the answer is no. Finding good ideas is surprisingly easy once you deal with the problem of finding bad ideas. All the creativity books in the world aren’t going to help you if you’re unwilling to have lousy, lame, and even dangerously bad ideas (pages 116, 117). Kindle Edition.

One way to become creative is to discipline yourself to generate bad ideas. The worse the better. Do it a lot and magically you’ll discover that some good ones slip through (page 117). Kindle Edition.

You’d think that the biggest self-doubt would be that something you’re working on might fail. And no doubt, many of us lie awake, filled with anxiety about big failures. Consider the argument that it’s just as likely you hold back out of fear that something might work. If it works, then you have to do it. Then you have to do it again. Then you have to top it. If it works, your world changes. There are new threats and new challenges and new risks. That’s world-class frightening (page 121). Kindle Edition.

We assign motivations and plots and vendettas where there are none. Those angry customers didn’t wake up this morning deciding to ruin your day, not at all. They’re just angry. It’s not personal and it’s not rational and it certainly isn’t about whether or not you deserve it. It just is. So now what are you going to do about it? When our responses turn into reactions and we set out to teach people a lesson, we lose. We lose because the act of teaching someone a lesson rarely succeeds at changing them, and always fails at making our day better, or our work more useful (page 178). Kindle Edition.

Humility is our antidote to what’s inevitably not going to go according to plan. Humility permits us to approach a problem with kindness and not arrogance. But humility is not the same as compliance. Humility doesn’t mean meekness or fitting in at all costs. Compliance feels like a shortcut to humility because it permits us to deny responsibility for whatever goes wrong. But compliance deprives you of your superpower; it robs you of the chance to make something better. The challenge, then, is to be the generous artist, but do it knowing that it just might not work. And that’s okay (page 224). Kindle Edition.

 

Culturally Diverse Church in Raleigh, North Carolina

7th New Shepherds Orientation Workshop

We had a hard working group for the 7th New Shepherds Orientation Workshop. It was a beautiful drive around the Northern border of the Smokies the weekend of August 25-27. This is one of the most culturally diverse congregations I’ve visited. The Spanish and English worship together. Their website is in both English and Spanish. They have members from other nationalities as well. I asked one of the elders the different backgrounds of the members at Raleigh. He replied, “Honduras, El Salvador,  Ghana,  Nigeria.  And there’s even a Californian…now they are something else.”

This congregation is about fifteen years old and has recently appointed new shepherds. These men, their wives, the preacher, and his wife had done their homework. They were ready to discuss ways to be more effective in the Lord’s work.

As a result of suggestions at a previous workshop in Puyallup, Washington, we had more time for small groups to interact.

The men’s and women’s groups worked separately on a real situation in a real church and made observations and suggestions of how to improve the interaction of elders and their flock.

I gave the men an issue of someone wanting to modify the elders’ plan to do mission work when a brother with money had rather build an educational annex.

The ladies discussed issues that come with being the wife of an elder. This was especially helpful to the wives of the new elders.

We concluded Sunday morning with the Bible class, Leadership is a Gift, Not a Grind. During the worship, I discussed what Paul talked about and what they did at his last elders’ meeting with the overseers of the Ephesian church. Each elder shared a “mustard seed” he had learned during the workshop.

The elders, preachers, and wives of the Raleigh church: Bill and Beth Culverhouse, Elisha and Anne Marie Freeman, Glenn and Fran Holland, Allan and Barbara Johnson, Bob and Margaret Platt, Mac and Pamela Safley, and Scott and Carol Wollens.

Discussion Topics

  • What are guidelines to help us have a better discussion and workshop?
  • How can elders shepherd each other?
  • How will we grow together as a group?
  • How will we handle criticism?
  • What is a good plan to be sure we are adequately caring for all the sheep?
  • How can we deal with deacons and encourage them?
  • How will we develop as overseers as well as shepherds?
  • How will we oversee each other?
  • What can we do to keep important things from falling through the cracks?
  • Will we function as deacons and be called elders?
  • How can we prevent the development of a toxic “head elder”?
  • What is one thing we can do to prevent conflict and promote peace?
  • How will we evaluate the deacons, the ministers, and each other?
  • What are some ways we can have good communication with the congregation?
  • What are different kinds of meetings we should have to lead this church?
  • Who should select additional leaders in this congregation?
  • What is a good way to facilitate selection?

Workshop Characteristics

  • Include all shepherds, preachers, and wives.
  • Meet offsite — away from the building.
  • Include twelve hours of working time.

The Usual Schedule

Friday — 6:00-10:00 p.m.
Saturday — 8:00-12:00 a.m.; 1:00-5:00 p.m.
Sunday:
Bible class: When Leadership Is a Gift Instead of a Grind
Sermon at worship: What Do You Say at Your Last Elders’ Meeting?

Dates I have available today for 2018: a weekend (Friday night, Saturday, Sunday morning) in April, May, September, October, November.

What questions or observations do you have about the New Shepherds Orientation Workshop?

Please leave a comment by ...... clicking here.

“Bless Our _______ as They Make Their Decisions”

…the ones they know they're making and the ones they don’t

One of the frequent petitions I hear about elders in public prayers is, “Lord, bless our elders as they make their decisions.” I often cringe when I hear that. What about, “Bless our elders as they shepherd the flock; bless our elders as they set examples of excellence, dedication, service, and holiness; bless our elders as they discern and lead this church in a heavenly direction”?

But when you think about it, decisions our elders make are crucial. Not ones about whether to build or not to build, the color of the carpet, settings on thermostats (I think one of the qualifications of an elder should be he doesn’t know how to operate a thermostat), or the type and size of lawnmowers for church grass.

 

Some Decisions Elders Make Every Day

  • To shepherd or do the work of a deacon. I hear many excuses about why elders are still doing the work of deacons years after they were appointed to shepherd the flock and know better. The reason is everybody (elders, deacons, and members) likes it the way it is better than what it would take to change it.
Everybody (elders, deacons, and members) likes it the way it is better than what it would take to change it. Click To Tweet
  • To do the work of ministry or also equip others to do the work of ministry. Paul taught evangelists, pastors, and teachers to equip saints for the work of ministry — not do all the work themselves. (Ephesians 4:11-13).
  •  To mentor and train leaders or hope some show up when we need them. It’s too late to be alarmed over a lack of qualified men to lead two weeks before the day to appoint new elders and deacons. I believe each congregation has leaders they want, leaders they prayed for, leaders they trained. What planned development are you doing for elders and deacons now? What have you done in the last two years?
Each congregation has leaders they want, leaders they prayed for, leaders they trained. Click To Tweet
  • To deal with difficult situations or ignore them. The Holy Spirit makes shepherds who will work with sheep. Sheep, by nature, are dependent, dirty, and disoriented. Sheep get in messy situations. Shepherds can continue to meet about the budget and complain how bad the world and brethren are or get into their spiritual ambulances and pick up the sheep who’ve wrecked on life’s highway. One is more comfortable for the moment. The other is the job description of a shepherd.

Others Who Are Making Important Decisions
“Bless our ______ as they make their decisions”

  1. Deacons decide if they’ll serve with excellence bringing glory to God or just take up space on the church bulletin — to do all the work they’ve been given or develop others in the work of ministry.
  2. Preachers decide if they’ll preach the truth with enthusiasm and conviction or look up a good sermon on the internet Saturday night and read it on Sunday morning. They decide by pain and hard work to develop a Christ-like attitude or do what comes naturally, which is often offensive.
  3. Parents decide if they’ll prayerfully put the priority on raising their children in the way of the Lord by example, teaching, and training or decide to make them popular and pleasing to the world of sports and entertainment.
  4. Young people are making decisions about serving God, their occupations, marriage, and morals. In the next ten years, decisions of our teens will probably have a greater impact on the church in the next fifty years than decisions of our elders.
  5. Bible teachers decide if they’ll prepare their lessons well, live a good life, be a worthy example, and be interested in teaching individuals not just filling time for forty-five minutes.
  6. Every Christian decides if his or her emphasis concerning God is to be faithful, prayerful, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, or if a little religion is good for a well-rounded life.
  7. We all decide, either on purpose or by default, how we relate to fellow Christians in encouragement, happiness, sorrow, and conflict.

 

Who do you want God to “bless as they make their decisions”?

Please leave a comment by ...... clicking here.

Excited and Growing Church in Washington State

6th New Shepherds Orientation Workshop

The sixth New Shepherds Orientation Workshop was with the Puyallup Church of Christ in Puyallup, Washington. We had the training sessions in the Holiday Inn Express in Seattle, Washington.

I was touched and encouraged. Although two of the elders were involved in deaths close to them, they were present for most of the training. One was preaching the funeral for a close friend of many years. The other’s brother had died.

[tweetthis]This church is alive and well! They are growing.[/tweetthis]

Their building fund is increasing each week. Children are bringing their change for the new building and had donated $135.00+ the previous two weeks. We saw crowded seating and an overflowing parking lot. They are looking for more property where they can relocate.

Their building fund is increasing each week. Children are bringing their change for the new building and had donated $135.00+ the previous two weeks. We saw crowded seating and an overflowing parking lot. They are looking for more property where they can relocate.

Mark Jamieson, their preacher, told me they are within 1% of having the national average of age groups and generations. Yes, they have millennials.

Not only are they present, but they are also excited about doing the Lord’s work. Gail and I were there on potluck Sunday and were able to talk with many of the Christians.

The church has recently appointed seven new deacons. I was asked to lead opening prayer of the first elders and deacons meeting for the new group.

[tweetthis]Shepherds of this church are committed to letting the deacons deak. They are caring for the sheep.[/tweetthis]

This workshop is the second one I’ve led where everyone stayed together in the same building. Although Puyallup is only a twenty-minute drive from the Hotel, they decided to stay on site. It worked well.

The elders, preacher, and wives are Chris and Jolene Bartlett, Mark and Suzy Jamieson, Gene and Carolyn McCaul, Bob and Diane Sallee, Ken and Sandy Wilson.

I am scheduling workshops for 2018.

Some of the topics we discuss are:

  • What are guidelines to help us have a better discussion and workshop?
  • How can elders shepherd each other?
  • How will we grow together as a group?
  • How will we handle criticism?
  • What is a good plan to be sure we are caring adequately for all the sheep?
  • How can we deal with deacons and encourage them?
  • How will we develop as overseers as well as shepherds?
  • How will we oversee each other?
  • What can we do to keep important things from falling through the cracks?
  • Will we function as deacons and be called elders?
  • How can we prevent the development of a toxic “head elder”?
  • What is one thing we can do to prevent conflict and promote peace?
  • How will we evaluate the deacons, the ministers, and each other?
  • What are some ways we can have good communication with the congregation?
  • What are different kinds of meetings we should have to lead this church?
  • Who should select additional leaders in this congregation?
  • What is a good way to facilitate selection?

The workshop should:

  • Include all shepherds, preachers, and wives.
  • Meet offsite — away from the building.
  • Include twelve hours of working time.

The usual schedule:

Friday — 6:00-10:00 p.m.
Saturday — 8:00-12:00 a.m.; 1:00-5:00 p.m.
Sunday:
Bible class: When Leadership Is a Gift Instead of a Grind
Sermon at worship: What Do You Say at Your Last Elders’ Meeting?

Dates I have available today for 2018: a weekend (Friday night, Saturday, Sunday morning) in March, April, May, September, October, November.

What questions or observations do you have about New Shepherds Orientation Workshops?

Please leave a comment by ...... clicking here.

7 Ways to Deal with the Pain of Being a Shepherd

dealing with dependent, dirty, and disoriented sheep isn’t always fun

I’ve worked with many shepherds who start with a great vision of their work. “We want to get out of management, details of the business, caring for the building, controlling finances, and become shepherds. We want to know the sheep, lead them, help them, and encourage them.”

Often within three months the shepherding goal is abandoned, forgotten, and the group is back to being busy deacons, exhausting themselves with various tasks of keeping the organization going. They’re doing good things. They do a good job of doing good things. But they’ve forgotten the great goal they had of being shepherds.

Why does that happen?

My observations:

  1. Shepherding takes a lot of time. When shepherds decide to know and be known by sheep, it doesn’t happen quickly (John 10:3, 4). It takes hours, days, weeks, months, and years to know people by name and disclose yourself appropriately so you can be known by the sheep. I haven’t found a formula for developing instant trust. Often the presenting question doesn’t reveal the real problem. The first approach is your try-out. They want to see how you’ll handle a small problem to decide if they’ll share the devastating problem with you.[tweetthis]Shepherding takes a lot of time. [/tweetthis]
  2. Shepherding is confusing and embarrassing. Shepherds don’t have all the answers. Many men have told me, “I never knew all the problems people have and the seriousness of their difficulties. I don’t have answers to tell them how to solve their problems.” When people relate things others have done to hurt them, sometimes they’re things I’ve done or may still be doing I never realized was a problem. I’m like the ones they want me to fix. When I get lost in my pain and guilt, I haven’t listened to the last five minutes of their conversation.[tweetthis]Shepherding is confusing and embarrassing.[/tweetthis]
  3. Frustrated sheep can attack. It must be disappointing to start a work that takes time, effort, and energy — then be bombarded with criticism. It will happen. Some sheep want you to fix other sheep to solve problems they need to address. When you don’t do what they ask, they’ll complain or leave. Members will accuse, blame, and withhold their contribution. You’ll be criticized to your face and behind your back. Best friends can become cold, absent, and sometimes enemies.[tweetthis]Frustrated sheep can attack.[/tweetthis]

How can you deal with the pain of shepherding?

  1. Count the cost before agreeing to the work. Most good tasks and roles involve some discomfort and messiness. Imagine a young man who says, “I want to play high school and college football, but I don’t ever want to get hurt.” Football is a contact sport. Expect sore muscles, bruises, bloody noses, and maybe broken bones. That’s the nature of football. If you want to avoid all physical pain, sign up for the chess team. Ask and answer the question, “Is the reward I’ll receive worth the price I’m paying” (1 Peter 5:4)?
  2. Many new tasks become easier with training and experience. When I first started working with a computer, it was frustrating and confusing. I had a friend who started the same time I did. He went back to a pencil and legal pad. Now, much of what I do with my computer is muscle memory. I work without conscious thought and enjoy it.
  3. Plan how you’ll continue your education, training, and personal growth. There are classes, books, newsletters, workshops, and podcasts that can improve your effectiveness as a shepherd. I’ve found going to a competent counselor is helpful. Unless I work on my issues, they’ll get confused with people I’m trying to help.
  4. Learn from the sheep you’re leading. We are more alike than different. When I see myself in others, I can avoid consequences of bad decisions others are making before I get that far down the road. Also, because they’re having problems in one area, doesn’t mean they aren’t excellent in other sectors. One of the ways to serve others is to permit them to serve me (Luke 7:36-50).
  5. Build a list of available and competent resources to help in working with sheep. Doctors don’t usually develop their medicines. They find what helps and prescribe the same one for the same symptoms. I don’t know of a doctor who treats every illness — sinus infections, heart bypass surgery, and transplanting kidneys. Each general practitioner has a list of specialists who can treat what he or she is unprepared to address. It’s good to know Christian counselors, accountants, alcoholics — even someone who “was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man” (1 Timothy 1:13, NIV). People with different training and experience can relate to others who need their training or their past for instruction and hope.
  6. Your hope comes from pain (Romans 5:1-5). Very few rewards come without painful effort and persistence.
  7. Follow your leader — Jesus (Philippians 2:1-11; 1 Peter 2:15-25). Jesus is the perfect model of Someone who understood that creative, helpful, beneficial pain precedes blessing. Resurrection is great, glorious, and victorious. However, crucifixion comes before resurrection (Matthew 16:21, 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

For those who follow the Good Shepherd, the reward is worth the risk, “and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away” (1Peter 5:4, NKJV).

How have you dealt with the pain of shepherding?

Please leave a comment by ...... clicking here.

9 Ways to Encourage Your Preacher

3 reasons to encourage anyone

I received this email from a preacher friend: Could you answer the following questions for me in order to assist me with a sermon this week. We’re doing a “Church Growth” series – and the next lesson is on Ministerial Renewal. Perhaps my answers to him would provide a “mustard seed” of how to encourage your preacher (and others).

What are some ways members can encourage and support their ministers?

  1. Sincere, spaced, specific compliments.
  2. Sincere, metered, kind criticism.
  3. Consistent, accurate communication about what you want, when you want it, and what you don’t want. Some people want visits when they’re sick, others don’t. Some people want their names in the bulletin for sickness, deaths, and weddings, others don’t.
  4. Extend grace. When your preacher forgets or makes a mistake, communicate when it’s helpful and important. However, an occasional slip doesn’t merit an emotional explosion.
  5. Especially when you have a criticism, talk to your preacher — not about your preacher. Don’t tattle to the elders about shortcomings of your preacher until you’ve talked with him first (Matthew 18:15). Then, if you need to involve the elders, let him know and suggest he invite a trusted person to set in on the meeting. Make the purpose of the meeting help and not hurt (Matthew 18:16). [tweetthis]Don’t tattle 2 the elders about shortcomings of your preacher until you’ve talked with him 1st (Matthew 18:15).[/tweetthis]
  6. Invite him and his family for a meal. When people do that, without an agenda, it feels like a mini-vacation — a time to rest, relax, and recharge. Especially refreshing to me: people who have treated me like a normal human being, Jerrie, not just “the preacher.”
  7. Give him awards and parties. I’ve asked many people why their companies waste money on pins, plaques, cruises, and certificates. They tell me the company isn’t wasting money — it’s an investment in their encouragement and growth. I ask, “I wonder if that works with preachers?”. It does. Many have done that for me and I’m encouraged.
  8. Give an extended (three-month) sabbatical every seven years. One of the easiest, most economical ways to get a good new preacher is to give your old preacher a planned extended rest. He can come back a renewed preacher without paying a moving company and negotiating a higher salary with a different preacher who doesn’t know the congregation. This was the most valuable gift in my years of preaching. Trade Your Preacher for a Better One
  9. Encourage and assist in short periods of intense, isolated study. I’ve done this on several occasions. It’s amazing what I can do in five days in a remote place with nothing to do but think, pray, read, and study. Some of my most used and helpful sermons and series have come out of these focused times of retreat and study.

Why is it important for members to encourage and support their ministers (all servants — not just preachers)?

  1. Courage wears out. Unless many people are encouraged, they will become discouraged and “weary in well doing” (Galatians 6:9)
  2. Encouragement helps the encourager as well as the encouraged.
  3. It’s a part of “bearing one another’s burdens” and fulfilling the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2). [tweetthis]Encouragement helps the encourager as well as the encouragee.[/tweetthis]

What Bible examples do you see where ministers were encouraged and supported?

  • God told Moses to encourage Joshua. Deuteronomy 1:38; Deuteronomy 3:28
  • Moses encouraged Joshua in the sight of all Israel. Deuteronomy 31:7
  • Moses encouraged Joshua. Deuteronomy 31:23
  • The Lord encouraged Joshua. Joshua 1:7
  • Joshua encouraged others. Joshua 10:25

The encouragee has become the encourager.

What encourages you? How have you encouraged others?
Please comment below:

Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2016)

A few years ago I received a request to lead a workshop on how to set and achieve goals in a church.

I asked the person requesting the appointment if the elders and preachers set goals as individuals. He replied in the negative.

I told him I wouldn’t ask the congregation to do something their leaders weren’t doing. I asked if they’d like to learn how to set and work toward goals as individuals. If that was helpful to them, they’d be ready to encourage others to join them in a practical discipline.

I’ve been setting written goals since 1971. I haven’t reached every goal, but I think I’ve accomplished more than if I’d never aimed at anything. Suggestions from previous post: Planning to Grow as a Leader.

The best book I’ve read on goal-setting was published this year. It gives suggestions to plan and work toward accomplishing the life you believe God wants you to live.

Here are some “mustard seeds” I found encouraging:

As we said earlier, most people spend more time planning a one-week vacation than identifying what outcomes they want to see in the major areas of their lives. Is it any surprise when life doesn’t turn out the way we want? (Kindle Locations 565-567).

Pull power is essential to reach our goals. You need to see a future with such clarity and desirability that you will go through all the uncomfortable things life throws at you to attain it (Kindle Locations 670-671).

The problem is that most of us are so caught up in our moment-to-moment activities, we don’t stop to ask ourselves, Where is this all going? How is it going to end if I stick to this same path? (Kindle Locations 719-720).

Our legacy comprises the spiritual, intellectual, relational, vocational, and social capital we pass on. It’s the sum total of the beliefs you embrace, the values you live by, the love you express, and the service you render to others. It’s the you-shaped stamp you leave when you go (Kindle Locations 746-748).

I encourage you to plan your life, and live toward the “worthy ideal”: buy the book, Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want, and follow the plan to use every resource God has given you to be the servant God wants you to be.

What have you found helpful in setting and reaching goals?
Please comment below:

Have you apologized, repented, confessed lately?

a key to remaining blameless

I don’t have a problem with them making a mistake. I can accept that. We all make mistakes. What hurts is when they make mistakes and fail to acknowledge them — and worse when they deny it was a problem and try to cover it up.”

A bishop must be blameless, above reproach (1 Timothy 3:2). How does a bishop, deacon, preacher, or other person have and maintain that quality? Since all fall short of perfection, the only way I know how to continue to be blameless is to be a good repenter.

I have noticed, and experienced, an inclination of leaders (humans) to be reluctant to admit wrong. At the moment, they made the best decision and took the best action they knew. This is what people do:

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes,
But the Lord weighs the hearts (Proverbs 21:2, NKJV).

However, every decision leaders (humans) make, isn’t right. Every action or inaction is not the best. How do I know? The Bible tells me so:

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8)

Now, what does a parent, elder, deacon, preacher do? The answer of Scripture is to confess and repent — admit you did it, apologize for the hurt you caused, and don’t do it again.

There seems to be a fear in some of us:
[tweetthis]If I admit imperfection and inadequate judgment, I fear I’ll undermine my authority and leadership.[/tweetthis]

So I’ll ignore it, camouflage it, excuse it, and deny I really did anything unwise or hurtful. Like a statement I heard:

[tweetthis]“I once thought I made a mistake, but I was wrong.”[/tweetthis]

That attitude injures relationships in the family, church, and business. It hurts and damages trust in a leadership group. A healing response is a sincere apology. Seth Godin describes the complete process:

Two elements of an apology

Compassion and Contrition

“We’re sorry that your flight was cancelled. This must have truly messed up your day, sir.”

That’s a statement of compassion.

“Cancelling a flight that a valued customer trusted us to fly is not the way we like to do business. We messed up, it was an error in judgment for us to underinvest in pilot allocation. Even worse, we didn’t do everything we could to get you on a flight that would have helped your schedule. We’ll do better next time.”

That’s what contrition sounds like. We were wrong and we learned from it.

The disappointing thing is that most people and organizations that take the time to apologize intentionally express neither compassion nor contrition.

If you can’t do this, hardly worth bothering.

But it is worth bothering, because you’re a human. And because customers who feel listened to help you improve (and come back to give you another chance.)

— Seth Godin, September 18, 2014

If that is so helpful and healing, why don’t leaders apologize often knowing we make mistakes often?

Two reasons not to admit bad judgment, wrongdoing, or lack of action

1. The people the leaders wronged deserve it.

  • “You might not have deserved that whipping, but you missed a lot when you did.”
  • “You just need to respect our authority and not question us. We did the best we knew how. You should appreciate our efforts.”

2. The leaders know more than you do.

  • “You will understand it better bye and bye.”
  • “When you get as old as I am, you’ll understand.” I’ve lived thirty or forty years after someone told me that and I still don’t understand. I think we need to talk some more. That can be a conversation stopper: “Just take my word for it, I’m smarter than you are.”
  • “If you knew the Greek and Hebrew, you’d get it.” Do you have the ability to explain it in English?
  • “Elders have more information than you do. If you knew what we know, you’d know we always make the best decisions.”

One reason to confess my wrongs, mistakes, oversights, omissions: healing and forgiveness comes from confession.

Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much (James 5:16).

If all sin, I’m among the all. If the way to healing is through confession and seeking forgiveness, maybe I need to increase my contrition, confession, and admission of hurt.

As a leader, how have you found it easy or difficult to admit mistakes or wrongdoing?
Please comment below:

Is Grace a Gift or a Bargain?

is there hope for people who are slow to accept grace?

It was one year, seven months, and 22 days since the gift was presented. Bob and Bea McElvain came to our Golden Wedding Anniversary party August 30, 2014. They gave us a gift card to Patti’s 1880’s Restaurant in Grand Rivers, Kentucky. We enjoyed that meal April 21, 2016.

As we ate and a few running days since then, I’ve been reflecting on gifts and grace.

  • A gift doesn’t cost the recipient anything. Even if the price for an item were $1,000.00 and the person sold it to me for $1.00, it wouldn’t be a gift but a bargain — a good bargain but aPatti's bargain because I had to pay the $1.00 to receive the benefit. [tweetthis]Our salvation is a gift — not a bargain.[/tweetthis] “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8, 9, NKJV).
  • Even though I don’t have to pay anything, I may have to do something to receive the gift. Our delicious and abundant meal was completely free to us. But we had to go to Grand Rivers, Kentucky, order from the menu, chew the food and swallow it to receive the gift. But showing up and enjoying the meal didn’t mean we earned it. The food was free.
  • In receiving many gifts, you have to be present to win. Our family shopped at a grocery store just off the square in Centerville, Tennessee when I was growing up. They often gave tickets when we bought groceries. On a Saturday afternoon, they would draw a ticket from a big basket. The person who had the winning number would win the prize. I remember the Saturday they gave away a Shetland pony, bridle, and saddle. I wanted that pony. They had a rule on the contest: you have to be present to win. Being present didn’t mean you earned the prize, but it was necessary to receive the gift.

    That principle is true with God’s gifts. A person has to be “in Christ” to receive any spiritual gift. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3).

  • The fact that a person takes a long time to accept the gift doesn’t mean they aren’t interested, and will never accept it. We like to go to Patti’s. We weren’t rebellious at the offer of the gift. It took a while (one year, seven months, and 22 days) for us to be where we were ready to accept the gift fully.

    There have been times when I have offered and encouraged others to accept God’s gifts. It has been days, months, and years. I see no interest or movement in that direction. That is fromPatti's 2 my perspective. They may be very interested and moving even as I write this post. I shouldn’t assume their lack of interest because I can’t see it.

  • There is a limit to grace. Years ago, a friend gave us a gift certificate to a restaurant. We talked about going. We knew it was good. We had eaten there before. Several months later we went. We were hungry and anticipating a good meal. The restaurant was closed. We had waited too long. The certificate was useless. We have to use God’s gift card before the time limit expires — death or Jesus’ return.
  • I was able to extend more grace because of the grace I had been given. When we received the bill, we figured the tip for the gracious waitress. She did an excellent job. She’s been working at Patti’s 25 years! There was some money left on the card after we figured the usual tip. We decided to give her that also.
  • But I didn’t give her the extra from “my” money. It didn’t cost me anything. It was part of the gift given to me. That’s true of the grace I extend to others. I only give what God has given me. Gail and I give liberally. But we only give what’s been given to us.

    God promised to give us everything we need to do everything He wants us to do.

But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for Go loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work (2 Corinthians 9:6-8).

[tweetthis]I don’t want to fail to share what I have with others because I’m afraid God will run out of gift cards.[/tweetthis]

I don’t want to get discouraged when someone doesn’t use the gift cards I’ve given them. It may take one year, seven months, and 22 days — or longer to see the results. Or I may never see it.

[tweetthis]I need to give because I need to give — not just to see the results.[/tweetthis]

What have you learned about grace — receiving gifts from God and  giving grace to others?
Please comment below:

Good Shepherds I Have Known:

Ed Riadon

Near the end of my first New Shepherds Orientation Workshop, an elder asked, “Who is one of the best elders you have ever served with?”. My mind went to Ed Riadon in Madisonville, Kentucky.

We met first when Gail, Jerrie Wayne, and I stayed in their home in November, 1968. We were in Madisonville to “try out” as the next preacher. During a diaper change, Jerrie Wayne, two months old, deposited a high amount of humidity on their couch. I thought that would be the end of my consideration. But Ed and Sarah were understanding, telling us they were grandparents and that had happened before.

This was my first impression of a great shepherd and his wife. Ed worked at the Post Office and introduced us to disposable diaper samples recently delivered through the mail.

I passed the “try out.” We started working with the Madisonville church in December, 1968. He invited me to go with him on visits with members, visitors, sick, new parents, bereaved, and discouraged.

One of my favorite Ed stories occurred on one of our first nights visiting. As we were finishing, he asked, “Do you like ice cream?”. When I replied in the affirmative, he pointed me to a Kwik-Pik Market. Ed bought a half-gallon box of cherry-almond-vanilla ice cream. He went into the kitchen, placed the box of ice cream on the table, retrieved a serrated edge knife from a drawer and cut the box of ice cream in two. He handed me a spoon, half the ice cream, took another for himself, and said, “I never like to eat ice cream unless I can eat all I want.” We finished the half-gallon. I knew this would be a great relationship. From the first meeting until his death, April 11, 1976, I was able to observe a good shepherd in action.

Some of the admirable characteristics I saw:

  1. He was firm. When the elders asked me to speak on a difficult topic, an elder would go to the pulpit before me and say, “We asked Jerrie to speak on this topic. We encourage those who need to make changes in their lives to do it today.” After the sermon, an elder would publicly thank me for the sermon and commend those who responded.
  2. He was compassionate. His tone was gentle, even with those who were upset with him. He gave hope and encouragement to a man we visited one night who was drunk. I was a young preacher who made mistakes. When Ed discussed those with me, he always expressed confidence I would learn and do better.
  3. His priorities were obvious. He spent more time with sheep than in meetings talking about “the members.” His leadership was demonstrated then in the lives of his children and decades later it is still there.
  4. He was approachable. Ed and Sarah often invited my family and others into their home. They were “given to hospitality.” I felt free to drop in anytime I wanted to talk.

When I think of good shepherds, I think of Ed Riadon.

Who are good shepherds you have known?