Leaders get to say NO

Leaders get to say “No”. I don’t like to use this tool very often but this week I find myself with no other alternative.

Ninety-nine percent of the time I let the disciple, the leader in training learn from their mistakes. The leadership lessons we learn from our mistakes stay with us for the rest of our lives. I justify this stance by realizing that I know a lot but I don’t know everything. So when a disciple presents an idea or a direction which makes me pause but they are passionate and believe in the concept I’m willing to let them run with the idea. I like to encourage as it builds confidence in the disciple. Mind you I’m constantly monitoring the progress and outcomes.

Even as I write this post I recognize my hesitancy to deal with the “No”. When a colleague, friend or disciple is engaging in poor judgment or manipulative behaviour to accomplish a task it is my job to say “No”. If others are being discouraged or the organization is put in harm’s way by the disciple’s misplaced exuberance it is my job to say “Stop”.

I do my utmost to a.) Check my frustration at the door because I do want to salvage the relationship with the disciple if at all possible and b.) Measure my words so that I’m not scolding the disciple but instead giving them new insight into their actions.

 Too often I procrastinate hoping and praying that the disciple will figure it out on their own…BUT in the end I still have to say “No”. It’s what leaders get to do.

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Women, Love and God

Today, 8 March, 2012, is International Women’s Day and so it is fitting for us to make a special note of the strides made and not made to bring about gender equality in our communities.  Though most of us can list extraordinary women who have had and continue to have a global impact, I want to focus on one particularly special women – my mother.

My father passed away when I was twelve and so I credit my mom for teaching me how to be the best man I could be.  Though I wasn’t always the best son (especially during those teenage years), my Mom’s enduring love for me never ceased.  She never gave me a reason to question her love for me.  Her ability to always find the good in my life and her never dying belief that I always had the imagination to pull through any situation gave me the assurance to step out and take risks.  All this while society kept telling her she was of the lessor gender and weaker without a husband to take care of her.  Even today Mom’s gentle encouragement to me, even while she is struggling daily with her own health woes, never ceases to amaze me.

As I reflect on Mom and her life and the life lessons she passed my way, her most important lesson to me is the reminder that God’s call to each of us to live a life of Love.  1 Corinthians 13 is a reminder of this love.  Thank you Mom for reflecting God’s love to me in ways only a mother can to her son.  And may I as a man find the strength and courage to pass on this love to my daughter, son & wife. – JM

Rip Those Pages Out

Last week, over a simple meal, some friends and I were discussing the merits of the Old Testament.  Can we as followers of Christ in the 21st century do without the Old Testament?  What is the real value of this text to the person in the pew?  As a Mennonite, I often struggle with the “God as Warrior” image of the Old Testament.  Or even the “vengeful God” imagery.  It would be so easy to rip those pages out of the Canon.  And yet, there they are glaring at us. 

Johnny is a close friend of mine who lives in South East Asia.  He frequently shares stories of his displaced friends living on the Thai-Burma border.  Johnny is an ardent promoter of just peace making.  This deeply rooted belief has put him on various government target lists.  He has been prohibited from visiting dear friends and places and even spent time in prison for this belief.  As he watches his displaced friends on the border continuing to suffer, he asks me (his institutional administrator friend), “as a leader, how often do you consider how your decision impacts the poor?” 

This question came roaring back to me last week.  Here we were in Lancaster County, USA discussing the merits of the Old Testament wanting to rip pages out of the Bible to suit our perspective on just peace making.  Meanwhile, the displaced in SE Asia find comfort in the arms of a God who is on their side and would be willing to fight and take revenge on those who were continually maiming, raping and killing their families.  So, if we are to truly seek the welfare of the poor, should we be ripping pages out of the Bible or releasing our dogmas to God? – JM

A Leaderless Occupy Movement?

An American business leader recently suggested in an interview on PBS that the Occupy movement was leaderless. I haven’t done any research or made personal contacts with people in the Occupy movement. I only know what the news media tells me and they haven’t yet latched onto a captivating celebrity but I do know one thing; A movement is never leaderless.

Occupy may not have one main charismatic Moses like figure in the middle of the fray but that hardly makes it leaderless. Leaders aren’t always found in the spotlight. Often they are the caring, thoughtful little guy who shuns the camera and the microphone.

 Troy Watson, a friend and colleague, recently visited an Occupy site and he saw leaders. Troy is a prophetic, provocative guy and this is what he wrote. “I think it is clear where Jesus stands on the oppressive economic and political systems of power in our world today. I find it hard to believe any Christian could think our current capitalist democracy is the kingdom of God Jesus envisioned for our planet. Jesus proclaimed a kingdom of selfless love, egalitarian ethics, holistic values and an economy of compassion for the ‘least of humanity’. Is this not similar to what the Occupy movement is calling for?”

I find myself strangely encouraged by Troy’s insights into the Occupy movement. To live into that kingdom requires leaders. Leaders who are passionate, wise and courageous and I believe most of all leaders who aren’t larger than life. – BCB

ReThink Everything

What we plant determines what we grow.  Farmers understand this but for an urban guy like me, it has taken a while to figure out.

For 25 years, I’ve been involved in what evangelical-Anabaptists refer to as, “church planting.”  The Christian world can be divided into those who think church planting is a good idea and those who are actually doing it.  I’ve lived in both camps, and I think that some of my fellow-travelers (myself included!) have been involved in a great adventure in missing the point.

 Leaders have engaged in church planting as institutional formation.  We focus on executing strategies that attract a collection of people who we hope find spiritual meaning in the church plant’s wonderful programs.  Growing a church requires the planter to commit to sustaining program excellence, manage costs, and form relational bonds through customer intimacy.  Mission agencies sustain this model by offering venture capital to the church plant with the expectation that a sustainable and self-funding church will emerge that supports the mission agency in return.  In short, the system demands we plant churches as institutions.

What if we did gospel planting instead?  What might it look like if we see every follower of Jesus as a church planter and believe every church can plant another church?  What if we incarnated the victory news that Jesus is Lord of everything?  

Gospel planting requires leaders to re-think everything:  our definitions of mission and church; our leadership cultivation and discipleship formation; and the way we use money in the formation of church plants.

Our current church planting models grow from the same Christendom assumptions that have informed much of the way we have done church over the past 1700 years.  Instead, let’s start planting the gospel, and experience the church fruit that grows from that seed.

 Scary, huh? – JW