Posted in Character, Teamwork

Beware of Division!

It starts small and grows quietly, hidden from view, but eventually infects others. Insidious and sinister, it threatens to dismantle God’s work. Whether you are a leader or a follower, it’s important to be on guard for this dangerous foe. People, beware of division!

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! (Psalm 133:1 NIV)

Unity can be described as oneness of mind or objective among a group of persons; concord, harmony, or agreement (dictionary.com). Unity creates synergy as different people with different gifts and talents work together to achieve a common goal. Division stands in opposition to unity. Division is threatening because it can be subtle and hard to detect, especially in the beginning stages. Eventually it affects the organization like yeast in a batch of dough. As division grows it becomes increasingly destructive.

Dag Heward-Mills describes seven stages of disloyalty, which are manifested in various degrees of division. Awareness of these stages helps us to identify when division begins, and then make adjustments in ourselves and guide others away from it.

Independent Spirit—This is an attitude that begins to question the set up of the group. While dissenters still actively participate, they do what they want in spite of contrary instructions. They may think, “This meeting isn’t valuable; I’m not going to attend” or “I don’t agree with the way things are done; I’m going to do it my own way.”

Offense—No matter where you go, there is no such thing as a perfect church or company. We can hurt each other without meaning to. This hurt, when not dealt with appropriately, can easily turn to offense. When people harbor offense in their lives, it colors the way they view others and the ones with whom we work and serve. Unresolved hurts and offenses can push them down the path of division.

Passivity—When offense grows and is left to its devices, people become passive. They disengage, becoming indifferent and uninvolved. Rather than speaking with those who offended them to resolve difficulties, they shut down and keep it to themselves.

Critical Spirit—There is a small step from passivity to being critical. People with a critical spirit see more and more negativity around them. They scrutinize others for faults, and they only see the imperfections of others.

Political Spirit—People who are politically motivated seek to involve others in their beliefs and ideas. They want to gather a following of supporters to address what they believe to be problems, or to sympathize with their offenses. Some political statements might be:

I love (insert name), BUT (insert an offense). Please pray with me about this.
or
How did you like the service today? I didn’t really get anything out of it.
or
A lot of people are saying “such and such.”

A political spirit creates an environment of discontent.

Deception—At this stage, people have become blind to their own faults and believe they could do the job much better than those currently leading when given the chance. They may despise their mentors and teachers, or become deceived by personal success. The greatest deception occurs when divisive people fight the authorities that have been set over them, those who have been a blessing to them.

Rebellion—If allowed to continue, deception evolves into rebellion. It seeks to replace and take over rightful authority, to betray and turn against its own leader. This is the ultimate disloyalty.

Do you see yourself described in any of these stages of division? What corrective action do you need to take?

Friends, beware of division. It is a tool of the enemy to dismantle the work of the Lord. God does not support a rebellious spirit in any way. Pray for discernment, and keep yourself walking in loyalty and unity for Kingdom causes.

Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me (Psalm 51:10 NLT).

Source:

Dag Heward-Mills, Loyalty & Disloyalty: Dealing With Unspoken Divisions in the Church (TN: Carpenter’s Son Publishing, 2013).

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Posted in Character, Servant Leadership

Leading with Passion

Dr. Bruce Wilkinson stood across from me. He was the featured speaker for the pregnancy network fall fundraiser that evening, and was consulting with the leadership team before our big event. As we sat around the conference table, Dr. Wilkinson  challenged us to identify our organizational purpose, that one thing our pregnancy network must focus on. The team members wrestled with naming the primary job, wanting to include many noble programs and approaches. I, however, already knew the answer and had been implementing changes in our programs to align with it. I listened to the dialogue and contributed to the conversation, feeling quite comfortable and safe in that setting. However, I was completely unprepared for the question he directed to me.

“What are you passionate about?”

I struggled to gather my wits, as the room began to spin. My heart beat wildly, threatening to explode in my chest. My throat had the texture of sandpaper. In that distinct moment, I had a decision to make. Would I give the “right” answer or the “real” answer?

I knew God provided this job. The door opened at the same time my salary was cut from the church budget due to economic difficulties. I was blessed to work for a para-church ministry, doing something significant with a team of amazing people. I was able to put my gifts of administration to work. It was exciting to be used by the Lord to offer solutions with hope to women and men facing unplanned pregnancy, often a time of overwhelming crisis. Couldn’t I just say I was passionate about this? Then, the spotlight would be off me, and we could move on with business as usual.

I felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit and knew I had to confess. In spite of all the positive aspects of my position, I still felt empty. I began each day, dedicated to being a blessing to this organization, but I could not ignore the nagging sense of dissatisfaction. I longed to spend the best part of my day (when I had energy and inspiration) engaged in church ministry instead of giving leftovers. Crisis intervention was important. However, my heart ached to actively walk with other on their journey with Jesus.

“What are you passionate about?”

I took a deep breath, said a silent prayer, and responded. “I am passionate about people receiving Jesus into their lives and helping them to become more like Him.” Confession made.

Without hesitation Dr. Wilkinson declared, “That sounds like a church! You’re working at the wrong place.”

My boss protested. My colleagues rallied around me with verbal support, affirming me and my valuable contributions to the organization. But the words had already begun to take effect. The Holy Spirit used Dr. Wilkinson to define the stirrings in my heart. I saw the truth, and I knew business as usual was not an option.

That evening I shared with my husband what had transpired, and together we developed an exit strategy. Fifteen months later, I cleaned out my desk and turned in my keys. I said my good byes with strong emotions and many tears, but I had no regrets. I was returning to church ministry where God wanted me to be.

I realize there are seasons in our lives where we must do what it takes to pay the bills and provide for our family. Spending time wishing we could be somewhere else will be counter productive. However, we must not ignore the Spirit’s promptings. He may be the author of our divine discontent in order to re-direct our steps.

We lead from our heart. We were not created to just go through the motions to earn a paycheck. To be thriving leaders, we must identify our God-given passion and then lead from that place.
What are you passionate about?
In what ways can you give expression to your passion in your current position?
Is the Holy Spirit re-directing your steps? Where do you think He is leading you?

Posted in Character, Faith

The Habit of Hope

He was born without arms and legs. The attending physician advised his parents to just let him die. He would never survive. However, his mother and father held on to hope and raised him in a loving, supportive home, encouraging him to live life to the fullest. Today, Nick Vujicic is an evangelist and motivational speaker, founder of a non-profit organization called “Life Without Limbs,” and a husband and father.

They were a young married couple, in love with Jesus and in love with each other. They had twin daughters and a son. Tragedy struck their household and one of their girls suffered and died from leukemia. The loss was devastating. However, they held on to hope and walked through the long process of healing. Today, Jorge and Maggie Najera have eight beautiful children, five biological and three adopted, and open their home to others in need. They are on the leadership team of a church in a small community in Washington State.

Both of these inspiring, true stories have something in common–hope. Hope in the face of crisis. Hope in the face of disappointment. Hope in the face of the seemingly impossible. But hope doesn’t just happen. Hope must be developed as a habit. Nick Vujicic and the Najeras have cultivated this habit of hope.

As leaders, the habit of hope is one of our most valuable assets. Indeed, it is our responsibility to keep hope alive. I’m not talking about wishful thinking, but rather a desire for positive outcomes and a belief that things will get better. It is hope based on the promises of God and His faithfulness to fulfill them. When our churches and businesses encounter set backs or do not meet goals, it’s time for hope. When our organizations face unexpected obstacles, it’s time for hope. Our colleagues and followers need to hear from us that everything is going to be fine. We must give them a strong dose of hope.

Truth be told, I am a natural-born pessimist. Not only that, years of yielding to skepticism and fear make it extremely easy for me to create multiple, detailed, devastating outcomes in my mind from one less-than-ideal situation. Thanks be to God, I am in the process of re-training myself in order to develop the habit of hope!

Here are the steps I use to engage my brain in cultivating the habit of hope.

Look at where you have been. The Bible contains many references to remembering God’s miracles and the good things He had done in the past. “I will praise you, O LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonders” (Psalm 9:1 NIV). “Many, LORD my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare” (Psalm 40:4-6 NIV). Reflecting upon God and how He has shown Himself strong and loving to you in the past puts the current situation in perspective.

Give thanks for what you have. Ingratitude quickly gives birth to hopelessness. Thanksgiving brings hope to life and nourishes it. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV, emphasis mine). As the old hymn instructs, “Count your blessings; name them one by one.” Things may not be going according to plan, but you can choose to dwell on the things that are going well and give thanks.

Consider the future WITH God. Jeremiah 29:11 declares that God’s plans give us hope and a future. The Bible is filled with accounts of men and women with their backs against the wall–Moses, the Old Testament judges, David, Daniel, Esther, and our Lord Jesus Christ (to name a few). When it seemed impossible, God’s plan of deliverance unfolded right before their eyes. God’s creative and powerful intervention continues today. There is always hope for the Christian, because, as John Ortberg states, “The King still has one more move.”

May the great examples of faith spur us on with inspiration. Let us commit to developing this habit of hope.

John Ortberg, When the Game is Over, It All Goes Back in the Box (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007).