The Character of a Leader with Stuart Briscoe and Marc Erickson

It was a privilege to host Stuart Briscoe and Marc Erickson at our quarterly Leadership Community gathering this past Monday night at Eastbrook Church. I hope you enjoy this view into the lives of two pastors who have steadfastly walked with Christ over the years. Stuart began the night with a 20-minute message on three distinctly Christian aspects of character in leaders. With the next portion of the gathering, I had the chance to facilitate a Q&A with Stuart and Marc about the character of a leader. This led us to explore some important questions in our current era, as well as many interesting insights from their own lives.

The Weekend Wanderer: 12 January 2019

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

lamin sanneh“Professor Lamin Sanneh, 1942-2019” – I was saddened to hear about the sudden and unexpected death of Dr. Lamin Sanneh of Yale Divinity School. His insights about faith, culture, and mission are invaluable to the church. A great introduction to his work is Translating the Message: The Missionary Impact on Culture or his memoir Summoned from the Margin: Homecoming of an African. You might also enjoy reading reflections by Christian leaders on Sanneh’s life at Christianity Today[Thanks to Alan Jacobs for sharing this link.]

 

cyntoia-brown“Pastor who talked to governor about clemency for Cyntoia Brown will walk her out of prison” – “They met for the first time a few weeks before Christmas — the woman serving a life sentence for killing a man who bought her for sex as a teenager, and a pastor who believed in her. At the time of their meeting, high-profile advocates had been calling for clemency for Cyntoia Denise Brown, including a US Congressman and A-list celebrities like Ashley Judd. Gov. Bill Haslam had heard from both sides on whether to grant her clemency. Members of Bishop Joseph W. Walker III’s congregation were working with Brown through a Tennessee Department of Corrections faith-based mentoring program. Days after meeting her, Walker joined the chorus of people lobbying the Republican governor. He spoke to Haslam about forgiveness and second chances, Walker said.”

 

Fred Rogers and François Clemmons in an episode of <i>Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood</i>, 1993“The Ministry of Mr. Rogers” – In The New York Review of Books, Robert Sullivan reviews two works on the life of Fred Rogers, both the highly acclaimed documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, by Morgan Neville and Maxwell King’s The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers. “In December 2002 Rogers was diagnosed with stomach cancer, and he died the following February. In his final days he read the Bible, which he had often read along with the work of his great friend Henri Nouwen, the Catholic priest who wrote that being in a community was like being in a mosaic of stones, no single stone able to tell the group’s story. After receiving his diagnosis, Rogers had managed to give his last commencement speech, at Dartmouth. Still the preacher, he recited the lyrics to his song ‘It’s You I Like,’ and commented on the text, reminding the crowd not just how far he had taken TV from pie-throwing but how thoroughly he had illustrated the drama in the seemingly ordinary, the stage on which most of our adult lives are set.”

 

85745“Can Anger at God Be Righteous?” – “After I was diagnosed with cancer five years ago, I returned to the Book of Psalms anew. I started to pray with psalms that I had merely read before or had skipped altogether. While I was receiving intense chemo, a seminary student told me he was praying Psalm 102 for me:  ‘In my distress I groan aloud and am reduced to skin and bones. I am like a desert owl, like an owl among the ruins. (v. 5–6)’ My heart skipped a beat. As I read on, I found that the psalm contained a complaint and a petition that I felt deeply but did not know how to express.”

 

85807“The Gospel in Every Sign Language: Passion Raises $450K for Deaf Bible Translations” – “Though there are hundreds of sign languages, none have a full Bible translation, and just 2 percent of deaf people around the world have access to the Gospels in their sign languages, which is crucial for deeper understanding of Scripture, according to the Deaf Bible Society. Donations from the 40,000 students at Passion 2019 will go toward translating Gospel stories for the deaf in 16 countries: Mexico, Cuba, Colombia, Moldova, Egypt, Ghana, South Africa, Tanzania, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Japan, and Russia.”

 

david brooks selfismThe Morality of Selfism: The Gospel of Saint You” – David Brooks offers a bitingly satirical, tongue-in-cheek approach to our current cultural climate of fixation upon the self. “We live in a culture of selfism — a culture that puts tremendous emphasis on self, on self-care and self-display. And one of the things we’ve discovered is that you can be a very good person while thinking only about yourself! Back in the old days people thought morality was about living up to some external standard of moral excellence. Abraham Lincoln tried to live a life of honesty and courage. Mother Teresa tried to live up to a standard of selfless love. But now we know this is actually harmful!”

 

gallup integrity“Nurses Again Outpace Other Professions for Honesty, Ethics” – A recent Gallup survey identified nurses as the most-trusted profession for Americans. Way to go, nurses! Doctors, pharmacists, high school teachers, and police officers round out the top-five professions based on their integrity. I found this a little interesting given the sense of tension that exists in many realms about public trust in law enforcement. However, I was saddened to see that clergy had dropped down to position eight in trusted professions. Griffin Paul Jackson writes about this for Christianity Today, quoting from John Armstrong who speaks what many of us feel: “The kinds of scandals and authoritarian leadership that we saw this year among the clergy undermines the trust we place in them.”

 

john finnis“Petition Launched To Remove Law Professor For ‘Discriminatory’ Comments” – In another example of the utter inability for diversity of views within the cultural orthodoxy of supposed diversity, we have this situation at Oxford University. “A petition to remove Emeritus Professor of Law and Legal Philosophy John Finnis from teaching has attracted three hundred and fifty signatures in five days. Finnis has been accused of having ‘a long record of extremely discriminatory views against many groups of disadvantaged people’, including the LGBTQ community….Remarks highlighted by the authors of the petition as particularly discriminatory include a comment from his Collected Essays in which he suggests that homosexual conduct is ‘never a valid, humanly acceptable choice and form of life’ and is ‘destructive of human character and relationships’ because ‘it treats human sexual capacities in a way which is deeply hostile to the self-understanding of those members who are willing to commit themselves to real marriage’. This essay was published in 2011 but refers to arguments he made in a previous essay from 1994.” Read the article here to see Finnis’ rebuttal of the petition.

 

orthodox“From Russia, Without Love: Ukraine Marks Orthodox Christmas with Biggest Schism Since 1054” – “On January 6, it received the tomos of autocephaly—the documentation of its independence among Eastern church bodies—from one Orthodox heavyweight, the Patriarch of Constantinople, despite the vociferous opposition of another heavyweight, the Patriarch of Moscow. To understand the significance of the biggest Christian schism since the Protestant Reformation, unfolding since last fall and formalized this weekend as Eastern churches celebrated Christmas Eve, a brief history is in order.”

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

Key Assumptions on the Dark Side of Leadership

fullsizeoutput_ac8As part of my ongoing reflections on pastoral ministry, ministry in the North American evangelical church, and questions of ministry integrity (see my posts “Real Discipleship in a Consumer Church,” “Five Themes of Resilient Ministry,” and “Recovering Holiness“), I pulled a book off the shelf that I read over ten years ago entitled Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership by Gary L. McIntosh and Samuel D. Rima. This is an outstanding book that is both immensely helpful and chilling. I want to share a few things from this book over this coming week, but let me start with the basic assumptions upon which the book is written. If you take them seriously, you cannot help but become reflective right away. It is, in one sense, an outworking of the prophet Jeremiah’s words: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

As in all works, there are numerous assumptions foundational to the development of this book and the reader’s understanding of the material presented. These are assumptions derived from our study of various subject matters, including our own personal experiences, a substantial array of literature on the subjects of leadership and personal dysfunction, and observation and conversations with those involved in the leadership of churches and numerous Christian organizations. Briefly, it is assumed:

  1. Every leader suffers from some degree of personal dysfunction varying from extremely mild to extremely acute.
  2. Personal dysfunction, in one form or another, can often serve as the driving force behind an individual’s desire to achieve success as a leader.
  3. Many leaders are not aware of the dark side of their personalities and the personal dysfunctions that drive them.
  4. The personal characteristics that drive individuals to succeed and lead often have a shadow side that can cripple them once they become leaders and very often causes significant failure. This dynamic is what has been labeled in this book the “paradox of personal dysfunction in leadership.”
  5. Learning about their own dark side and the dysfunction that have created it can enable leaders to address those areas and prevent, or at least mitigate, the potential negative effects to their exercise of leadership.
  6.  Scripture has much to say about the dark side of human personality and the motivations that drive us to achieve, which can be helpful to leaders in their efforts to understand themselves and overcome those areas of their personalities that might threaten their effectiveness as leaders.

[pages 14-15]

When you read these assumptions, what do you think? Do you agree with them or not?

If you read this and thought of someone else the entire time, then you should probably read through them again while giving attention to yourself.

The Weekend Wanderer: 1 September 2018

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

 

83267“Many Churchgoers Want Sunday Morning Segregated” – At Christianity Today, Bob Smietana reports on a recent Lifeway Research survey about the desire and tendency for Protestant Christians to worship with others like them. “More than half (57%) of Protestant churchgoers under 50 say they prefer to go to church with people who share their political views. And few adult Protestant churchgoers say they attend services with people of a different political persuasion.” So much for the one new humanity of Ephesians 2

 

Griswold-The-Block-ChurchAnd in other, yet related, news: “Millennial Evangelicals Diverge from Their Parents’ Beliefs.” In The New Yorker, Eliza Griswold charts the recent changes in evangelicalism in terms of socio-political issues, concluding that evangelicalism is in a state of flux in terms of its social engagement on issues such as abortion, immigration, and more, particularly along generational lines. “The result is that younger evangelicals are speaking out on issues like family separation at the border, climate change, police brutality, and immigration reform­­––causes not typically associated with the evangelical movement. In the continuing moral outrage at the border, which includes nearly six hundred children still displaced in New York City alone, many see the faces of themselves and their families.” While I have strong aversions to generational theory, this should come as no surprise, given that the very idea of ‘evangelicalism’ as a monolithic theological, political, or sociological movement is fiercely debated today.

 

aretha“Here is the Aretha Franklin funeral program, and it’s epic” – The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, passed away this week (read the obituary). As with many of her generation of soul and R&B, she began her career by singing in church, including the church where her father was the pastor, New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan. CNN has gathered together some quick facts on her life here. Although I had heard her music before, I hate to say that as a kid my introduction to Aretha came through her appearance with the song “Think” in The Blues Brotherswhich I saw in an edited-for-television version at an early age,  You might want a deeper dive into some of her greatest songs of all time here.

 

Lt. Comdr. John S. McCain is interviewed after the Vietnam War“John McCain Would Have Passed the Anne Frank Test” – After the passing of John McCain last weekend, there have been many reflections on his life and work. I particularly enjoyed this reflection by Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic related to McCain’s integrity and willingness to stand up for the right in difficult situations and in the face of difficult people. The Anne Frank test: “something I learned from a Holocaust survivor almost 40 years ago, is actually a single question: Which non-Jewish friends would risk their lives to hide us should the Nazis ever return?”

 

Hybels“Randy Alcorn on Evangelical Sex Scandals: Bad Pastors Just Reappear at New Churches, Repeat Sins” Randy Alcorn, famous as a pastor and Christian author made veiled references to the Bill Hybels/Willow Creek saga, with some reflections on how the evangelical church grapples with leadership and integrity. In light of the systemic leadership coverup of the Roman Catholic sex abuse scandal, Alcorn’s words feel more poignant: “Countless churches have hired a pastor who ends up in immorality, only to find out that he had been guilty of the same in his previous church, which they had failed to ask about his character, morality and reputation.”

 

inside out“Outside In: What do we see when we look at ourselves?” – You really do not want to miss Alan Jacobs’ astute exploration of the human condition and the contemporary suggestions of what it means to be a self (or not to believe in a self at all). Touching on St. Paul, Charles Taylor, the Invisibilia podcast, Rebecca West, Pokémon, Friederich Nietzsche, the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, and Inside Out, you will be delightfully provoked to thought.

 

ubang“Uban: The Nigerian Village Where Men and Women Speak Different Languages” – Just when you thought you had a difficult time communicating with someone else, a friend shared this fascinating piece about the village of Ubang in Nigeria, where men and women speak in different languages that are still understandable to one another. “In Ubang, a farming community in southern Nigeria, men and women say they speak different languages. They view this unique difference as ‘a blessing from God’, but as more young people leave for greener pastures and the English language becomes more popular, there are concerns it won’t survive.”

 

58581-canva-photo-editor-60.800w.tn“Australia’s New Prime Minister Is an Evangelical Christian” –  I’m not sure what evangelical means anymore, particularly when used by new agencies, but this was in the news this week. “Australia’s newest prime minister is a church-going evangelical Christian who isn’t afraid to stand up for his faith in a country largely viewed as secular. Scott Morrison became prime minister Friday when the Liberal Party voted him in as its leader after ousting Malcolm Turnbull, the former prime minister and party leader. The Liberals are a center-right party in Australia, while the Labor Party is more center-left. Morrison is a member of Horizon Church, a Pentecostal congregation in Sydney where he and his family are involved in ministries.”

 

the good lifeI’m thankful Micah Mattix highlighted Karen Swallow Prior‘s new book On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great BooksHere is an excerpt: “Reading great literature well has the power to cultivate virtue. Great literature increases knowledge of and desire for the good life by showing readers what virtue looks like and where vice leads. It is not just what one reads but how one reads that cultivates virtue. Reading good literature well requires one to practice numerous virtues, such as patience, diligence, and prudence. And learning to judge wisely a character in a book, in turn, forms the reader’s own character. Acclaimed author Karen Swallow Prior takes readers on a guided tour through works of great literature both ancient and modern, exploring twelve virtues that philosophers and theologians throughout history have identified as most essential for good character and the good life. In reintroducing ancient virtues that are as relevant and essential today as ever, Prior draws on the best classical and Christian thinkers, including Aristotle, Aquinas, and Augustine. Covering authors from Henry Fielding to Cormac McCarthy, Jane Austen to George Saunders, and Flannery O’Connor to F. Scott Fitzgerald, Prior explores some of the most compelling universal themes found in the pages of classic books, helping readers learn to love life, literature, and God through their encounters with great writing. In examining works by these authors and more, Prior shows why virtues such as prudence, temperance, humility, and patience are still necessary for human flourishing and civil society.”

 

o-PARIS-facebook“Gorgeous Photos of the World’s Most Beautiful Libraries” – Because you need some inspiration as the school year starts, why not imagine that you are completing your studies in an environment like this. Or maybe, like me, you just needed a new desktop image to keep you feeling like you’re part of something bigger than our computer-laden world.

 

JohnM-502x630Makoto Fujimura, “The Four Holy Gospels” – Take a moment to enjoy the wondrous artistry of Makoto Fujimura’s work commissioned for an edition of the four canonical Gospels in the English Standard Version, published in commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the King James Version (KJV) Bible in 1611. More info here.

 

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 18 August 2018

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

 

83122“Evangelical Ethiopian Helps End Orthodox Schism” – “Ending 27 years of schism, Ethiopian Orthodox Christians in their homeland and in America reunited the two feuding branches of one of the world’s oldest churches. Ironically, the push came from the Horn of Africa nation’s new evangelical prime minister.”

 

maxresdefault“Report details sexual abuse by more than 300 priests in Pennsylvania’s Catholic Church” – In a news report that will not only make your stomach turn but possibly leave you with nightmares, a grand jury released a voluminous report about sexual abuse in Roman Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania. CNN reports: “A new grand jury report says that internal documents from six Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania show that more than 300 ‘predator priests’ have been credibly accused of sexually abusing more than 1,000 child victims.” We cannot turn aside from this crisis within churches related to sexual abuse.

 

GrahamsAfter reading that, you may need some recovery. Why not read Bob Russell’s reflective essay “These Pastors’ Stories Won’t Make The New York Times.” While I wish that Bob could point us to more than white males, I appreciate what he’s trying to do by sharing stories of everyday pastors who lived with integrity in the midst of their ministry.  If you enjoy this essay, you might also want to check out Bob’s helpful book written after a flourishing pastoral ministry: After 50 Years of Ministry 7 Things I’d Do Differently and 7 Things I’d Do the Same.

 

9780226365459“Why I’m Still Confident about ‘Confident Pluralism” – John Inazu writes: “Two years ago, I published a book called Confident Pluralism. In it, I argue that living together across our differences in this country must begin by acknowledging the depth of those differences. And our differences are indeed deep…The past two years have affirmed, if not magnified, these claims.” Read Inazu’s rationale for still standing favorably by his central thesis and claims in that book. [Thanks to Andy Cornett for this link.]

 

Screen Shot 2018-08-13 at 11.29.31 AM“God at the Margins (Part 2 of 3)” – Here is part 2 of  the story of my friends, Michal and John Chabo. The brothers delve deeply into God’s faithfulness in the midst of their challenging departure from Syria. Don’t miss this amazing story. While you’re at it, stop by their website in order to discover more about their work with Chabros Music.

 

download.jpeg“CoWo-NoGrow” Kevin Martin offers his reflections upon liturgical faithfulness, contemporary worship practices, and the failure of many prevailing ministry models in this article over at First Things. “I remember a scorching article Richard Neuhaus wrote when he edited the old Forum Letter before he started First Things, in which he ripped contemporary worship as a betrayal of the gospel and called for getting the worship right because then the doctrine and the practice will fall into line. I believe he was right then and is still right on this today.”

 

Madeleine-L_Engle-c-2000-screenshot-of-HistoryChannel.com-photo-by-Everett“How Fiction Fueled Madeleine L’Engle’s Faith” – Sarah Arthur provides a wonderful look at the way in which Madeleine L’Engle was shaped in her moral formation by good literature. “Her engagement with these books—Scripture included—was deeply formative. They nourished ‘the same hunger in me, the hunger for the truth that is beyond fact, the hunger for courage and hope in a difficult world, the hunger for something more than ordinary vision.'”

 

_102875847_15607--xiazhi-china“In pictures: World Architecture Festival 2018 shortlist” – If you love architecture or simply enjoy good photography, make a brief visit to the BBC’s website to peruse projects from 81 countries have been shortlisted in the World Architecture Festival Awards 2018. A sampling includes a research centre in Riyadh, a village lounge in rural China and a mosque without a minaret in Iran.

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]