Here’s the thing about Dreams . . .

“Oh, my life is changing everyday,
In every possible way.
And oh, my dreams, it’s never quite as it seems,
Never quite as it seems.”

Here’s the thing about Dreams . . . they may or may not come true.  The reaching, the striving and the yearning, I think that’s just part of the human story.  Beauty and suffering are often companions along the same path, it’s just a matter of making friends with both travel-mates.  In my 41 year old mind now, I understand that journey matters.  The process of trying matters, it’s where some of the beauty is.  Failing is not so much about the fact you didn’t end up where you intended, it’s about the fact that you had the guts to give it a go in the first place.  Every time you try, every time you get up after you’ve been knocked down, every time you have the courage to give it a go . . . well in a way you’ve already won.

A lot of people talk about dreaming, but life has a way of beating that out of you.  I struggle with a cynical mind and a realist’s perspective often, I don’t get cajoled in with the flowery talk.  I’m slow to get in the water, but when I’m in, I’m all the way in.  At 41, I have no clearer understanding of who I am and what I’m supposed to be doing than what I did when I was 21.  I just try a lot slower now ;-).

But I haven’t let setbacks, unmet goals, unrealized dreams, shattered hopes or disappointing outcomes despair my next attempt.  If there is breath in the lungs, there is yet another day to keep trying.  I suppose this is my dark way of saying to you (and really to me), please keep trying.  Don’t give up, don’t give in to despair.  Get up because getting up is it’s own reward.  You don’t know if a stone has been rolled away, you don’t know if the opportunity you’ve longed for is at your doorstep, you don’t know if all your hard work will finally pay off.  But you have to try, you have to get up.  Make a choice today/tonight, to try again.  Don’t give up, dreams are worth whatever shreds of hope you have left.  It is not just a human story, it’s your story.  Live it.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore, Dream, Discover.

–Mark Twain

 

Why I fired myself as a Pastor

The vocation of pastor(s) has been replaced by the strategies of religious entrepreneurs with business plans.
Eugene H. Peterson, The Pastor: A Memoir

youre-fired

About 15 years ago I made a conscious decision that if I wanted to be taken seriously by a skeptical and cynical culture for the faith that I feel so strongly about, I couldn’t do it from a vocational role that was a stumbling block to that conversation.  When I was in graduate school (aka Seminary), I took a course in Anthropology where we got back to the basics of human communication and how culture messages work.  For anyone to be heard, they must have an ‘acceptable role’ within that culture so that people understood their place first, then their message.  If missionaries were going to go to a foreign land, they couldn’t come with their western labels such as ‘pastor’, they needed to take on a role that culture would accept like doctor, teacher or engineer.

I applied this same teaching and understanding to the cynical postmodern world. If people’s biggest barrier to understanding the true Christ was the hypocrisy of church leadership and/or the mismanagement of money and spiritual power, then why not do what I could to remove it.  If I was who I claimed to be, I would be able to do it without an office, position or budget.  So 15 years ago I fired myself as a pastor and have sought vocational roles within my culture that make sense to anyone (i.e. teacher, administrator, manager).  To say that this journey has been a painful and confusing one would be an understatement.  I have had very few if any models to learn from, I’ve largely tried to figure it out on my own and have found solace in many friends/sojourners along the way trying to figure out the same path.

To go along with the anthropological reasoning, the more I read and was taught about the successful tactics of pastoring or growing churches in the American landscape, the more I felt less comfortable in my own skin.  It is difficult for me to marry the core teachings of Jesus with the tenets of the American consumer and corporate culture.  In fact, at their core, I find them at complete odds with one another.  I could not and still cannot figure a way to allow them to sit in the same room or barter at the same table.  They both want to be king and there is only one King.  One or the other will reckon your allegiance, I want to tread very carefully in that arena.  You can only serve one master.

Christian community is not about money, power, position or titles.  It’s not about a particular place or a particular time or event in the week.  Christian community is most basically about a life that is organized around the teachings of a Jesus who said to love God and love neighbor (it’s not more complicated than that).  It is possible that this can be done without a budget, campaign, crusade, conference, seminar, workshop or infomercial Jesus.  But it’s not possible without a complete abandoning to your own selfish ambitions and having them replaced with the King’s orders.  This is the truth whether you pastor vocationally or not.  I believe God has called me to this sometimes painful and confusing journey, but it’s not really for me to figure out.  My job is to follow.

I have a bachelors, masters and doctorate degree in a vocational field I don’t work in.  On the surface, that is pure foolishness.  And it would be with the exception that I sucked the marrow out of each of those learning experiences to help mold and shape me into the person and leader I am today.  Spirituality is not a job, it’s a lifestyle.  When spirituality is no longer your job, you are free to love and serve and live as you truly believe.  It is that freedom over the past 15 years that I would not exchange for anything, they are my King’s orders to follow.

If you have a great need to be liked, you can’t be a great leader

like-me

“Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes.” —Peter Drucker

Disclaimer:  So I’m not a Drucker-junkie as such as many has blogged on and taught on ad nausea in conference rooms, seminars, workshops and team meetings around the world.  However, he is really smart and often spot-on as he is here in this quote and I’m really just preaching to myself.  (Humor me if you can identify with it)

If you are a leader and have a great need to be liked, you can’t be a great leader.  I mean, we all want to be liked, that’s part of being human, it’s our preference.  Facebook clearly knew what they were doing by building a global social media empire based on the foundational idea that we want to control others’ perception of us and ultimately be ‘liked’.  But if you are insecure within yourself as a leader and have a great primary need to be liked?  You are a train wreck waiting to happen and are placing a millstone around the neck of your followers.  It’s a heavy load.

The constant need to be ‘liked’ breeds insecurity and chaos within an organization because the target is always shifting.  By the very nature of growing an organization; competition and changing markets are hard to keep up with and carry a heavy load of pressures and challenges.  If you add to this the manic need for the leader to be ‘liked’, then that’s an awful lot for any organization to overcome.  The aim should be towards market results and organizational mission, bringing others along for the ride for the achieving of specific measures.  If the organization has to exist for the leader to feel good about himself/herself, then it becomes the ship in the sea with no anchor, torn and tossed by the winds and waves.  If you have a great need to be liked, you can’t be a great leader.

Great leaders need to find their self-actualization of personal identity elsewhere, outside of their mission and job to lead others.  We are whole people and can never do this completely, but our rooting of personal significance cannot be primarily embedded in how others feel about us; particularly those who work with and for us.  This primary need of significance comes not in work, but in family blessing, community, faith, philosophy, worldview, self-discovery and reflective personal experience.

What we need is to die to our need to be ‘liked’ as a leader.  We cannot hang that insecure millstone around the neck of those following us.  It’s not theirs to carry.  We are to find and root that personal identity elsewhere and thus exist to add to the significance of our followers by providing for them consistent care and empowerment.  They don’t exist for us, we exist for them.  Great leaders don’t acquire power, they displace it towards others.

It is not until we die to this need to be ‘liked’ by our followers that we are finally free to lead them.