Thursday’s Influence Online Articles


Today, over at InfluenceMagazine.com:

  • Chris Colvin suggests five habits for getting out of the ministry bubble.
  • Mike McCrary offers four suggestions about how to finance your church plant. Mike is a friend and new colleague at the Assemblies of God national office. He is director of funding for the Church Multiplication Network.
  • John Davidson interviews Nick Wiersma of Convoy of Hope about how your church should respond to disaster.

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Review of ‘The Looking Glass War by John Le Carré


The Looking Glass War is billed as “A George Smiley Novel.” It is the fourth installment in the series of John Le Carré books where Smiley plays a part, but his role here is very small.

The main story concerns the U.K.’s “Department” (military intelligence) competing with its “Circus” (political intelligence) for glory. The Department ran agents against the Nazis during World War II but has since fallen in missions, personnel, and funding. The Circus, on the other hand, seems to be gobbling up all those things. So, when the Department receives intelligence of a possible missile program in East German, it reactivates an old agent to confirm that program’s existence. The program doesn’t exist, the agent is captured but his fate left unknown, and Smiley is sent by Circus’ “Control” to communicate the reorganization of the Department.

While The Looking Glass War has some interesting bits about interdepartmental rivalry, the training of spies, and the perils of espionage to those who are carrying it out, on the whole, the novel failed to capture my imagination. I read it more out of duty than delight. Even Le Carré admits in his Introduction that it was received poorly by critics. After reading The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, this novel was a disappointment. Thankfully, Le Carré followed The Looking Glass War with Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, which I am currently reading, and that is a real page-turner.

If you, like me, prefer to read series’ novels in order, I can honestly recommend that you skip this one and go directly from The Spy Who Came in from the Cold to Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. You won’t be missing much.

 

Book Reviewed:
John Le Carré, The Looking Glass War: A George Smiley Novel (New York: Penguin, 2013; orig. 1965).

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P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

Wednesday’s Influence Online Articles


Today, over at InfluenceMagazine.com:

  • Karen Huber offers advice about how pastors can make sure their kids don’t run second to their ministries.
  • Yours truly reviews Multipliers (rev. ed.) by Liz Wiseman. Although this is a secular business book, I think it has application to church and nonprofit ministry contexts.
  • We note a Barna study indicating that 1 in 4 pastors struggle with doubt, especially early in their ministries.

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Review of ‘Multipliers’ by Liz Wiseman


One of the reasons why leading a church is hard work is the problem of what David Allen calls “new demands, insufficient resources.” For example, youth ministry is vital to the health and future of the church, but we all know how hard it is to get volunteers to work with junior high students. Even Jesus faced this problem: “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few” (Matthew 9:37).

The first solution to the problem of new demands and insufficient resources is specific prayer. “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matthew 9:38). God sees the new demands, but unlike us, He doesn’t lack sufficient resources: “my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

Complementing prayer is a second solution: the right people. Jesus taught us to pray for more “workers.” Paul described the Church as a “body” with variously gifted “parts” (1 Corinthians 12:12–31). The unfortunate fact is that too many pastors and other ministry leaders try to respond to new demands on their own — with only the gifts, talents and resources God has given them personally.  They fail to see the gifts, talents and resources God has given them corporately, in their congregations. The consequence of this failure is burned-out pastors and leaders on the one hand and bored, frustrated and underutilized followers on the other.

Liz Wiseman wrote Multipliers, now out in a revised and updated edition, to figure out how leaders can grow both the intelligence and capability of their organizations. Although she wrote it for a business audience, I couldn’t help but see its relevance to the problem of new demands and insufficient resources in churches too.

Let me try to explain:

Multipliers vs. Diminishers
Wiseman begins the book with this observation: “There is more intelligence inside our organizations than we are using” (emphasis in original). Multiplication taps into this intelligence. Its logic can be understood through three statements:

  1. Most people in organizations are underutilized.
  2. All capability can be leveraged with the right kind of leadership.
  3. Therefore, intelligence and capability can be multiplied without requiring a bigger investment.

As a former staff and senior pastor and a current church member, I agree with the first statement wholeheartedly. Too many people in any given congregation sit in the pew on Sunday morning … but nothing else. They are spiritual consumers, not spiritual producers.

Regarding the third statement, I certainly hope my church can do more without investing in additional staff and buildings. I’d like to see a more productive and efficient use of what we already have before we lay out more money for sparkly new stuff.

The second statement, then, is key: We need “the right kind of leadership.” Wiseman calls these leaders Multipliers and contrasts them with Diminishers. Multipliers tap into the intelligence of their organizations, grow it and increase the capability of their team members and of their organization. Diminishers “shut down the smarts of those around them.” Multipliers begin with the assumption, “People are smart and will figure this out.” Diminishers begin with the assumption, “They will never figure this out without me.”

According to Wiseman, no leader is entirely a Multiplier or entirely a Diminisher. Instead, all leaders perform on a spectrum, with both Multiplier and Diminisher tendencies. This means leaders can move either way on the spectrum.

Two important questions now arise: How do Multipliers lead? And how do I become a Multiplier?

Multiplier Practices

Wiseman’s research indicates that Multipliers lead by engaging in five specific roles:

  1. The Talent Magnet: “[T]hey attract and deploy talent to its fullest, regardless of who owns the resource, and people flock to work with them because they know they will grow and be successful.”
  2. The Liberator: “Multipliers establish a unique and highly motivating work environment where everyone has permission to think and the space to do their best work.”
  3. The Challenger: “They seed opportunities, lay down challenges that stretch the organization, and in doing so, generate belief that it can be done and enthusiasm about the process.”
  4. The Debate Maker: “Multipliers engage people in debating the issues up front, which leads to decisions that people understand and can execute efficiently.”
  5. The Investor: “Multipliers deliver and sustain superior results by inculcating high expectations across the organization.”

Now, before you dismiss this as so much business-book gobbledygook, try thinking of Jesus’ leadership in terms of Wiseman’s five roles:

The Talent Magnet: Jesus’s disciples, despite not being religious, political, economic or academic elites, established a religion that is still thriving 2,000 years later.

The Liberator: Jesus empowered His followers to preach the same message as He did, with signs and wonders following (Matthew 10:1–42; Mark 6:6–13; Luke 10:1–24).

The Challenger: Read those three Synoptic Gospel passages cited above, then reminder that Jesus commissioned His followers to do these things in His absence. Not only that, He left the task to “make disciples of all nations” both to His first-century followers and to us (Matthew 18:18). The Great Commission is a perpetual challenge that Christ has called and empowered us to fulfill.

The Debate Maker: We rightly think of Jesus as a master teacher, but we fail to appreciate how often He taught by means of debate. In his book, All the Questions Jesus Asks, Stan Guthrie notes that Jesus asked 295 questions. That number doesn’t even include all the questions Jesus was asked by others.

The Investor: Could any expectation be higher than what Jesus told His disciples in John 20:21: “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you”?

Please don’t misunderstand me. Multipliers is a business book, not a ministry book. It’s written from a secular perspective, not a biblical one. It addresses a specific question in leadership — how to leverage capability through leadership. It is neither the first nor last word on leadership, let alone the first or last word on the pastoral leadership of Christian congregations.

Still, it has incredible diagnostic value because it helps identify the kinds of practices that do (and don’t) make the best use of resources in an organization, including, in my opinion, the local church.

Becoming Multipliers
So, how can pastors and other ministry leaders become Multipliers?

To answer that, we need to depart from Wiseman for a moment and remember the words of Jesus himself, “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matthew 9:38). Ministry is not about making widgets but about making disciples, and the only person who can make a disciple is one who is himself being discipled. Ministry is spiritual work and requires spiritual growth, which comes first and foremost through a prayerful relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Ministry is also relational, however. And the ministry of leadership requires that we work in relationship with the spiritually gifted people God has placed in our pews. Wiseman offers five pieces of advice to business leaders as they resolve to move from the Diminisher to the Multiplier side of the leadership spectrum, and I’d like to tweak these for ministry settings:

First, start with the assumptions: Do I assume that my congregation is spiritually gifted to do the ministry (Multiplier) or do I assume that I must do it myself or micromanage them in the process (Diminisher)?

Second, work the extremes (neutralize a weakness; top off a strength): Am I surrounding myself with others whose ministry strengths complement my ministry weaknesses? Am I working hard to develop the ministry gifts that I am best at personally?

Third, run an experiment: Am I actively trying to develop new Multiplier habits by identifying my Diminisher tendencies and replacing them with Multiplier assumptions and practices?

Fourth, brace yourself for setbacks: Change always involves a measure of failure. The apostle Peter, for example, was the first (and only) apostle to walk on water, but also the first (and only) apostle to sink after walking on water. If Jesus picked Peter up and got him back on the boat, He can do the same for you.

Fifth, ask a colleague: If “the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’” (1 Corinthians 12:21), then Christian leaders cannot isolate themselves from either their ministry peers or the people they lead. The title of Reuben Welch’s classic book on Christian community gets it exactly right: We Really Do Need Each Other.

So, back to the problem of “new demands, insufficient resources” that I mentioned at the outset of this review. Yes, it is a real problem that pastors and other ministry leaders feel deeply. But prayer to our infinitely resourceful God and wise leadership practices can help us more fully utilize the capabilities of our spiritually gifted congregations. There are, after all, more spiritual gifts in our congregations than we are currently using.

Are you the kind of leader who can multiply them?

Book Reviewed:
Liz Wiseman, Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, rev. ed. (New York: Harper Business, 2017).

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P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

P.S.S. This review was written for InfluenceMagazine.com and appears here by permission.

Tuesday’s Influence Online Articles


Today, over at InfluenceMagazine.com:

  • Dary Northrop suggests ten ways lead pastors can invest in their board members. “Through the years,” he writes, “I’ve discovered that investing wisely in our Deacon Team … is critical to the health and stability of our team and congregation.” Read the whole thing!
  • We note a recent Gallup poll that finds most Americans think morals are declining. “[M]ore than 4 in 5 adults (81 percent) rating the current state of moral values as only fair or poor.” Additionally, “more than three-quarters of Americans say things are getting worse, with 77 percent agreeing that the state of moral values is on the decline.”
  • Finally, Doug Clay offers practical advice about the administration of church benevolence funds.

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Monday’s Influence Online Articles


Today, over at InfluenceMagazine.com:

  • John Davidson interviews Daniel Im for the Influence Podcast regarding how churches can more effectively train volunteers and leaders.
  • We note a new report from Grey Matter Research and Consulting about slipping support for charitable tax deductions: “In recent years, politicians have floated the idea of scaling back or eliminating tax deductions for charitable giving. And while 50 percent of U.S. adults contributing to nonprofits say charitable donations should be fully deductible for itemized filers, 1 in 10 want to eliminate such tax breaks altogether. Another 32 percent say there should be limits (with 17 percent wanting to restrict deductions based on the total amount and 15 percent in favor of limiting deductions based on income). Seven percent are undecided on the issue.”

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Review of ‘No Middle Name’ by Lee Childs


When I’m not reading books germane to my profession as a minister and religion journalist, I like to read mysteries and thrillers. At the top of my list of must-read authors is Lee Child, who has written twenty-one novels featuring Jack Reacher, as well as the twelve short stories contained in No Middle Name: The Complete Collected Jack Reacher Short Stories, just released by Delacorte Press on May 16.

The book contains one new story, “Too Much Time,” and eleven previously published stories, the oldest, “James Penney’s New Identity,” having been written in 1999. With the exception of “Too Much Time,” the stories start with Reacher as a youth and end in the present day. They are of uneven quality, in my opinion. “Too Much Time” is Lee Child at his best, as Reacher is arrested for a crime we all know he didn’t commit. “Maybe They Have a Tradition” and “No Room at the Motel,” both Christmas-time stories involving pregnancies, are, well, just okay.

The number one rule of fiction is the willing suspension of disbelief, which is especially important when reading Reacher stories of any kind. Reacher is a decorated, West Point educated, ex-military police officer who now travels the United States (and world) with little more than some cash, his passport, and a foldable toothbrush in his pocket. Along the way, he gets himself into scrapes with miscreants, whose crimes he detects and whose just sentence he metes out, often violently, even lethally. In other words, he’s a homeless sociopath whose rough justice happens to be directed at targets who had it coming.

What keeps you from thinking about Reacher’s shortcomings too long, in addition to the fact that the targets of his beatdowns are deplorable, is Lee Child’s prose, which I can only describe as kinetic. Child has a way of pulling you along word after word, sentence after sentence, page after page. He makes you want to know what will happen next because you’re right there with Reacher, who’s wondering that too.

If you haven’t read any Jack Reacher stories, I wouldn’t start with No Middle Name, which I generally liked. Start at the beginning with The Killing Floor. The novels will make you a fan. No Middle Name is for the already convinced.

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P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

Friday’s Influence Online Articles


Today, over at InfluenceMagazine.com:

  • Chris Railey outlines five things pastors should do every time they have a meeting with their board members.
    1. Build trust.
    2. Develop them.
    3. Pastor them.
    4. Listen to them.
    5. Leverage them.
  • It must be a day for five-point lists, because George O. Wood--aka, “Dad”–also outlines five ways God calls people into ministry:
    1. Supernatural revelation
    2. The Spirit’s quiet voice
    3. Confirmation of other believers
    4. Circumstances
    5. Personal choice

Please make sure to follow and like InfluenceInfluence magazine on Facebook, Twitter, and iTunes!

Thursday’s Influence Online Articles


Today, over at InfluenceMagazine.com:

  • In Thursday’s #InfluencePodcast, John Davidson interviews Walter Harvey about how churches can respond when their communities experience crisis
  • My friend Steve Pike is interviewed about his work helping churches get planted in urban environments.
  • We note a new Gallup poll indicating that Bible skeptics now outnumber Bible literalists 26 to 24 percent, respectively.

 

Please make sure to follow and like InfluenceInfluence magazine on Facebook, Twitter, and iTunes!

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