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Article link: Skillet’s John Cooper on Apostasy Among Young Christian Leaders

In light of recent announcements of a couple of well-known Christian influencers announcing their abandonment of the faith they once professed, I hope to have some comments of my own in the next few days. In the meantime, Cogent Christianity has posted an extended quote from John Cooper of the rock band Skillet. Very insightful thoughts from a well-known musician. Think I’ll have to become a Skillet fan.

https://cogentchristianity.com/2019/08/13/skillets-john-cooper-on-apostasy-among-young-christian-leaders/

Please give this a careful read, and let me know what you think in the comments.

Thoughts on the Sovereign Sender

When we discuss the sovereignty of God in salvation, an objection is usually quickly raised. “If God has determined who will be saved, why should we bother to evangelize and preach the gospel, if it’s going to happen anyway?” Such a question, while understandable, exhibits a deficient knowledge of both the Bible’s teaching and the doctrine of sovereignty itself.

As the 1689 London Baptist Confession states, “As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so He hath, by the eternal and most free purpose of His will, foreordained all the means thereunto.” (Chapter 3, “Of God’s Decree,” paragraph 6, emphasis added) God has ordained that he will save the elect by the preaching of the gospel, and not apart from it. We read in Romans 10: 14-15a, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?”

Paul final question in that series takes the sovereign work of God back to the very sending of the messenger. We don’t often ponder this, that the Sovereign Lord is working not only in the calling and saving of the elect, but also in the sending of those through whom the gospel is proclaimed.

When Jesus saw the crowds that his preaching and healing were drawing, he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:37) I’ve often found this fascinating. Why didn’t Jesus just say that the workers are few, so GO! Why did he instruct them to pray for the Lord of the harvest to SEND workers? As I considered this recently, it became clear to me that the emphasis here is that God is the Sovereign Lord of the harvest, and this includes not only the reaping of elect souls but also the very sending of the messengers.

Paul echoes these thoughts in 1 Corinthians 3:5: “What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each.” The Sovereign Lord has not only chosen his elect but also assigned those through whom the Word is preached.

This is an amazing truth and so necessary for our thinking. It is only in this way – that God is sovereign over every step in the chain of redemption – that we can maintain the glory going to Christ. If we only understand the ends being foreordained but not the means, then we rob God of his glory. And God will not share his glory with another. (Isaiah 42:8)

So ponder these truths. Praise the Sovereign Sender, who in his grace appointed the preachers, the parents, the Sunday School teachers, the youth pastors, the friends who would boldly proclaim the gospel to you and reap the harvest.

Question: Who in your life was instrumental in bringing the gospel to you? Have you thanked them? Have you thanked God for them?

Article link: Trade Self-Help for God-Help

Inasmuch as this blog at times becomes advisory – whether of leadership, productivity, or the like – it would be easy to think of my writing as in the genre of “self-help.” And while some of the things I write share similarities to self-help literature, my articles are intended to look at the various topics from a biblically-informed world-view.

That said, “self-help” would not be an apt description for my writing. This leads me to commend to you a wonderful article from Desiring God by Greg Morse, entitled “Trade Self-Help for God-Help.” This article embodies the perspective I share when considering issues that could better our lives, a perspective that puts God and Jesus Christ clearly at the center.

Enjoy.

https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/trade-self-help-for-god-help

How to increase your value at work

There are numerous ways you can increase your value to your employer, and by so doing, you may just be able to increase your pay as well. Let’s examine these.

  1. More output

You could simply work harder and faster. This is the simplest path to value. However, creating value in this way is largely in the purview of workers, not leaders. Front-line workers are able to bolster their worth by becoming more efficient at their tasks. Ironically, it is these workers that are often promoted to leadership, even though sheer output is rarely an indicator of leadership prowess. Being the leading worker does not make one a leader of workers. But if you are a leader, you could work with your team toward higher volume.

  • Enforce higher standards

You could take the level of your work to a higher plane. This is different than “more output;” this is doing things better – higher quality, more cleanliness, more cost-effective, and so on. If you are a leader, you can “inspect what you expect” to achieve higher standards.

  • Take ownership

Within your given roles, you could assume more responsibility and ownership, becoming less of a steward and more of an owner. This means you’re less likely to report problems to your superior and more likely to solve them yourself. Assuming your leader is willing, you could improve your benefit to the organization by not having to “bug” your boss for a decision. Over time, work to earn the trust of your superiors to assume this level of ownership.

  • Take on new roles, add new skills

Here it gets a little bit touchy. If you’re like me, you probably think you already have enough on your plate to take on something else. However, one of the simplest ways to improve your value is to have a varied skill-set. And if you try to do this by working 60 hours instead of 50, you’ll be largely ineffective in pulling it off. So, in order to add new skills to your arsenal, you’ll have to eliminate parts of your current roles. This largely happens through the art of delegation. Which leads us to –

  • Build the bench

Developing leaders around you is not only good for freeing you up for new roles, it’s also directly related to your value as a leader. The leader who would rather “do it herself” has reached the end of her effectiveness as a leader. Fear of training yourself out of a job should never enter the mind of a great leader. If you develop others and duplicate yourself, you’ll be free to take on new roles, and more importantly, to…

  • Step back and envision a better future

There are “leaders” who largely manage what is, and then there are those who exercise “heads-up leadership” and see a brighter future. These are the most valuable, but all too rare, of supervisors. Since most leaders are “doers,” ceasing one’s activity to plan, to envision, to dream is difficult – but it can increase your work worth.

  • Self-development, knowledge growth

Leading others begins with leading oneself. Leaders should be learners, even if it’s not directly related to job training and development. All to often, we see professional development as a necessary evil and not to be pursued unless it’s attached to a pay increase. But great leaders don’t think that way. If you pour into yourself, even if there’s not an immediate connection to your work, you will increase your capacity to lead others.

Discussion question: In which of these areas could you take some steps right now to increase your value?

The Beatles, Christianity, and Culture

https://www.facebook.com/Yesterday/

I recently went to the movies with my daughter-in-law to see “Yesterday,” a tale of a struggling musician who, through some twist of fate, finds himself in some kind of alternate reality where he’s the only person who knows who the Beatles were. He proceeds to introduce the world to the music of the Fab Four as if it’s his own. Comedy and conflict ensue. We enjoyed the film; it’s a fresh premise in a summer of adaptations, sequels, TV-to-movie offerings, and no less than three live-action Disney remakes. Plus, I have spent the last couple of days getting reacquainted with the Beatles catalogue.

Which, for me, is to say, I found some albums on Spotify. You see, in one of those unusual quirks of my personal history, I own NO music by the Beatles. For someone whose life has been marked by the music on my various radio stations, turntables, tape decks, and CD players, it seems unthinkable that I would not have any Beatles in my possession.

Except, it’s not that unthinkable, when I delve into my early history. This whole re-immersion has caused me to ponder my upbringing and engagement with rock-n-roll. The “what if the Beatles didn’t exist” premise of the movie is closer to reality for my childhood. The Beatles may as well not have existed in my household. No Beatlemania there. My dad would scoff at those “long-hairs” as beneath him. No chance to catch the Ed Sullivan appearance that was so defining for many of my peers; no sir, we went to church on Sunday nights. When I purchased a couple of packs of Beatles trading cards, my mom let me know they were not welcome. And when John Lennon famously proclaimed that they were more popular than Jesus, well, if he’d announced that he was the Anti-Christ, it wouldn’t have been any more reprehensible.

This is not to say that my childhood was overly-repressive or joyless. I was, after all, saved by the aforementioned Jesus during one of those Sunday night services that caused me to miss the end of the 4:00 football games and the Ed Sullivan show. I suppose Beatlemania arrived in my life well before the more independent and rebellious times of my junior high and high school years. So, I was more or less obedient to my folks and never learned to like the Beatles.

Plus, my parents, though flawed as all are, were simply trying to live out their beliefs in a world that didn’t always embrace our Christian faith. I can’t fault them for that.

H. Richard Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture identifies several ways that Christians have attempted to engage the authority of Christ when facing the culture around them. My folks were clearly in the “Christ against culture” camp. Things like drinking, smoking, and certainly rock-n-roll were vestiges of the secular city and were entities to be opposed as a Christian.

I’ve come to see Christ as the Transformer of Culture. There are certainly evil things in the world, but I’ve lost the “anything that is not Sacred is to be disregarded” mindset. In the common grace of God, John, George, Paul, and Ringo can produce something truly human that might just touch my soul in a way that can only be described as divine. So, I’m listening…and thinking.

Excuse me, Sgt. Pepper just ended. I need to “Get Back” to where I once belonged.

For a more complete discussion of Niebuhr’s book and the Christ and Culture debate, go here.

Some thoughts on personality assessments

I’ve come to enjoy seeing people discover more about their strengths and love coaching them in how their strengths make them a better leader if they would stop trying to fix their weaknesses and simply focus on what makes them great. To see people value their uniqueness where they once thought poorly of themselves is a fulfilling thing.

But, as a self-identified “assessment-junkie,” I need to express a few caveats.

One assessment doesn’t tell the whole story

There is value in submitting to multiple assessments. I have done this, and for the most part, they paint the same picture, albeit from different angles. But, trying to understand yourself through only one assessment is like assuming you “get” your spouse after one date.

Case in point – Two of the people with whom I work, along with me, have taken the “StandOut” test from Marcus Buckingham. We all three scored the same in our top two strength Roles – Equalizer/Creator. We all thought it was accurate in its descriptions. Yet, we couldn’t be more different in other ways. One is a “High-I” (DiSC) and talented in Influencer strengths in the Clifton. The other is a “Screaming-High-D” and an Executor. I’m a “High-C” and a Strategic Thinker.

So, it’s always best to carefully read the reports that normally accompany your results and make note of which descriptors fit you and which don’t. Not every Type 3 (Enneagram) is built the same.

Your type is not you

As I mentioned in the previous post, there can be a tendency to identify yourself by a category of an assessment. I did it myself just two paragraphs ago. But understand this. That’s just a shorthand way of speaking. It’s not you.

If you are prone to thinking, “I am a 5,” (in Enneagram terms) in the same way that you might say, “I am a redhead,” well, let’s just say it doesn’t work that way. Your “type,” regardless of which test we are talking about, is more of an adjective than a noun. Meaning, types are simply collections of descriptive character traits that you may display. It’s not some genetic trait. You are not imprisoned by your type.

In the Clifton Strengths, my dead last theme is Competition. This means that if you want to motivate me to produce more by staging a contest, it’s probably not going to move my needle much. However, there are times in my work where I’d better access a little competitive spirit. And though it’s not a strength, it’s not as though I am completely incapable of it. It’s just going to take more work.

So, we can’t use our strengths/weaknesses as an excuse for not doing our job or not doing it well. Your type is not you.

Every strength has a dark side

Any good character trait, if taken to the extreme, can become a force for evil. Well, maybe not evil, but certainly a force that is less than optimum in your leadership. My strategic thinking could paralyze me if I am unable to act.

This is why it’s important to partner with others whose strengths complement your own. A visionary “big picture” person needs to partner with a high-achiever. Your strengths, by themselves, can become weak when you don’t collaborate.

So, yes. Take some assessments. You’ll love the feeling that someone must have been reading your diary. Most importantly, you’ll come to value your unique self. Only be aware of the limitations of a test.

I teach a course which utilizes the DiSC personality assessment. It’s called “Solving the People Puzzle” and is available in faith-based and non-faith-based formats. Please contact me if you are interested in this for your group or organization.

Know thyself: a survey of personality assessments, Part 3

I am concluding my survey of personality assessments. If you haven’t read Part 1 or 2 or a little of my story, you might want to do that first. Otherwise, here are the next two.

The Motivators Assessment

One factor that every leader should understand is what motivates people. A common mistake is to assume that what motivates you will also motivate others, and this is not the case. In fact, an appeal to a motivation that works for some can actually serve to demotivate others.

Nowhere is this more important than to understand what motivates yourself. If you can access and harness this, you are better able to tailor your job and boost your satisfaction in your work. This is the premise of the Motivators Assessment, as described in the book, What Motivates Me: Put Your Passions to Work by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton.

This book, and the accompanying assessment, highlights 23 motivators which are then clustered into 5 “Identities” or motivational types. The 5 Identities are – The Achievers, The Builders, The Caregivers, The Reward-Driven, and the Thinkers. When I first purchased the book and glanced over it, my first thought at seeing these Identities was that I would probably rank high as a Builder. Sure enough, that was my strongest identity.

The book contains a great deal of practical advice for how you can take this self-knowledge and use it to sculpt your work life.

The Enneagram

The Enneagram is a popular tool that identifies 9 personality types (“enne” is “9” in Greek). Various friends of mine have taken an Enneagram and swear by it. As in, “it saved our marriage” kind of thing. There are many sources and books on the Enneagram; a great one is Ian Cron’s The Road Back to You.

Honestly, I am still in the process of becoming familiar with this assessment. But rather than put my ignorance on display for all to see, I’m going to defer to someone who knows her stuff.

Ms. Ron Tamir Nehr is a Life Coach and Personal Development Mentor who has written well on the Enneagram. Her excellent article is here, along with a free assessment.

One thing I have noticed among Enneagram adherents is a tendency to say, “I am a 6,” or something like that. As a cautionary statement about personality assessments in general, I find that if you get too locked into describing yourself by a certain type, as if it were some kind of personality ethnicity, you can inadvertently box yourself into thinking that you can’t help but be and do what your type is. The fact is, we are incredibly capable of all kinds of behavior, and not just those of our “type.” So, do be careful there.

It has been my hope through this series on that you will take the time to better understand yourself and thus become the best version of yourself that you can.

Question to ponder: What assessment has helped you the most to understand and value your unique skills, personality, and contributions?

I teach a course which utilizes the DiSC personality assessment. It’s called “Solving the People Puzzle” and is available in faith-based and non-faith-based formats. Please contact me if you are interested in this for your group or organization.