Oil City Community Alliance Church
Thursday, July 18, 2019
Pursuing Jesus Christ, building His kingdom, and proclaiming His offer of freedom, healing, and life!

What Do You Think?

Life is often complex and daunting. Each one of us faces daily challenges that threaten to drag us under. Sometimes these challenges are temptations to sin, other times they are conundrums we face, and other times they are exciting opportunities to serve our King.
This blog is one way I am hoping we can help each other in this thing we call life. I don't pretend to have all the answers. Heck, I am pretty sure I can't even solve my own problems let alone yours. However, I know that the scriptures teach us that strength can be found in the community of believers, and so I share my thoughts with you here about life, leadership, church, family, and various other things. But what's more is that I offer you the chance to share with me (and others) as well. So anytime I write a new post make sure to answer the question at the end, "What do you think?"

IMPORTANT NOTE:

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What Do You Think? Email jdbreedlovejr@gmail.com

A Church Full of Partners

Wednesday, April 09, 2014 View Comments Comments (0)

The Head Penguin said, “The colony needs a team of birds to guide it through this difficult period.  I cannot do the job alone” (Kotter & Rathgeber, 2005, p. 47). 

Leading any organization is tough, and this is especially true inside the church.  The thing that makes leading a church so tough is that everyone is a volunteer (or almost everyone), and so leaders are not able to use incentives like cash bonuses to motivate people to serve in the desired ways.  And disciplinary actions are even harder to use than rewards because people can so easily switch churches if someone comes down too hard on them.  So how are modern church leaders to lead in effective ways?

John Kotter (2012) suggests no one individual, even the most charismatic leader, is ever able to develop the right vision, communicate it effectively, eliminate the major obstacles, and the myriad of other things needed to lead.  Instead, “a strong guiding coalition is always needed – one with the right composition, level of trust, and shared objective” (pp. 53-54).  In short, leading organizations (especially in times of great change) is most effectively accomplished in a partnership of equals.

The concept of equal partners is something that the Bible teaches – beginning in Genesis where we learn that all people are created in the image of God.  In the Judeo-Christian mindset, each person should be treated with a level of “royal dignity” simply because he or she is an image bearer of God (Schuele, 2011, pp. 7-8).  This concept of leadership inside the church is reinforced further when Jesus tells his disciples that they are not to be like the world in their leadership (lording their authority over one another), but rather they are to serve one another because each person is significant in God’s eyes (Luke 22:24-27).  But how does a “partnership of equals” actually play out in a healthy way?  In 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 the Apostle Paul addresses this difficult question, and the answer he provides gives keen insight into a partnership of equals.

According to this passage, the body of Christ (the church) has multiple distinguishing characteristics:

  • Though we are distinct individuals, we are inexorably linked in a web of interdependence with one another.
  • When one part of the body is missing or suffering it causes the whole body to suffer also.
  • We are to care for one another as we care for our own selves.
  • Finally, each part of the body plays a significant role that can never be duplicated by another part.

The last point is, in my opinion, the most significant in the current discussion.  A partnership of equals inside of the church does not mean that every person has equal say on every matter.  Rather, it means that all involved in the partnership defer to one another in the other's specific area of expertise/leadership/calling.  So the pastor sets the tone for the pulpit preaching, the Sunday school superintendent sets the tone for this area of discipleship, the hospitality coordinator is given free reign in his or her area, and so on.  This view of equal partners does several things.

  • Each person is honored for his or her contribution.
  • No one person is burdened with the oversight of every ministry.
  • People are free to serve in the area of their passions – without feeling guilty!
  • Most importantly, every man, woman, and child is seen as an equal (yet distinctly unique) partner in leading the church into God’s preferred future.
Can a partnership of equals such as this work in the complex organism that we call the church?  I believe it can.  What do you think?
 
References

Kotter, J. (2012). Leading change. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.

Kotter, J., & Rathgeber, H. (2005). Our iceberg is melting: Changing and succeeding under any conditions. New York, NY: St. Martin's Press.

Schuele, A. (2011). Uniquely Human: The Ethics of the Imago Dei in Genesis 1-11. Toronto Journal Of Theology, 27(1), 5-16.

A Culture of Positive Feedback

Wednesday, March 26, 2014 View Comments Comments (0)

How do those who wish to lead God's people do so effectively? Developing leadership competencies is often a grueling process, and it is one that we sometimes wish to avoid.  However, it is absolutely worth the time and effort to develop ourselves as leaders in order to be better equipped to develop others to their full Kingdom potentials.

Hackman and Johnson (2013) argue that developing others through coaching is core leadership communication behavior.  Coaching involves helping someone learn to complete a task, learn from a mistake, solve a problem, or develop other skills and confidence (p. 52).  However, I would like to draw attention to one aspect of coaching that is needed even in leaders who choose not to “coach” their followers – providing positive feedback.

Jesus, the ultimate example of leadership, made it a regular habit to give his followers positive feedback when he could.  One only need remember Jesus’ response to his disciples when he asked them who they said he was, and Peter answered that he was the Messiah.  Jesus immediately provided positive feedback to reinforce the lesson with Peter (Matthew 13:16-20).  But does this scriptural truth have an impact on daily living as leaders and followers?

According to Sari, Soyer, and Yigiter (2012), “Examination of the results related to communication skills revealed that coaching behaviours [sic] which are positive feedback, social support and training and instruction were found to be positively and significantly correlated with communication skills” (p. 117).  However, Koskiniemi and Perttula (2013) add an important detail about positive feedback.  They argue positive feedback cheers up the recipient, communicates respect, and enhances well-being at work/work satisfaction; however, received positive feedback must be deserved in order to feel good (p. 66).  In other words, leaders cannot attempt to “buffalo” their followers into higher outputs by providing positive feedback that the recipient does not feel he or she deserves.  Positive feedback must be authentic in order to be of any value in the communication process – otherwise leaders may do more harm than good.

I believe providing authentic positive feedback is a critical step in developing disciples of Christ.  What do you think?

 
References

Hackman, M. Z., & Johnson, C. E. (2013). Leadership: A communication perspective. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press, Inc.

Koskiniemi A, Perttula J. (2013) Team leaders' experiences with receiving positive feedback. Bridges / Tiltai. 62(1):59-74.

Sari, I., Soyer, F., & Yigiter, K. (2012). The relationship among sports coaches' perceived leadership behaviours, athletes' communication skills and satisfaction of the basic psychological needs: A study on athletes. International Journal Of Academic Research, 4(1), 112-119. 

Consistency In Our Message

Friday, February 28, 2014 View Comments Comments (1)

Recently there has been a video going around on Facebook that depicts Christians as being inconsistent with our message.  Specifically we are being shown to espouse one set of beliefs while living another.  You can preview the video here.

This video brings up a question that all everyone need to wrestle with, and not simply in the area of our faith.  The question is, "Are we consistently communicating the message that we believe, or have we let complacency cause us to become inconsistent?"  

According to Baldoni (2007) consistency and repetition is one of the keys to developing, delivering, and sustaining a viable message (p. 14).  Baldoni argues that the first type of leadership communicator is the expert, or the one who is seen as the “keeper” of the organization's mission (p. 17).  Jesus was confident in this role as the expert.  He knew what the organization was and how it was to conduct business, and he was not afraid to boldly communicate that in a consistent manner to his audience. One example is Matthew 22:34-40. 

Here the Pharisees attempted to trap Jesus as he sought communicate the message he had from God.  This time they conspired to see if Jesus would be consistent with the message that God had delivered thousands of years earlier through Moses.

Matthew’s account of this episode does not record the audience’s reaction, but according to Newman and Stine (1992) it clearly indicates the motive.  “Matthew specifically states that the purpose of the question is ‘to test’ Jesus” (p. 693).  News Flash -- Christians will be tested on their message as indicated by this passage of scripture, and we must pass the test of consistency.

The good news is that Mark’s account of this incident (Mark 12:28-34) sheds light on the effect of Jesus’ message consistency with what was delivered by Moses, and it serves to support the conclusion that I have drawn above.  According to Brooks (1991), “The material in vv. 32–34 is peculiar to Mark. Verse 32 is the only place in the Gospels where a scribe is described as being favorably disposed toward Jesus” (p. 198).  His favorable disposition is due to the consistency of the message with God’s previously revealed truth.

The Pharisees obviously thought that the consistency of the message was critical, and the maker of this video sees it the same way.  This begs the question, "What do you think?"

References

Baldoni, J. (2003). Great communication secrets of great leaders. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Brooks, J. A. (1991). Mark (Vol. 23). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

Newman, B.M., & Stine, P. C. (1992) A handbook of the Gospel of Matthew. New York: United Bible Societies.


Our Most Pressing Need

Saturday, February 22, 2014 View Comments Comments (0)

If you ask ten different leaders, “What is the most pressing global leadership issue in the world today?” you are likely to get ten different answers.  This is because different leaders, as exceptional as they are, see things from their own unique perspective that has been shaped through years of personal experience, training, and education.  That means I know I do not have the market cornered with my answer to this question, but I do have an answer requiring careful and prayerful consideration.  So what is the most pressing global leadership issue of today?

To answer this question I must answer another question first.  Statnick (2004) phrased the question this way, “Any leader must ask him or herself a question: What kind of world do I want to create for the people I am leading?” (p. 15).  While you might think it a bit arrogant of a leader to think in these terms, Statnick further argued that every leader is proposing to fashion life in some significant way for his or her followers (p. 15).  So what kind of world do I want people to realize?

For me, I want them to see the world become a place where the golden rule is equally applied to everyone, where people are seen as significant even when I do not agree with them, and a place where people are free to pursue true fulfillment.  In fairness, I have to admit true fulfillment only comes through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, but even those that do not agree with me should still feel significant and loved anyway.  Furthermore, I believe the only worldview allowing for the three things I listed above to happen is the Biblical worldview – based on the truth revealed through the Judeo Christian scriptures. 

In short, I think the most pressing issue of global leadership today is the full inclusion and integration of our personal faith into how we lead.

In making the above statement, I know I am opening myself up to the criticism of others. However, I also believe people with faith systems contrary to mine should be allowed to fully incorporate their faith into all they do as well.  I believe this for many reasons that space does permit me share, but the main reason for this belief is something I will share.

Bazmi (2007) convincingly argued, “Leadership makes people place their faith and trust in a single leader whom they follow and for whom they are willing to give their best” (p. 5), and this is a statement I obviously agree with.  However, how can I sufficiently judge whether I, as a follower, should give my best for a leader if something as major her personal faith has to be kept out of the leadership decisions she makes?  Honestly… I cannot!  This is why I think we need to give people permission to live their faith in leadership.  What do you think?

References

Bazmi, A. (2007). Revisiting leadership in the Armed Forces. Air & Space Power Journal, 21(3), 5-10.

Statnick, R. A. (2004). Elements of spiritual leadership. Human Development, 25(4), 14-24. 

Narrative Leadership

Sunday, January 19, 2014 View Comments Comments (0)
 

I have served as the Lead Pastor of three churches within the Christian and Missionary Alliance, and during that time it seems that “narrative” has become all the rage.  Conferences across the country talk about the power of narrative.  Even Zondervan (2011), the Christian publisher, has invested in a new translation of the Bible called The Story.  According to this publishing house, “The Story is helping…churches everywhere experience Scripture like never before.  Carefully selected verses from the Bible are organized chronologically.  From Genesis to Revelation, your church members will come to understand God’s story and how their stories intersect with it” (para. 1).  However, narrative does not simply stop with seeing how our own story intersects with God’s story.  It can be used to effectively lead organizations from small to large according to some leadership experts.  One such expert is Stephen Denning (2007), who argues that narratives, carefully selected stories told well, are the secret language of leadership.  (p. xxiii)

I have to admit that I was reluctant at first when it came to embracing the power of narratives.  This was because I saw many controversial Christian leaders promoting the practice of good story telling, and I saw how many people were being led into doctrinal error.  However, it hit me one day that the method was simply a method.  It could be used for good or for bad, and so I decided to give narrative a try.  What happened astonished me!

As I found stories that connected emotionally, were appropriate to the goal, and were easy understand, I began connecting them to change initiatives within the churches I was leading.  The emotional connection with the stories meant that the people I was leading were starting to embrace change without the long drawn out battles.  I discovered for myself that “successful leaders communicate very differently…. First, they get attention.  Then they stimulate desire, and only then do they reinforce with reasons” (Denning, 2007, p. 27).  It was not that I changed everything about how I lead.  I simply rearranged the order in which I approached leading the problem, and I got attention by telling a story that connected to people.  However, I discovered the process in a fumbling sort of way.

It so happened that I first applied narrative in order to help sermons to connect.  This happened as I started my weekly messages with truthful stories that illustrated my point, and then I helped people to see how this connected to whatever scripture I was preaching on.  The responses to the sermons were so overwhelming that I tried it in other areas of leadership, and ultimately I adopted this method as a primary form of leadership communication.  I still tell some “stinkers of a story” today that do not connect, but by becoming a student of narrative leadership I have begun honing my narrative skills.  And if I can learn it, so can you!  

So...what do you think?

References

Denning, S. (2007). The secret language of leadership: How leaders inspire action through narrative. San Fransisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Zondervan. (2011). About the story: A church wide Bible experience. Retrieved from The Story: http://www.thestory.com/about-the-story