I recently submitted a new book proposal on the subject of humility. But, after the editorial team at this (held anonymous) publishing house reviewed it, they decided against it…their reason: humility doesn’t sell.
Interesting to note what does sell today! Books of a self help nature or with fascination toward winning or bettering oneself in one way or another. Self promotion seems to reign supreme in this glorified high school world of Facebook (which I’m on) and Blogging (which I do) and in a culture where we compete with one another (yup that’s in me too) and critique others out of a place of deep insecurities (ok that’s true of me too) in order to climb whatever ladder is in front of us (been there done that)…none of which looks at all like humility!
We are willing to sell our souls to the company store in order to afford all that the online, big box, and mall stores have to offer. Even in the world of ministry and yes even in the realm of spiritual formation ministry, there is a fascination for being the best, brightest, busiest, and even the most witty, wise and wealthy (go figure!). We live in a rather dog eat dog (horrible image…sorry) world and an upwardly mobile one to boot. So, it’s difficult to raise topics like “dying to self” and “considering the needs of others more important than your own” and “coming alongside another for their sake and not your own” and “sacrificial service” and “generous giving” and “giving up” and “letting go” and “choosing less” and “false self” and “reordering loves” and “releasing attachments.”
Yes, the publisher was absolutely right…humility doesn’t sell, at least not in our self-focused world today. But, I would suggest, humility is more precious than diamonds, more costly than gold, and more beautiful than any other gift we can offer another. When you know someone with a humble heart you have a firsthand glimpse of the eyes, and you touch the hands, and you hear the voice, and you feel the love of God.
Thank you to the humble ones who gave of themselves so I could experience the true heart of God. I’m sold out on humility…not because I understand or live it myself but because I’m a grateful recipient…and my life has been marked permanently by the gifts of an abundant life I’ve received from humble-hearted servants of the most humble, sacrificial, and generous One of all…Jesus.
Does humility sell in your heart too? Can you imagine life without the humble? Would you be willing to forfeit something you think you can’t live without today in order to offer a humble gift of love to someone who crosses your path, yes even today?
Consider the needs of others as greater than your own…and then watch your heart come alive! Phil 2: 3-11
It’s fall. That time of year when we put our bathing suits away and pull out our brief cases instead. It’s back to work. Back to school. Back to the routine. Back to the basics.
I recently started a new journal. It’s my third this calendar year. I normally don’t journal this much, but it’s been an incredibly full year so far with lots to process in prayer. Before I begin a new journal I scan the previous one. It was such fun to recount the events of the past handful of months. Wow, God has been very good.
But, as I open a new journal, and after I fill up the first few pages with notes that capture my overall spiritual priorities, I’m struck once more by some of the extra sheets that get transferred to the back of the journal and travel with me into this new season. One of the sheets: my personal rule of life.
I wrote a book about rule of life; it’s called Crafting A Rule of Life. We developed an interactive website for the book, known as www.RuleOfLife.com As I transfer my personal rule of life into the back of my new journal, I’m reminded of what I believe to be true about my life with God. I love my rule of life. It kind of “defines me” and “directs me” and “protects me” – you might say it “basics me.”
Why? Because my rule of life is what takes me back to the basics. When the complexities of life pull me all different directions, my rule of life keeps me grounded. More solid. More connected. More God-focused. More others-sensitive. More self-aware. More of who God made me to be.
Is it time for you to get back to the basics? Do you know what and who and when and where and why you are who you are in the sight and purposes and childhood of God? Let me invite you to consider hopping off the treadmill of the over-the-edge, sometimes out-of-control, activity-of-life and into a more grounded, focused, and intentional way of being…more like the person God made you to be.
Back to the basics. It’s worked for millennia. It can work for you too. www.RuleOfLife.com
Over the past decade I’ve had the privilege of serving alongside 20-Somethings, known as well by the term “Millennials” – and have enjoyed doing so immensely. They make me laugh, keep me young-at-heart, encourage and impress me…but that’s just half the story. The other half are my concerns and corresponding challenges raised by what I see as the rather spoiled, narcissistic, and entitled generation they’ve become…or, more accurately, the generation we’ve created. As much as I’ve loved mentoring, training, and retreating with them, they’ve been equally challenging to parent (our two children are also of this generation) and even more so to employ.
When asked recently what I thought were the more commonly held characteristics of a “millennial leader” I paused and reflected deeply, looking back on my own experiences and around at the research. In my most recent blog I noted the best article I found on the subject from the Boston College Center for Work and Family. What follows are my personal musings on what makes for a millennial “spiritual” leader. Please let me know your reactions…nothing here is set in cement.
1. Since they are known today as one of the most entitled generations, with an explicit emphasis on “being special” I’m wondering if one of the positive ripple effects is that the millennial spiritual leader may actually become a leader who genuinely loves others unconditionally and from the heart. With their first foot forward in leadership as love and acceptance, they quite possibly will understand more significantly what incarnational ministry is all about.
2. With no tolerance for –isms like racisim, sexism, legalism, and even materialism, and with a sensibility toward accepting others with a non-judgmental attitude, will their more egalitarian leadership style consider everyone deserving their fair share in most if not all aspects of human life and growth?
3. As a generation marked by community, with a relational priority at all times, might this be a generation which makes team service the norm, and a flatter organization chart their top choice, mostly as a reaction to what they perceive as the power-based hierarchical approach of their boomer predecessors?
4. With social media as a given, this Instagram/Facebook/Twitter/YouTube generation will most likely embrace all forms of technology even as a viable alternative to the care and nurture of the soul. As a visual, creative, innovative generation, they undoubtedly will legitimize technology as central to soul care and will figure out how best to use it with and for all levels of maturity.
5. As this generation stays actively connected via all forms of technology, silence, solitude and Sabbath rhythms of rest and renewal will most likely be compromised. Who will be the millennials who stand up for the deeper life of the Spirit and see the value of silence as the welcomed furnace of real spiritual transformation?
6. With a need and desire to truly make a difference in this world, it will be interesting to see if millennial leaders will more quickly embrace a social missional narcissism (or a narcissistic mission?), which will prioritize doing what makes one feel good about oneself as opposed to a more global approach for a much wider audience of need. Without many institutional loyalties, it will be fascinating to watch how social action and international mission get redefined by today’s growing number of millennials.
7. Since most millennials don’t want to work as long and hard as their previous generation of workaholic boomers, and make every effort to maintain no more than a 40-hour work week, will their clear divide between work and personal life produce a healthy margin and/or a lower standard of living?
8. Correspondingly, and with so many millennials still financially dependent upon their parents, will the millennial leader end up choosing meaning over money in most if not all areas of career, service, and marketplace experience, and if so, for how long in their work life will this last given the economic pressures of raising a family today?
9. As a teachable, mentorable, and enjoyable generation to serve alongside, will the importance of the biblical text continue to deepen and grow widely among millennials, or will they depend upon major ministry leaders and well known pastors to guide them along and define for them the theological issues that matter most? In addition, where will the Scriptures be studied and/or reflected upon for reasons of personal piety and holiness?
10. Finally, I wonder how the millennial spiritual leader will facilitate a prayer life that keeps in step with God’s heart…will their more casual, relaxed relationship with God end up washing away any sense of the majesty of and an awesome reverence for Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? And, will they forge ahead without much regard for the historic Church?
All of the above are merely musings, with limited research, all gleaned from a more defined setting. But, they are the questions that I ponder deeply each new season of working with millennials and watching them grow as Christ followers and spiritual leaders in this generation. May the Lord grant His loving protection over their hearts and minds as they take the reins and learn to lead others into a sustainable Christian life in, with and for our Great God.
At a recent gathering of spiritual formation leaders working in higher education, I was asked to provide some reflections on how millennials (those who are in their 20′s today) are growing as leaders. With our work at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary’s Pierce Center for Disciple-Building as my back drop, I shared with the group how optimistic and hopeful I am regarding this generation.
Unfortunately, those who have researched millennials tend to critique them as narcissistic, entitled, lazy, and disrespectful. Other words that describe them include: confident, connected, educated, team oriented, sheltered, “me” generation. They are sometimes referred to as the “five point harness” generation…those who grew up well protected in car seats that met ever increasing strict guidelines, well protected from any potential harm or danger. They were the ones who were treated extra special by teaches and coaches…the ones who got trophies on the soccer field regardless of their performance. And, they are the generation that has grown up with the Internet, knowing more about technology than any previous group. As a result, they consider themselves special and like to be treated that way.
Who are the millennials in your sphere of influence? Can you define some of the traits that are most reflected by millennials? In what ways are you relating to millennials and how concerned or encouraged are you about this particular generation?
One of the more gracious articles I found on millennials in general, and as leaders in particular, highlighted 8 characteristics of the millennial leader (from the Boston College Center for Work and Family Executive Briefing Series):
1. Active attention (just like they value, so they will offer to others)
2. Transparency (they are more engaged when they are able to learn and understand as much as possible from their employer and team members)
3. Relevancy for others (seeking meaning in their work, and will impart relevance to their employees)
4. Relevancy for oneself (sensitized to others as well as their own growth and development pathway)
5. Passion (passionate about their work, and infuse passion into their workplace and community)
6. Accountable leadership (more likely to reject hierarchical leadership/power and will lead by team motivation, collegiality and accountability)
7. Autonomy through flexibility (when and where one works during the day is perceived as a sign of being respected; they are open to non-traditional behaviors that provide flexibility and autonomy)
8. Self-care as a reflection of organizational health (they see a direct connection between their own health and the health of their workplace; are more sensitive to ways of developing healthier work-life integration)
In addition to these more secular leadership insights, I offered a few more from my observations of millennials as spiritual leaders…which will be the focus of my next blog entry!
Labor Day has come and gone…which means summer has too! For many, it’s “back to reality” after taking one or more weeks to vacation and rest, refresh, and renew.
My wife and I just returned from a three week international trip. It was, in one word, “awesome!” In addition to celebrating our 34th wedding anniversary in Amsterdam, Holland and Bruges, Belgium (both of which were magical), we spent the majority of our time in Kenya for both a mission and vacation experience. It’s amazing to witness the beauty of God’s creation, meet people from various parts of the world, and serve side by side with Christian leaders who approach life and ministry so distinctly and beautifully.
In Kenya, we were an active part of a pastors and leaders event at St. Paul’s University in Limuru, Kenya. I spoke on the subjects of spiritual leadership, soul care, and humility. I was struck by the servants who were present for this gathering, all of whom work in adverse conditions and yet with a joyful heart. Their teachability and openness to the content we shared was remarkable. Ruth spent time with a group of young moms, pouring courage into their weary hearts. We concluded the conference blessed and challenged by their collective and individual faithfulness, perseverance, mercy, and love.
At St. Paul’s University, I also had the privilege of speaking at the dedication of the newly constructed Soteria Women’s Center, a facility designed to train, equip, and empower women in their roles as mothers and wives, leaders in the church, and entrepreneurs in business. Soteria is Greek for “salvation” which I expounded upon as a wide open space of God’s grace and goodness, using The Message translation of Romans 5:2, “We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.” It was a grand day of celebration, inviting all who were present to see this building as a place to invite others to receive God’s gift of soteria/salvation and spiritual renewal.
We had the joy of visiting two schools and a church that were built by our hosts, Matthew 28 Ministries, founded 7 years ago by our dear friend, Dr. Jewel Hyun. We were truly amazed to see how this ministry has been blessed and enriched by their generosity and used for the expansion of God’s Kingdom in Kenya. We also were encouraged by seeing ten micro-finance projects, all led by women who had been trained by M28M and St. Paul’s University, received a small loan, and then put their newly discovered insights and resources to good use in their small businesses. We were astounded to see how well their investment was reaping a great harvest.
We ended our trip on safari in the Maasai Mara region of Kenya. Here we were wowed by the splendor of God’s handiwork in the wide open spaces of incredible beauty and among the habitation of birds and mammels that share planet earth with all of us. We saw nearly 30 different mammels, including giraffes, zebras, elephants, wildabeests, lions, cheetahs, monkeys, gazelles, topi, impala, and many beautiful birds. We serve an awesome and creative God!
As you reflect on your summer, let me encourage you to journal your memories so that you don’t lose the power and importance of each experience. The Lord is gracious and merciful, compassionate and loving, and He wants you to notice His work in your midst…all for His honor and glory! God bless you with the abundance of His joy as you remember and give thanks for the gifts of summer 2013.
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