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Lessons in Energy (NCD Growth Forces) May 1, 2008

Posted by dan snyder in Leadership Reflections.
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Our congregation had been growing for nearly two years. Attendance had more than quadrupled in that time. People were happily serving, finding joy using their spiritual gifts. Momentum was on our side.

But a change needed to be made. We had outgrown our worship space. And with little resources for expansion, the best solution was to multiply into two worship communities. When the idea was presented to leaders, suddenly the energy changed. And for the next several months the momentum switched sides.

The tendency for a leader in these situations is to push harder. We find our default force tactic and apply it with steadily.

But a new solution may be discovered if we consider the difference between boxing and Jujitsu. The tactic in boxing is always the same: first to ward off the punch of the opponent, then to initiate an offense to knock him out. Both steps require all of the boxer’s force and energy.

Jujitsu Drawing

The 1500 year old art of Jujitsu is quite different than boxing. Jujitsu was developed by the non-violent monks in a monastery in Shanin. They designed a set of “soft” fighting techniques that do not resist the force of the enemy; rather they steer the opponent’s momentum. The effect is the opponent’s strength is directed on himself to achieve a winning goal.

Nature makes use of such energy transformation as well. A moving stream causes destructive erosion; but this motion also cleanses the creek bed. A winter frost kills delicate foliage; but it also destroys unwanted mold spores. A grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies alone; but when it dies it brings forth much fruit.

The people of Israel were held captive in Babylon for 70 years. But during those years they rediscovered God and His Word and who they were as a people. And the church in our opening example took the resistance to multiply (viewed as splitting up relationships in the community) and turned in into energy to build a small groups ministry that valued those relationships.

What resistance are you facing in your ministry? Are you using ‘boxing’ force tactics that are tiring you out? How can you direct the energy of this resistance toward a great goal?

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Some Principles of Transition January 22, 2008

Posted by dan snyder in Leadership Reflections, Transitions.
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Transitions in life or in an organization are often overlooked or botched because they are handled like “change”. Things “change”, people “transition”.

Transitions are “wilderness” times where we (re)discover our identity and where God prepares us for the next chapter in our story. If these times are rushed by leaders who don’t understand the value of a time of transition, or because the leader is too quick to leave the past and get onto the future, everyone misses out on the tremendous blessings that can only be had during these seasons.

Jesus identifies the following Principles of Transition in his discourse to his disciples in the 14th, 15th and 16th chapters of the book of John. By stating these principles in an honest, forthright manner, He diffuses the power of fear that can paralyze during such times. Here they are:

1. The Principle of Space (“. . . I am going . . .”, John 14:2)

This principle is tied to the Person of Jesus Christ, but is not isolated to this Scriptural account. Adam and Eve in Eden experience time of intermittant absence with God. The people of Israel experience Moses being away for 40 days. The Babylonian Exile is a season of 70 years away from God’s Promised Land. And St. John of the Cross speaks of the Dark Night of the Soul when we the ‘sweetness’ of God has been taken away.

Our Reaction:Each of these experiences evokes a reaction of feeling forsaken and abandoned. This feeling that God has forgotten us is not uncommon during times of transition.

Appropriate Action: Jesus recommends that during these times his disciples are to recall to remembrance the things that He told them. Reminding one another of the truths and promises of God set forth in Scripture creates community, strengthens faith, and invites God’s voice into our transitional season.

Desired Outcome: Jesus makes it clear that He wants his disciples to obey in His absence. And just like with our own children, He hopes that we will prove that we can obey and live by faith even when we are not immediately aware of His presence. The goal of this principle is ‘maturity’ in faith and obedience.

For an organization, it is the time to ask, “will we trust the words and principles of God? How many of our values and policies are built on what God has revealed in Scripture?”

2. The Principle of Pruning (“[my Father] prunes the branches”, John 15:2)

Pruning is the work of the Father that removes hindrences to growth in our lives and in the organizations we serve. During these times of reliquishment (letting go) we may lose things that are sinful or burdensome. But we may also lose things we thought were useful and good. This is why it is very important to trust the wisdom of the Father who is doing the pruning.

Our Reaction: There will be a natural sense of grief and loss during times of pruning. These emotions can also lead to anger, frustration and even bitterness if not surrendered to God.

Appropriate Action: The pastoral message from Jesus is that the disciples abide or remain in Jesus during this pruning work. This means times of silence and solitude, quieting ourselves before God to submerge our hearts in His Life and love.

Desired Outcome: From the onset we are told that the purpose of this pruning is that we might bear more fruit and much fruit. The Father invites us into His hope for us through this promise attempting to get our eyes off the immediate losses and begin looking toward the coming life.

For an organization, it is time to address what is to be done with ministries and programs that keep hanging on even though they do not produce the fruit God’s desires. It may even be time to let go of something ‘fruitful’ so that it can be launched for the purpose of multiplication.

3. The Principle of Exposure (“. . . he will convict . . . guide you into all truth”, John 16:8, 13)

The Holy Spirit’s work of ‘conviction’ happens most deeply during times of transition because we have slowed down enought to hear. Opportunity to see ourselves in a true light is most available at these times. During this season we are most aware of patterns of speech and behavior that bump up against the reality of God’s ways. Our values, practices and beliefs are all challenged by the loving light of the Spirit.

Our Reaction: Exposure leaves us feeling naked and ashamed. And the natural inclination is to run and hide.

Appropriate Action: When we know how much we are loved (not condemned) we can persevere through this convicting work. And when we do we become deeply aware of reality, can agree with God about that reality (confession) and can make adequate adjustments to the truth of this reality (repentance).

Desired Outcome: People and organizations who are honest about themselves are confident and bold. Future change is welcomed and embraced. Pretending ends as these people discover their newer, fuller selves.

4. The Principle of Humiliation (“. . . until now you have not asked”, John 16:24)

The most obvious reason that the disciples have not asked for anything from the Father as of yet is that they didn’t yet understand their own frailty and how much they needed God. Humiliation is the process of undoing whereby the disciple of Jesus discovers the desperate condition of his life and soul. We all want to be humble, but few want to go through the humiliation that leads to humility.

Our Reaction: The tendency is to avoid and resist humiliation. To be exposed before God who loves us tremendously is one thing. To have our frailty displayed before our friends and enemies is quite another.

Appropriate Action: Just as Jesus embraced the cross (willing to give up the right to die on His own terms), those facing humiliation at the hand of God should embrace the experience as well. This is the crucifixion of the flesh that is required of those on their way to true greatness – the exaltation of God.

Desired Outcome:Disciples who have walked through the fire of humiliation “ask” more readily. A dependance upon God (and His people) to supply abundantly is developed in people and organizations who have come to understand their weaknesses. Even their strengths become saturated with God’s power and life because they are dependant upon Him as the source of these strenghts.

If you or your organization is going through a transition, being aware of these principles can neutralize fears associated with these times of unknown and waiting. Since they are principles you can choose to ignore them, but that won’t change the fact that they are working in your situation. Cooperating with them will help you get the most out of the season in which you find yourself. And you will be ready for the joy on the other side.

Jesus uses the illustration of a woman in childbirth to encourage those in the midst of transition. He says that your sorrow will soon turn to joy and be forgotten as a new thing is born.

While you are in this season, be reminded of Jesus’ words at the end of John 16: Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.

  • How have you seen these principles at work in a transition in your life or organization?

The Quadrant Conflict January 22, 2008

Posted by dan snyder in Leadership Reflections, Transitions.
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The following teaching comes from Ron Susek (Susek Evangelistic Association). I have found it to be very helpful in understanding various perspectives in a congregation. Understanding these perspectives, then, helps leaders to (1) know how to honor them, (2) know how to help them understand each other, and (3) to know the unique contribution that each quadrant can make to the mission of the congregation.

“Each church can be divided into four quadrants, as illustrated in the chart that follows.

Chart of Church Cultural Structure

Protector:

These people have the greatest longevity in years and experience. They know the issues of the past and why things are done as they are today. There is an institutional memory that gives a sense of ownership (which can be good or bad). They are the gatekeepers  of power and influence whether or not holding office. This is gained from family ties and/or past respect. Their vision is an exercise  in back to the future: the church should become what it was in the golden age of their memory. They often feel that the institution is more important than the pastor or other leadership (‘Pastors come and go but the church is here to stay’). Need: to be informed and respected.

Protector/Progressive:

These are often in primary position of authorized leadership and generally have a particular ministry concern (education, youth, music, mission). They are often the second generation of the protectors. They still hold to the values of the past, but not as tenaciously as the protectors. Their vision is status quo (not wanting major change): they believe they have worked hard to get the church where it is. While saying they want church growth, they want it to be more of what it was. They have institutional memory but not nearly that of the protectors. They still have firsthand appreciation for events that have transpired, events that shaped the present culture of the church. This group is willing to progress beyond past issues, although they still respect the issues that strongly impacted their parents and grandparents. They are more institution oriented than pastor oriented. Need: to have their particular ministry need met.

Progressive/Protector:

These are people with entry level responsibilities; they are beginning to be integrated (may take ten months to ten years). This group brings a measure of spiritual depth (some may be very spiritual), but they are implants. Their vision is future focused. Since they don’t have institutional loyalty, the pastor is more important than the church. Need: to be mentored.

Progressive:

Tend to be younger people, often new converts and new to the church. They have an almost unguarded commitment to the pastor: his words are from God. They are know for their zeal and are often evangelistic. They don’t have a well developed vision. Nor do they have a clue about the church issues or doctrinal positions that govern the culture and life of the church, therefore they are wide open for change. Need: to be discipled in the basics of faith.

Note:The pastor and leadership staff live in the middle circle of the chart and have an obligation before God to honor, listen and attend to the needs of all four groups. Further, the pastor and leadership staff must build respect and understanding between the groups, or a culture of disrespect and distrust will emerge.

The understandable danger in nearly all churches is that the pastor and pastoral staff will lean toward the group(s) that hail their vision, interests and preferences.”

[Developed by Dr. Ron Susek. Used by permission.]

Comment below on the following thoughts:

How does this help you understand the issues or conflicts in your congregation?

What has your church leadership team done to listen and attend to the needs of each quadrant?

How have you seen distrust and disrespect dissolve as understanding is built between quadrants?

Sustained not Self-Sustaining (NCD Growth Forces) November 19, 2007

Posted by dan snyder in Leadership Reflections, NorthStar 2.0 (Heb 1).
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“The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command.”

Flowers are beautiful, but that is not their most important function in God’s creation. Every flower has the capacity to sustain its species. This capacity is most visible when it is wilting and “going to seed”.

 Living organisms have the power to sustain life beyond themselves and this power lies in seeds. Seeds make the principle of sustainability a reality.

This Hebrews text gives us insight into the source of fruit and seed. We know by observing nature that life is sustained by fruit and its seed that falls to the ground to die and grow again. But what we can’t see is how the seed finds its way into the fruit or how the fruit appears. Hebrews tells us that sustainability is caused by the “powerful word” of Jesus, God’s Son. Jesus speaks “fruit” and “seed” and they appear.

Ministries that operate with this principle are immersed in this powerful word of Jesus. Persons and ministries that are in relationship with Him, who take a posture of listening to and receiving His Word, will see this sustaining fruit growing around them.

*Is there seed in the fruit our ministry is bearing?

*What are we to do with this seed to sustain the life of this ministry?

*Are we working to hard to maintain/sustain this ministry or are our activities sustaining themselves?

When we speak of “sustainability” this is not independance from God. Our ministries must stay connected to Jesus, the Vine (John 15), for sustainability to be at work. Sustainability can be interpreted wrongly as a self-serving, self-propogating, human-driven machine. This is not the natural interpretation of this growth force. In living organisms (the church being one of them) the Life of God sustains it and releases more life to work in and through it.

*How aer we maintaining our connection to the Vine, Jesus, and His Word?

*How are we humbly honoring God, giving thanks and praise to Him for the seed He has bestowed upon us?

Leadership Reflection Questions (Hebrews 1) November 16, 2007

Posted by dan snyder in Leadership Reflections, NorthStar 2.0 (Heb 1).
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“Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command.”  (Hebrews 1:1-3, NLT)

Since Jesus is Supreme over all creation, sustaining all things by His powerful word: 

From where am I drawing my strength to lead?

Where do I get my vision for leadership?

Am I in love with spiritual experiences of with Jesus?

What practices am I regularly involved in that put me in a place where I can receive God’s Word – encounter Jesus?

How do I show that I believe that Jesus is leading me?

How do I immerse the people I am leading in the nature, character, mission and heart of God?

What practices has our community chosen which to receive Jesus?