How You Talk about Your Spouse

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Recently I was at a leadership conference and was struck by how the speakers each spoke about their spouse. Some of them spoke highly of their spouse, while others were disparaging, even taking a passive aggressive tone as they told stories about their spouse.

The truth is: How you speak about your spouse dictates what others think about them. 

We don’t often think like this, but it is true. We may vent about our spouse, tell a story that makes them look silly or stupid, or even talk down about them. We think, “I love this person,” and our story stems from there. But the person we’re telling the story to doesn’t love our spouse; they may not even know them.

Consequently, all they know about your spouse is what you say about them.

Two things happen when we talk negatively about our spouse:

  1. We don’t realize the full damage our words are doing.
  2. We know full well the damage our words are creating.

If you have kids, they will look at your spouse and speak to your spouse based on what you say about them. If you put your husband down, talk about how he doesn’t come through, your kids will treat him as such. If you talk about how your wife always nags, is never grateful, your kids will treat her that way and believe that about her.

Where do these words come from?

Often when we speak passive aggressively about anyone, there is truth in it. We are masking our hurt and pain with humor. What this does is keep you from experiencing a truly great relationship with your spouse. When you make fun of your spouse, you miss out on trust, oneness and affection. You will each walk on eggshells around each other, just waiting for the ball to drop on you and to be made fun of, to be cut down.

One of the rules Katie and I have for our marriage is that we will never talk down to each other in public, we won’t make fun of each other in public. I want people who hear a story about Katie to hold her in high regard. I want them to think highly of her like I do. This doesn’t mean that we don’t do things that drive the other person nuts or hurt their feelings. We do. We just deal with them in our marriage.

Whenever I hear a pastor or someone make a snide comment about their spouse in a sermon or a conversation, I think, “Why don’t you just tell your spouse?” It is uncomfortable for everyone else.

Remember: No one will think more highly of your spouse than you do. 

You are the lid for that. If you have a respect level for your spouse at a five, no one else is passing four.

While this might seem like a small thing, and the idea of not picking on each other may seem like a silly rule, the reality of how many arguments stem from snide comments, passive aggressive comments, mean jokes and stories that make people look stupid has an enduring effect on a relationship.

Here’s how I know.

The next time you are with a couple, and one of them tells a story that makes the other look stupid. Now I’m not talking about a silly story like we went camping and got stuck in the rain, and we’ll laugh about this for the next decade; but one that makes everyone think, “This person is an idiot.” Watch the spouse who the story is about while it is being told and everyone is laughing at them. Watch the life go out of their eyes as they are reminded in front of a group of people, “You aren’t good enough. I can’t believe you did this.”

So, why do we do this to our spouse?

For many, passive aggressive comments and making fun of each other is a love language. A very unhealthy, surefire way to kill a relationship, love language. Many people grew up watching their parents make fun of each other. I know one family that when they get together, all they talk about is stupid things people did in the past and make fun of each other. They do this instead of talking about anything new in their lives, which shows a lot of unhealthiness.

Many couples also don’t know how to have an honest conversation about how they feel, what hurts them, things that drive them nuts that their spouse does. So instead of saying, “I wish you would ask for help, I wish you would say thanks for the things I do,” they nitpick and cut down.

In the end it leaves a lot of couples longing for more and wishing a different way were possible.

There is. Start to think: How do I want people to think about my spouse? And then start talking about your spouse in that light. The irony of this is that people have a way of becoming what we expect them to become. 

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Leaders are Not Whiners

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If you get a group of pastors together in a room, or leaders of ministry teams, you will often hear complaints. Complaints about working with certain volunteers or staff members, budget cuts, financial difficulties, recruiting or simply the pace and difficulty of ministry and leadership.

This is a good and appropriate place to share those things.

Often, though, I’ll hear pastors or ministry leaders share these same complaints with their churches or people who are not in leadership.

Bottom line, one of the things that separates leaders from non-leaders is leaders are not whiners.

Is leading hard?

Yes.

Did you sign up for it?

Yes.

Did you know leading would be this hard?

No.

Does that matter?

No.

Mainly I’ll hear leaders talk about how difficult their job is. In fact one of our staff members recently visited another church, and the lead pastor spent 20 minutes (20 minutes!) talking about how hard being a pastor was and how hard planting a church was.

Now being a pastor is hard. Starting a church is hard. Recruiting people, managing people, conflict resolution, budgets, family life and ministry life colliding are all hard.

But if you are a pastor, hear this: Your life is not harder than anyone else’s. Your job is not harder than anyone else’s. It’s just different.

Think for a minute about most church planters and pastors: they have lots of meetings. The people in their church don’t know if they are at Starbucks working on a message, chatting with a leader, reading a book or a blog (thanks for reading this one), working on fantasy football or taking a nap.

Is pastoring hard? Yes. Is it harder than being a plumber? No.

It’s different.

When you as a leader whine about how hard it is, your people roll their eyes and lose respect.

When you as a leader talk about how hard it is to raise money, gain support for a vision or recruit volunteers, you lose their respect. People are attracted to a vision.

Take kids’ ministry. There is always a shortage of team members in kids’ ministry. You could bemoan that fact, or you could cast a compelling vision to people: Most people begin a relationship with Jesus before they turn 18. In fact, if you think about your life, you are still feeling the effects of the choices you made before you were 18. What if you could make an impact for good in the life of a child or student? Steer them away from the mistakes you made and help them find the life God has called them to? Wouldn’t that be awesome?!

Sign me up.

We’re a portable church, so we have to set up and tear down, and no one likes that job. What if instead of complaining about it, you saw the opportunity to cast a vision: Did you know every week a guest comes to our church, and many of them come because they drove by and saw a sign? Think about how God works. That’s amazing. Not only that, when we set up chairs we don’t just set up chairs. We pray over each of those chairs as we set them up. When I put a Bible on that seat I’m praying for the person who will sit there and maybe for the first time will hear about Jesus and the life he offers. We don’t just set up chairs. We put a chair down so someone can sit down and hear about the life Jesus died and rose from the dead to give them. You can set up chairs anywhere, but we’re part of helping people hear about Jesus. Do you want to do that? I can’t think of a better way to spend my Sunday morning than praying for guests who will hear about Jesus. Can you?

Is it hard? Yes. Do people say yes when you vision cast? Not all the time.

If leadership was easy, everyone would do it.

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Links for Your Weekend Enjoyment

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Here are some interesting posts I found over the last few week that I thought you’d find interesting:

3 reasons millennials are getting fired.

Millennials should do their best to proactively seek resources on their own to help them close gaps in skills and knowledge in the workplace. There are plenty of online tools and resources to help them put their best professional self forward. Additionally, they should seek out a mentor to privately ask questions and get guidance on how to make the right impression.

The 10 most important questions you could ask yourself.

Even those most faithful to God occasionally need to pause and think about the direction of their lives. It’s so easy to bump along from one busy week to another without ever stopping to ponder where we’re going and where we should be going.

The evangelism conversation no one is having.

People are having spiritual conversations every day…they just never think of turning to a preacher or the church for answers. I’m not talking about people who have other religious backgrounds. I’m talking about your neighbours, your friends, maybe even your family members as well as cultural leaders and thought leaders in our cultural context who are unchurched. It’s not that people aren’t interested in spirituality; it’s that they don’t think the church can help them.

10 disciplines I’d recommend everyone start in their 20’s.

Someone will wonder how I chose the order of these or if some are more important than others. There may even be push back because I started with one about money. I get that and it’s fair. Obviously, one on this list is MOST important. In my opinion, it would be “Identifying”. All else is an overflow of that one. But, had I started with it then the natural question is which one is number two, and number three, etc. Whichever one would have ended up number ten could seem less important. I think all of them are important, so I didn’t prioritize them.

How to Handle Guns Blazing Awesome Guy

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If you are a pastor you have had this experience.

You meet someone new at your church on a Sunday morning, or they email about getting together and they are excited. I mean really excited. They can’t wait to jump in. They are passionate, extroverted, seemingly gifted and they have tons of experience at other churches. They know the lingo, have read the books, have been to the conferences and have the t-shirt.

They are guns blazing awesome guy (or girl).

Your first thought is, “Where has this person been? Finally!”

I get it because as a leader you want people who are excited, and guns blazing awesome guy is excited. He’s excited enough for 10 people! You can only imagine how far he can move the needle in your church and the people who will follow him, and how great it will be to have someone to shoulder the load.

All that may be true, but let me throw a caution flag.

There is a reason guns blazing awesome guy is at your church and not the church he just left. And it isn’t because of doctrine or because your church is somehow better. There is often something hidden in the background, lurking. It is this that gets so many church planters and pastors in trouble.

This is why there is so much wisdom in Paul’s advice to Timothy to not be hasty in laying on hands (1 Timothy 5:22). Move slowly. Guns blazing awesome guy may turn out to be simply awesome and great for your church, or he will move on to the next church that will elevate him into leadership quickly.

Now let me talk to the guns blazing awesome guy. The guy who is gifted, ready and maybe even mature. Not all guns blazing awesome guys are bad or sinful.

Many times you jump from church to church trying to find a spot, and the reason you have to jump from church to church has nothing to do with you and everything to do with people not seeing how awesome you are.

Slow down.

I know, I know. You are 25 and not getting any younger, and you have all these ideas and energy. Yet part of being a leader is being a follower, being under authority.

I recently talked to a pastor who was interviewing pastors for a job. He said, “One guy stands head and shoulders above the rest in talent and gifts. Yet he hasn’t been in a church for more than a year, and when he has, he didn’t volunteer anywhere, and he had no reason for that. It was ‘the leaders and the culture.'” I told him it would be a mistake to hire this guy, no matter how talented he is.

For both the leader in charge and the guns blazing awesome guy or girl, patience is in order. This is hard for both because ironically they need each other but often have different goals.

I can tell you in my years of ministry I’ve been frustrated because people didn’t see how awesome I was when I thought it. The moments I dug into that, learned and allowed myself to be teachable were the most beneficial. When I kicked up the dirt and moved on, it brought anger, hurt and bitterness. When I’ve rushed the guns blazing awesome guy or girl into leadership because, well, they were awesome, I’ve paid a hard price for it. I’ve overlooked character issues because of how talented they were and because we needed someone in that role. I’ve also moved too slowly with someone and lost them because another opportunity came along.

This isn’t an exact science, so it won’t end like that.

This is more of a caution to explore where you are right now. You may have a guns blazing awesome leader you need to slow down the process on or put a process into place. That way it is less of a feeling and more of a science as you move them into leadership. You may need to take a step back to ask why people don’t think you are as awesome as you think you are and what God might be trying to teach you in the waiting.

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Pastor, Make Sure this is on Your Job Description

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There are a lot of things pastors have to do each week. They preach, teach, counsel, pray with, pray for, listen, fund raise, make decisions, build teams, go over budgets, look towards the future, disciple, evangelize. This list goes on and on.

Some of the things a pastor does he can and should delegate. Some things he should train others to do so they can do it either at the church or in another church one day.

Some things, regardless of gifting, he can’t give away. There is one role, that while every leader in the church does it, the pastor cannot give away.

It is a role that must be on every pastor’s job description: Chief Vision Caster.

Every leader in your church does this or should do this (more on that in a minute), but you are the one who starts it. You are the loudest voice.

Why?

Does this matter so much?

The answer is yes.

If you aren’t careful, your church will slowly move off course. Not theologically, but it will slowly become inward focused. It will start to become about keeping people comfortable.

You know this and know what it feels like. Vision leaks and slowly becomes blurry.

What Separates Leaders & Followers

In my opinion vision is one of the things that separates leaders and followers. Everyone can point out what needs to change, everyone has an opinion of what a church should do, who they should try to reach, what it should look like. Only a leader can take them there. Only a leader can say, “Here is where we are, there is where we should be and here’s how we’re getting there.”

A vision is a picture of a preferred future, not just a complaint about the present.

How to Keep Vision Clear

As I said, you can’t delegate this away. You aren’t the only vision caster in the church, but you are the chief one. You should be the clearest, and all the visions for ministries in the church are based on what the vision of the church is.

Often, though, vision becomes blurry for the leader. It can become stale; you wonder if you are reaching it, if it is worth going after. When that happens, it is blurrier for people in your church.

Remember the law of the lid: no one (outside of Jesus) will ever have a clearer vision or stronger passion for your church than you do. It is imperative you do whatever you can to keep your vision clear and white hot.

Here are some things I do:

  1. Hang around people who don’t know Jesus. This reminds you of what your church is to do. Remind yourself that you are battling for souls, not over worship styles or service times. Church becomes so petty when you forget that souls hang in the balance. Followers of Jesus become the most alive when they are living on the mission that Jesus called them on, and that includes people who don’t know Jesus. It reminds you of why you work so hard, why everything you do matters and is worthwhile.
  2. Listen to great vision casters. Not every pastor is a great vision caster, but remember, every great vision caster did not start out that way. So listen to great vision casters. Listen to men and women who cast a clear and compelling vision. You aren’t copying their vision, but it can not only teach you how to use words but it will get you excited. Your excitement for the vision is the lid of the excitement of your church, team or organization.
  3. Spend time with Jesus. This one seems obvious, but pastors need to be reminded to do what they challenge others to do. Your vision will get dim and blurry if you aren’t spending time with Jesus; if you aren’t confessing your own sin and living in the power of the cross and resurrection of the one who gave you the vision and the passion in the first place. This time will not only clarify your vision but will strengthen you for the road to accomplish that vision.

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Why Your Spouse Doesn’t Listen to You

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It happens in all relationships. There are times when things are going great and communication seems effortless, and there are other times that communication feels like a boulder you are trying to push up the hill.

There are reasons for both the easy and great times and the difficult times. While we may think the effortless just magically happens, it doesn’t. The couples that communicate well do specific things and don’t do specific things.

What are they?

If I had to sum it up, I’d say there are five reasons (there may be more) that your spouse doesn’t listen to you or ignores you. While many people may read this and think of just one gender in a relationship, my guess is that in most marriages both people are doing these. Remember, if a relationship is struggling, it is because of both people. No one bears 100% of the blame. It’s the same in communication.

1. You nag them about the same thing. Have you ever heard someone say, “I feel like a broken record saying the same thing all the time?” That’s because you are, and you get tuned out. Many times if you nag someone enough, they’ll stop listening. Especially if you nag them about something, and when it doesn’t happen you do it yourself. Do you know what you’ve just told your spouse? If you don’t do it, I’ll eventually get around to it. I’ll be angry, ignore you, give you mean looks, but I’ll do it.

How many times should you say something to your spouse about doing something? It depends on what it is.

I would say that if you have to repeat yourself, the issue is not what you are repeating yourself about but that your spouse is not listening to you. Deal with that, not the garage being a mess or clothes being left out. That is no longer the issue; it’s just what revealed the issue.

2. You bottle up your feelings. One reason a spouse ignores the other is because one doesn’t express themselves. They can’t help but ignore you because you don’t say anything, you don’t share anything, you don’t let them in.

This is easy for me to do. I’m a mental processor, and Katie is a verbal processor. When I’m convicted about something, bothered by something or someone, I think on it. If I see an issue in my life or job that needs to be fixed, I think about it and work it out in my head. Katie is the opposite of that. This can lead to her not feeling like I let her into my life or share what is going on. I’ve had to learn to start processing things out loud, but she’s also had to learn to ask questions.

The sad thing is when couples think that whatever the issue is, it will be fixed by one person doing something. You are a couple. It will take both of you.

In the same way, if you are upset about something and your spouse asks you what is wrong, don’t say, “Nothing.” Or, “You should know.” Maybe they should know, but they don’t.

Many times one of the battles that women and men have has to do with women wanting to express their feelings about something and their husband wanting to fix it. A woman asked Katie once, “How did you get Josh to stop fixing things when you talk to him?” Katie chuckled and said, “Before I tell him something, I let him know my expectation. Do I want him to listen, give feedback or fix it. Then he does.”

I know what you’re thinking. I should just know, and so should your spouse. But they don’t, and I don’t. Yet we make it hard, almost playing games with our spouse, and then we wonder why they ignore us.

3. You talk about your marriage to all your friends instead of your spouse. Too many couples are venting to their friends instead of to their spouse. Now I think you should have a friend or friends that you confide in. Someone when you are at the end of your rope you can call and vent to. However, this friend should be a real friend and not a cheerleader in your corner for your cause. The worst thing you can say to your spouse in an argument is, “I was talking to ____ and they agree with me.” You just brought another person into your marriage, and now your spouse is playing defense.

These friends that you confide in, they need to challenge you and your sin. Yes, they can affirm that your spouse dropped the ball because that may be the case, but it wasn’t all their fault, no matter how much you think it is.

4. You feel like it is no use talking. This is when you stop trying. I’ll admit this is easy to do when marriage feels hard. It feels easier to not say anything, to not try. What’s the use? The moment you feel this coming on, that is a sign to press in. The moment you think about taking a break or pulling back, not saying something, that is when you need to push into the relationship.

5. You want peace more than intimacy. One of the reasons people don’t express themselves in a marriage is because peace is easier than intimacy.

When any couple chooses peace over intimacy, they have chosen a lesser marriage. Is it easier in the moment? Yes, but in the long run it will suffer. This can come from legitimate fear of an argument, a fear of being rejected or something else. Often when peace is chosen over intimacy, it is because of something in our past that is still broken. Maybe you grew up with a shouter and you don’t want that, so you learned silence fends that off. But silence also doesn’t bring closeness in a relationship.

Let me close with this. Often what your spouse is ignoring in a conversation is not the issue. You want to make it the issue, but it is only what is revealing the issue, that they ignore you. That you aren’t connecting to them when you talk. Focus on that.

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God’s promise to use Abraham and his descendants to bless the nations rushes like a river through every chapter of the Bible. Scripture, is not just a collection of theological truths to learn and moral lessons to master. Scripture is an announcement about a rescue mission God has come on for us, and an invitation to join that rescue mission (2 Corinthians 5:14 – 20).

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Notes from GLS 15

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I’m at the leadership summit this week with our team. This is by far my favorite conference of the year. In case you missed them, below are all the notes from sessions:

  1. 5 intangibles of leadership – Bill Hybels
  2. 7 questions every leader should ask – Jim Collins
  3. Building a Culture of Creativity – Ed Catmull
  4. Give & Take – Adam Grant
  5. Rising Strong – Brene Brown
  6. Creating World Class Service – Horst Schulze
  7. Thanks for the Feedback – Sheila Heen
  8. Resilience: One on One with Brian Houston
  9. Crushing the Power Chasm – Sam Adeyemi
  10. Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing – Liz Wiseman

Notes from GLS15: Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing – Liz Wiseman

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I’m at the leadership summit this week with our team. This is by far my favorite conference of the year. This talk by Liz Wiseman was based on her new book Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work.

Here are some takeaways:

  • Is it possible that we’re at our best when we know the least? When we’re new? When we’re rookies.
  • Think about your rookie moment at your new job:
    • How did you feel?
    • How did you operate?
    • What did you do when you didn’t know what to do?
    • What was your aspiration?
  • Once we have knowledge, we tend to make assumptions and we can make bad assumptions.
  • Newcomers don’t bring new ideas to a team, they bring no ideas, which is a good thing.
  • Newcomers are not bold risk takers.
  • We tend to learn the most when we are feeling a little bit desperate.
  • When you lack resources is when you tend to find resources.
  • When challenge levels goes up, satisfaction level goes up.
  • Signs you are on a plateau:
    • Things are running smoothly.
    • You already have the answers.
    • You get positive feedback.
    • You’ve become the mentor.
    • You’re busy but you’re bored.
  • 5 ways to rekindle your rookie smarts:
    1. Throw away your notes.
    2. Instead of knowing the answers, start asking questions.
    3. Admit what you don’t know.
    4. Let someone else lead.
    5. Disqualify yourself (move into something that puts you in over your head).
  • Leaders need more than just a forward gear.

Her comment, “You are busy but bored” is why so many pastors lead churches that are not growing.

Notes from GLS15: Crushing the Power Chasm – Sam Adeyemi

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I’m at the leadership summit this week with our team. This is by far my favorite conference of the year. Here are some notes from Pastor Sam Adeyemi’s talk on “Crushing the Power Chasm.”

  • When God asks you a question, it isn’t because he doesn’t know the answer.
  • The object of success for most leaders is their own success. The object of Christ’s leadership was the success of his followers (John 14:12).
  • Following you as a leader should hold the promise of life change for those who follow you.
  • Many leaders think they are superior simply because they are leading.
  • Jesus crushed the power gap wherever he went.
  • One of the most amazing things about Jesus is that he gave power away.
  • There is something about leaders that makes us think no one can do what we do.