Surrounding Yourself with the Right People

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If you are a parent, you have told your child that it matters who they spend time with. You’ve said, “Pick the right crowd because you become like the people you spend time with.” We instinctively know that we become who we are with and who we listen to. We become like the blogs we read, the podcasts we listen to and the shows we watch. We know in leadership and work that those around us will determine our success.

Yet, as we grow older we either stop believing this, stop thinking about it or think we are above it.

Here’s a quick test: would you describe yourself as miserable or joy-filled? Are you optimistic or pessimistic? Do you complain about your spouse? Now, ask yourself, how many people that you spend time with (or connecting with on social media) are the same as you.

We know this to be true, but find it difficult to apply.

Here are some ways:

  1. Listen to people. You want people to listen to you when you throw up the red flag about someone in their life, but we don’t do the same. When someone says, “I don’t like the person you are or become after spending with ____.” Listen to them.
  2. Know who you want to become. One of the reasons we are blind in relationships and blind to who influences us is because we are unsure of the kind of person we want to become. We have ideas about it, but if you boil it down, few people actually know. We often know more of what we don’t want to be like, which is not as helpful as knowing where you are headed. Knowing where you don’t want to be leaves you aimless and can lead you almost anywhere.
  3. Find people older than you to share their wisdom. The older I get, the more I want to be around older people so I can gain their wisdom and learn from their mistakes. Yes, I have friends my age and younger, but they know as little as I do. You should always have someone older speaking into your life and influencing you.

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Stop Being Letdown

 

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Relationships. At work. Your kids school. Your career. Education. Body.

All of us have been letdown.

All of us have let people down.

And it will happen again.

In the midst of all this gloom, it is avoidable to not be letdown.

You could take the easy way out and have no expectations of people and simply expect to be letdown. If you do this though, you will miss the chance for relationships, community and enjoying life. You’ll simply walk around waiting for the other shoe to drop, which will keep you from trusting and ultimately, living.

A better way is to clarify and evaluate expectations.

Here’s what I mean. If you are a boss, do the people who work for you know what is expected of them? Do they know the win for your team and organization? If not, you will be letdown at some point because you are evaluating them on a scale they are unaware of.

What about relationships?

This is where most of our disappointment and letdown lies, especially if you are married.

Most married couples can tell you what they expect of their spouse, chores, reactions, attention, etc. Yet, most couples have never told each other what those are. They walk around us a smug silence, pointing out in their heads how disappointed they are and then they return the favor. A cycle simply continues until you get to the place where you can’t take it anymore, resign yourself to the fact that this is as good as it gets or worse.

What if, you began clarifying your expectations in all walks of your life? What if you told the people you work with, have a relationship with, your expectations? What if your kids knew instead of you just getting frustrated? What if your spouse or employees knew?

What if you work for someone and they are frustrating you? Have a conversation, let them know what would be best for you.

Will this always work? No, but then at least you’ll know. But as long as you don’t tell them, you are saying no for them and that rarely works out.

Until it’s been clarified, we don’t have a right to be mad at the person who doesn’t meet our expectations.

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When You’ve Been Betrayed

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All of us have been betrayed. A spouse who walked out, cheated. A parent who left. A child who hurt us. It might be someone you work with or a member of your church. It could be someone who changed the details of a deal that you agreed to.

All of us have been been betrayed.

And when it happens, it hurts.

The reason is simple. The only way to betray someone means you have to be close to someone. While you can feel let down by a national leader or role model, betrayal only happens in close proximity.

Ministry is a major place for betrayal and when it happens in a church context, it hurts.

A lot.

Last week I spoke at Exponential West and at each of my breakouts I talked to several people who were in the midst of betrayal or just walked through it. Here are some things I reminded them that may prove helpful to you when you find yourself betrayed:

  1. Jesus was betrayed. While this sound trite and Christianese when you have been betrayed, it should provide us comfort. Jesus knows what it is like to be betrayed. He knows what it is like to have friends fail him, walk out on him, lie and abandon him. This has helped me to walk through betrayal and misplaced trust.
  2. Their true colors will be seen. Our first inclination when we’ve been hurt or betrayed is to get back at someone. We want people to know that we are hurt, that they lied to us, we want to ruin their lives and name in the way they’ve ruined our lives. In the end, if someone doesn’t have character, it eventually comes out. If someone is lazy, eventually everyone knows. While they may not know as quickly as you’d like, everything comes out.
  3. It’s for your goodIf Romans 8 is true, and I believe it is. Then when we are betrayed, God is and will use it for our good. In the moment, this does not always provide the comfort that it should, that’s more about us than God though. It is true and it does bring comfort for us. When you are betrayed, it is an opportunity for you to grow. You are able to see blind spots, or places you didn’t pull boundaries, or situations you didn’t give enough oversight to. Regardless, when you are betrayed, it can be a wake up call to get better at something and this is good.
  4. Take the high road, your true colors will be seen. In the same way that their true colors will be seen, so will yours. Again, not as quickly as you’d like, especially if you are in the right, but they will. If you have character, that will be shown, if not, that will as well.
  5. Don’t be bitter. Bitterness is waiting you when you are betrayed. Don’t give in to it. While God is working in all things, pray against bitterness, let go of the person and situation as quickly as you can (even though this may take months or years). Start. Ask people to pray with you against a hard heart. For Katie and I, when betrayal happens we pray Ezekiel 36:26 for our hearts, that God would replace our heart of stone so that it does not become hard.

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When You Want Vindication

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At some point, all of us have been hurt to the point that we want to retaliate or at the very least, make the other person feel something close to what we feel.

I remember when I was 25 and I was leaving the staff of a church in Maryland. I was young, I was hurt. I felt betrayed and I wanted other people to know it. I wanted people around me to know why I was hurt, I wanted them to feel my pain with them, but I also wanted the who hurt me to get a little bit of what I was feeling.

Then a friend pulled me aside and said to me, “Josh, whenever you tell someone what happened and why you are leaving this staff team, when you go to give them details and talk about your feelings, you need to ask yourself a simple question: why do I want this person to know?”

Honestly, I was angry with him.

I didn’t want to ask that.

The reason I wanted someone to know my feelings was because I wanted them to validate my hurt, join my side, help me push the agenda of injustice I felt or maybe even leave the church I was leaving so the leadership could feel some pain.

I would’ve said that I wanted a friend to hear me out or wanted someone to challenge my sin in the situation, but none of that was actually true.

I wanted vindication and retaliation.

This question, has now caused me to stop when I get ready to share something that happened. It gives me pause to ask what I will gain from sharing something.

There’s something else about this question. Until the motives are pure for sharing something, I have sin in my heart. 

Meaning, until I stop trying to get people onto my side of an issue, I’m sinning by trying to win or control something or I care too much about what someone else thinks.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t share things, but it means you need to ask why beforehand.

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Stop Being Selfish

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Community is a hard and messy thing.

Many of us struggle with it because we are introverts, have been hurt by someone in the past, are selfish and want our way at all times or find it easier to just stay home and be alone with our hundreds of friends on Facebook.

Either way, we miss out.

In Galatians 6:2, the apostle Paul says that followers of Jesus are to carry each other’s burdens so they can fulfill the law of Christ.

To carry someone’s burden, to help with what weighs them down, you have to be close enough to carry it. Many of us do not have anyone close enough to help carry something. This is what I call waiting to build community when you need it. This ensures you will be alone and carry your burden by yourself. You have to build community for when you need it, not the other way around. You have to get past your fears, open yourself up to others and let them in.

What’s interesting about this verse is that Paul says it is possible to sin in two ways:

  1. You can sin by not carrying someone else’s burden when they need you to.
  2. You can sin by not allowing someone to carry your burden when you need them to.

The first one, most people would agree with. When you see someone who needs help, you should help. If you are able to help, do so. If you don’t, you are selfish and are a mean person. That one isn’t as big of an issue, although maybe that is a struggle for you because of pride and selfishness (Galatians 5:25 – 26).

The second one is what maybe catches us off guard. What if we try to do it ourself? What if we never ask for help? What if we never open ourselves up to community and the care others can give us or allow someone to carry our burden? We are sinning as much as the selfish, prideful person who won’t help. 

Why?

Both have missed community and relationships. Both of them have pride issues and think they don’t need help or others. Both lack humility.

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Pastors Can Make the Worst Friends

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Most pastors are nice people, they just don’t make good friends.

That may seem harsh to say, but as a pastor, I think it is true.

Hear me out.

Pastoral ministry is an all encompassing job. It is highly relational, emotional, mental and spiritual. It can be draining physically and overwhelming. It isn’t harder than other jobs, it is just different.

Because you can get a call at any moment with something that needs attention, many pastors burnout and struggle to have boundaries so they can rest and recharge.

Pastors spend so much time counseling people, helping people work through issues or sitting in meetings that when they meet someone, they often see them as a project instead of a person. They see them as someone who will need something, someone who will need advice or need to be fixed instead of a person to simply spend time with.

For most pastors, church is something they are always thinking about. The next capital campaign, new ministry year, next sermon series, next issue, hiring a new person. It never stops. They spend all their time with people talking about church. They sit with their wife on date night and talk about church. It is not just a job, it is their life. It is who they are and this becomes unhealthy.

Then, they meet someone new and they can’t stop talking about church. They can’t shut it off.

What do you do then? How can you become a better friend if you are a pastor? Here are 5 ideas:

  1. Have friends who don’t attend church (or your church). This is crucial. If you don’t have any friends who don’t attend church, that’s a great clue that you aren’t good at friendships. Churched people will tolerate a pastor who don’t stop talking about church or is a poor friend because they want to be close to a pastor. An unchurched person won’t take that.
  2. Have a no church talk zone. There should be a time of day, a day each week where you stop talking about church stuff. Stop thinking about, stop checking your email. Don’t talk about it at least once a week. For many pastors this will be so hard to do, but incredibly healthy.
  3. Take a day off. If you aren’t taking your day off as a pastor, you are sinning. I’m blown away by how many pastors are killing themselves working 6 or 7 days a week. Stop it. Rest, recharge, take some down time.
  4. Get in a small group. I’m blown away by how many pastors are not in a small group or missional community at their church. They’ll often say that the elders are their small group. This line of thinking attempts to make a pastor untouchable and that’s a sin. In a small group, people see who you are, you can’t hide any longer. You start to see how people see you and if you are any good at community. This might feel like it goes against #1 but it doesn’t because many pastors don’t have friends in their church. Now, you need to be careful here. You don’t just share everything with someone in your church, you must show discretion on the information and with the person. There have been times Katie and I have shared everything about a situation with our MC, and sometimes not. Each situation is different, but you should be in community with some people in your church who are not in leadership.
  5. Get a hobby. I was talking with some pastors the other day I am coaching out of burnout and I asked them, “What do you do for fun? What recharges you? What is fun?” Blank stares. Many pastors do not have a hobby. Things like fixing a car, working with wood, hiking, playing sports, knitting or cooking. Nothing. If that’s you, sit down and answer that question, what do I find fun? If you don’t have a hobby, you won’t have anything that lets off steam, anything that is fun, anything to do with others.

 

Vague Pastors

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Last week, Carl Lentz, the pastor of Hillsong NYC made his rounds on CNN and Huffington Post. The interviews were fascinating to watch and see what God is doing through Lentz and Hillsong.

In those interviews, gay marriage came up as it always does if you are a pastor.

His answers were an attempt at a non-answer. He said in a sermon, “Some churches want us to give blanket answers on huge issues. Well, my Bible says, be attentive to individual needs. So I’m not gonna make polarizing political statements about certain things in our Christian community right now. No matter who says what, we won’t be pressured into giving blanket statements to individual needs. Never.”

He has also said he won’t “Preach on homosexuality.” But that is misleading.

When you don’t preach on something, you are preaching on that thing. You are just saying what you think won’t be as controversial or the thing that won’t lose you your following.

He says that “Hillsong has a stance on love, but has conversations on everything else.” On the surface, this sounds nice.

But he is falling into the trap so many pastors and leaders fall into: being vague.

The problem is this, homosexuality is talked about in the bible. Not as much as some Christians make it out to be. It is listed with other things for example in 1 Corinthians. The amount of sermons and blog posts on gay marriage dwarfs the amount of sermons and blog posts on adultery, stealing, greed (except at Christmas time), getting drunk, revilers, or swindlers.

Let’s take another example from 1 Corinthians 6. It talks about our bodies being the temple of the Holy Spirit and  yet, there are a lot of Christians who are unhealthy and destroying their bodies because of what they eat and drink. Every time there is a potluck at a church, there is a good chance we just sinned according to 1 Corinthians 6. Not always, but most of the time.

There is a clear problem when a pastor is vague and it is this: The problem with not preaching on things in the Bible is that Christians and non-Christians then don’t know what is in the Bible. They don’t know what they believe about something. They don’t know what God thinks about something. A Christian can’t have a conversation with a non-Christian about an issue if they aren’t taught. In the same way, a non-Christian can’t be confronted by truth if they don’t hear it.

This is one reason I think it is important to preach through books of the Bible. It keeps pastors from preaching on their soap box issues (and only talking about their soapbox issues), but it also allows pastors to not skip things. When you say, “I won’t preach on _____” you’ve just said I will skip passages in the Bible when I get to them because I don’t want to talk about them.

That is a low view of the Bible. God inspired those words for a reason.

 

How to Trust God

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What You’re Fighting About Isn’t What You’re Angry About

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Think about the last fight you had with someone. It might be your spouse, child, a boss, employee. If you are a pastor, think about the last angry person you met with and the reason they gave for their anger and why they are leaving your church.

Now, the thing you were fighting about, the reason someone gave for leaving your church, that isn’t what they are angry about, that isn’t what the argument was about. 

I remember sitting in a counseling class in college. It was incredibly boring and then in a moment of God’s providence, I paid attention towards the end of one class and my teacher said this, “When life is stressful, when life is out of control, when people don’t know what to do, they take their anger out on the closest authority figure in their life. If you are a pastor, that will often be you.”

For 12 years as a pastor, this has proven to be true on a weekly basis.

Here’s a way to know if this is happening to you: does the response match the situation?

Often, fights happen in marriage and are started because of a crying child, something not being put away, something not getting done, a miscommunication and then…boom.

The fight isn’t about the child, something being left out or something not getting done. It is about the underlying issue that it represents. It is about being able to trust the other person, count on them.

What couples do, is fight about the issue at hand. They then continue to have the same fight for years with no resolution. It isn’t until they have a discussion about the actual issue, and only then, will they be able to move forward.

Here’s a church example. “We’re leaving because you didn’t start this ministry that I want.” That isn’t the issue. What is the issue at hand is either a disagreement in vision and where the church is going and/or an unwillingness for this person to follow a leader. They want more power or authority than they have. Or, “We’re leaving because you don’t preach deep enough.” That isn’t the reason. What they are leaving for is without their “deep preaching” they have to take responsibility for their spiritual journey, and, with all this “shallow preaching” going around this church, we have a bunch of unchurched people who don’t know Jesus showing up and they are acting like they don’t know Jesus and that is uncomfortable.

I remember when we first planted Revolution and people were coming and going quickly, which happens in a church plant. I tried to meet with as many people leaving as I could to learn from them and what went wrong. We still do this as often as we can as a church. In each of those meetings, we talked about what frustrated them about Revolution, but 50% of what we talked about at those meetings was their frustration around their job, their spouse or their child who wasn’t growing up like they hoped.

Proving my professor right.

When life is stressful, when life is out of control, when people don’t know what to do, they take their anger out on the closest authority figure in their life. If you are a pastor, that will often be you.

The next time you have an argument with a child or a spouse stop and ask, “Are we really fighting about this? Or is something else driving this?” Are you tired? Run down? When was your last date night? Katie and I argue about the silliest things if we miss a date night.

When someone leaves your church, listen to their complaints and then try to find the heart issue with it and try to discuss that. They will probably still leave your church, but at least you’ll know why they left.