Why Micromanaging is Ungodly

micromanager

Nobody likes a micromanager, except maybe the one doing the managing. Even people who need close oversight hate it. Why? It’s annoying. It’s overbearing. We generally chalk it up to a “poor leadership style” or “ineffective management.” It’s more than that, though. Micromanagement among Christian leaders reflects poorly on our faith and the gospel. It doesn’t work, and that’s mainly because it’s not the way God designed things to work.

Here are five reasons why.

1) Micromanagement is a failure to lead.

In fact, it is not just a failure to lead; it is the opposite of leadership. Leaders, whether in business or ministry or any other context should be empowerers of others, setting them up to succeed. Micromanagement bears all the burden and actually undermines those it oversees. It takes away their opportunities to shine and never shows them a way forward. Instead of raising up new talent and new leaders it suppresses both and limits everyone’s effectiveness.

2) Micromanagement is a failure to self-evaluate.

To be fair, every shortcoming is a failure to self-evaluate. But for someone responsible for others’ success, refusing to self-evaluate is a recipe for disaster. Micromanagers don’t realize they are actually making life harder for others. They don’t see the damage they are causing. They also don’t see the damage they are causing to themselves. By taking on all the burden of work instead of empowering others to do it well, a micromanager is stockpiling stress and burden. More than that, though, they aren’t evaluating their own gifts. The question every micromanager must ask themselves is this: should I really be in a position of leadership? If the inclination is to do all the work instead of helping others do it then maybe being in a position of leadership is the wrong fit.

3) Micromanagement is a failure to recognize the gifts of others.

God has uniquely gifted every person. Leaders are tasked with seeing those gifts, feeding them, and giving people room to use them to the fullest extent. Micromanagers either cannot or will not do this. They see people as tools to be wielded or foolish sheep to be shepherded. They cannot recognize that the people under them may be better at certain tasks and responsibilities and that this is a good thing! Those serving under a micromanager cannot reach the potential God has imbued them with until they are free to use their gifts. Micromanagers stand in their way.

4) Micromanagement is a failure to trust others.

A lack of trust fits hand-in-glove with failure to recognize people’s gifts. If you cannot be confident in another person’s ability to do the job well you cannot trust them. When a person cannot trust others, though, it isn’t just about their view of people. It is about their view of God. Micromanagement reflects a lack of grace, a lack of connection to God’s immense mercy and kindness. People think of grace in terms of forgiving sins and failures. For a leader forgiveness like that is a tough balance because doing so too much means allowing flaws in your business or ministry too often. Yes, forgiveness is good, but a line must be drawn somewhere. But grace is also about giving responsibility and space to those who are flawed and might fail. When a leader can’t give any leeway to try new things or take some risks it is a lack of grace. However, when leaders show that aspect of grace, people under them feel both safe and free to pursue great things. Grace allows bigger things to be accomplished where micromanagement crushes them.

5) Micromanagement is a failure to trust God.

If a leader professes to believe that God gifted people uniquely, in His image, and believes in the grace of God and has experienced it, then why would he set that aside in leadership? Does he know better than God? Is he a better leader than God? He put that leader in a position to make others’ lives better, but by acting on his own, in his own wisdom, the micromanaging leader is harming them. He is harming himself by his lack of trust, too, by taking on burdens God didn’t intend for him to have. Leaders must remember who gave them their position, who gifted them to do it, and who gave the people around them their abilities. If God can do all that, He doesn’t need a leader to micromanage all the work too.

Can Everyone Be A Leader?

1096866_28842227

“Each of you is a leader!”

Recently this has become a theme, practically a mantra, whether it is in businesses, schools, or churches. Entrepreneurial efforts have become popularized as people seek to lead their own business or ministry. Hundreds and thousands of books have been written on the subject, seminars are held, and tests are given. Leadership is the thing.

But as the old adage goes, you can’t lead if nobody is following.

Obviously, not everyone is a leader. In fact, not even most people would qualify as leaders. But the mindset of “I am a leader” prevails, which has a striking effect. Numerous people are leading nobody in spite of their desire to lead, and they are following nobody precisely because of their desire to lead.

Leadership, as defined by all realities, is limited. Only a few can lead in any given circumstance. It can be positional or it can organic, but it is always a small number of people. Do the math. It rules out most of us in most circumstances. Constantly aspiring to leadership can lead to conflict, egotism, and frustration as we all try to cram ourselves through a bottleneck and into a leadership role. Simply put, not everyone is a leader nor should everyone be a leader.

But everyone is an influencer. The fewest number of people in the tiniest of roles in the smallest of moments can influence. It can be had without words and without a position of authority. It can be had on those in authority over us or in positions reporting to us. Influence is what every person should emphasize.

Leadership is a gift, a set of abilities given by God and developed through circumstances brought about by God to make a person uniquely prepared to, well, lead. Influence is simply faithfulness at work. It is the work of the Holy Spirit through a person on others. It can be subtle or bold, spoken or acted.

One of the main reasons people aspire to leadership is to make a difference, so they scramble and grapple and hustle and rush in order to get to the top. This pursuit often starts for a good reason-to make positive change-but usually ends in a pitched battle or political sniping. But influence is not a competition; it is faithfulness at work. And influence can occasionally end up as leadership, but the best influencer doesn’t set out to do so.

So seek to influence by faithfully working. Influence up and influence down, and influence our fellow followers. The influence we have can be one the main tools God uses to do His work, and to make a difference.

This column originally appeared at WORLD News Group’s website (wng.org). Reprinted with permission. Copyright © 2012 WORLD News Group. All rights reserved.

The Laziness of Againstness

754871_28376866

Some time back I wrote this article for WorldMag.com about defining yourself or your organization by what you are for rather than what you are against.  After considering being against (or “againstness” as I’ll call it) here are some further thoughts.

Againstness is lazy. It’s the easiest way to give a label to yourself or to your organization.  It’s the easiest way to position yourself. Except that it isn’t truly positioning yourself at all. It’s just floating off the shore of whatever you are against.  It doesn’t land anywhere it just avoids certain people/causes/attitudes/etc.  It is a pretend label that reveals very little and gives no direction as to what you are trying to be.

It is lazy because it doesn’t require work, just a little observation. All you need to do to be against something is keep an eye out for it and separate yourself from it while declaiming it as loudly as you please. This is true unless, of course, you are the more militant type of againster, in which case you follow the object of your ire around and attack whenever possible. This is no less lazy because you aren’t deciding what to do or where to go, you’re just being an unwitting follower of something or someone you reject.

It is much harder to pursue something, to set a goal and go after it. It requires serious thought to define the goal. It requires constant vigilance and judgment to determine if you are on the right course in the pursuit. It requires regular status checks to see what kind of progress is being made. It is constant motion, constant consideration, constant vigilance to be sure that nothing which you are against is deflecting you off course.

In my own life this is a constant effort. I find it so easy to just try not to be something – not be a legalist, not be a blowhard, not to be too conservative, not to be too liberal, not to be sectarian, and so on. But what am I after all that not being stuff? I need an aim to figure that out, a standard to which I can hold myself. Am I honoring Jesus? Do I love others? Am I doing good and not harm? Am I producing quality work that benefits others?

Pursuing a goal necessitates being against certain things, or at least having no part in them. But being against something does not need to be antagonistic or combative unless these things they threaten your pursuit of your goal. Even then to stand against doesn’t have to mean to tear down as much as it does to stand firm. And we must always remember that  these things which we are against are not what primarily defines us.

Lastly, againstness is equally as lazy and unhelpful in a work place as it is in a home or a relationship or a church or a school.  If I define my parenting by what I do not want to be I will be so much less of a father than if I aim at raising my children to be something great. It is easy to think “I will not make the same mistakes my parents did”, but if we don’t aim at something we will simply drift as parents. If I seek out a church primarily because of what it’s not I have settled lazily into the same parasitic pattern of againstness. Instead of being part of building God’s kingdom up we will be party to tearing it down.

Againstness is an easy place to land, and an easy thing to rationalize because there is much in this fallen world to be against. But it aims at nothing, takes us nowhere, and gains us little.  So aim at what is good, and don’t fall into the trap of just being against againstness

The Fickle Pursuit of Fame

hollywood-walk-of-fame

Fame is a fickle thing. It comes to many who do not seek it and is an unwelcome guest. It avoids many who do seek it leaving them in vain pursuit. When it is found by those who seek it is unsatisfactory and often destructive. After being destructive for period it often abandons them, leaving them in a worse state than they were before it arrived.

And the oddest thing about fame is that the people who manage it best are those who act is if they don’t have it.

Fame creates a riddle that is unsolvable. When one doesn’t have any he wants some, but as soon as he has some he needs more. Once more is found he wants none, but neither can he bear the thought of giving up what he has.

It all makes one wonder why anyone would seek fame?

And yet we do. The desire to be famous burns hot. And if we can’t be famous we want to know famous. That’s why People Magazine  and E! TV are so popular (it’s certainly not because of the creative and artistic value). We brag about seeing actress X at the airport or athlete Y at the grocery store. It’s as if the knowledge of fame or proximity to it rubs a little magic fairy famous dust off onto us so we can feel famousy for a moment.

But what is about Fame that so captivates and nearly stupefies society? Once upon a time it was because of what athletes, actors, musicians, politicians, or authors accomplished, their actions. But now? The aim isn’t to do what they do. Fame is the goal itself. If you need proof just take a gander at so called “reality TV stars” on shows like or the Jackass movies. (As an aside, what does it mean to be a reality” star? You’re more real? You live a realer life?)

People want fame because people want to matter even what makes them famous matters nothing at all. The thought goes like this: “If someone knows who I am I gain significance, so the more people that know me the more significant I am.” Even if you’re known for a 72 day marriage, public drunkenness, stupid stunts, or a sex tape.

Even Christians fall into this trap, and in Christianity the fame bug bites with an even weirder kind of venom. People seek fame through doing good – preaching, writing, giving, serving. But when the fame becomes the motive and not the good that points to God, we know our Christianity is upside down.

Fame, at its best, is a bi-product of doing things that truly matter. It is something that is received, not sought after. We are not wise or good enough to rightly handle fame, and that’s why the best famous people are those who spurn it. For those of us who are not famous we should simply focus on the good and let God get the fame. And by all means, avoid all reality TV.

Sauron, Satan, and Evil’s Inability to Understand Good

eye_of_sauron

In his wonderful book, On the Shoulders of Hobbits, Lou Markos has some profound and beautiful things to say about the nature of good and evil. On portion that particularly stands out in my mind is in chapter 15, “Blinded by the Light” in which he exposes the inability of evil to stand before the light of good, or even to understand it. Markos masterfully unwraps the layers of this reality. First he quotes from Tolkien’s Return of the King in which Gandalf explains to Aragorn why Frodo and Sam have a hope of making it through Mordor to destroy the ring of power.

“That we would wish to cast him down and have no ne in his place is not a thought that occurs to his mind. That we should try to destroy the Ring itself has not yet entered into his darkest dream.” (Hobbits, 168)

Markos goes to write on the profoundest truths of all of Tolkien’s works:13587295

“The reason Sauron has not guessed the true purpose of the Fellowship is not that he is a fool or even that he is prideful, but that he simply cannot conceive that someone would willingly forsake power. He is completely blind to the ways and motivations of goodness; such Light is too bright for his darkened eyes to fathom.” (Hobbits, 168)

Think on that for a moment, on the insight into the limitations of evil and the evil one. Sauron’s inability to recognize a good, noble, humble, and sacrificial motive was his undoing. He could not fathom anyone willingly giving up power or being willing to risk life and limb to do so, yet someone did, actually an entire fellowship did. In the end it was Sauron’s inability to recognize good that led to the undoing of evil in Middle Earth

When I read this all my readings of the gospels stood on their head. For so long I have read of Jesus life, death, and resurrection as one of victory. But I had read of it as a victory in battle, as if at the cross Satan was screaming in his best villain voice “NOOOOOOoooooooo!” as he wilted. I had seen it as mano a mano combat between Jesus and Satan with Jesus ultimately overthrowing him. This wasn’t necessarily a conscious mental depiction, but it was the sense I had. How wrong I was.

What Markos wrote showed me so clearly that the smartest thing Satan could have done to condemn the world to destruction was to keep Jesus alive. But, like Sauron, Satan is incapable of understanding humility, servanthood, and sacrifice. Humanity needed a perfect sacrifice to pay our debt to God, and, rather than keep that sacrifice off the cross, Satan was more than willing to put Him there. Satan’s currency and language are those of power and dominion; that’s why he sought to get Jesus to bow to him in the wilderness. He only understands pursuit of self-fulfillment and the conquest of self-glorification. Satan was so hell bent on destroying good that he didn’t realize that he was playing into God’s hands. By setting out to gain victory over Jesus by killing Him, Satan condemned himself.

God’s victory over Satan was one, not of epic struggle, but of the omniscient One putting a plan of salvation into place into which Satan fit as the perfect stooge because of his own incapacity for good. Satan, with his every effort to further defeat Jesus, ensured his own ruin – all as part of God’s plan. My own wonder at the wisdom of God is increased because of the places Lou Markos took me in these pages (and the rest of the book is equally as good).

Where I’m Headed and What I’m Doing!

Over the last several months, lots of caring people have asked me, “So what the heck are you doing?!?!”

Today I can give you the answer. On approximately July 1st, my family and I are going to be moving to Tallahassee, Florida. What exactly will I be doing in Tallahassee? Excellent question, oh astute observer. I will be doing two things.

First, I will be serving as the general media / creativity dude at Four Oaks Community Church. Four Oaks is an Evangelical Free church, which is doing some fantastic work for the glory of God. My job will include producing media (video, audio, sermons, etc.), some website development, some worship leading, and a number of other things. I’m really excited about this opportunity, and am really grateful for my friend, Josh Hughes, who opened this door up for me.

Second, I’ll be working with my good friend, Dave Harvey, to help him launch a ministry called “Am I Called?”. This ministry will seek to help men determine whether or not they are called to pastoral ministry, as well as help the Church find called men. Again, I’ll be doing a variety of web / creativity / writing work. I think this ministry is going to be an enormously helpful resource for churches, and am grateful for the opportunity I have in getting it off the ground.

So that’s where I’m headed and that’s what I’m doing. Fun times.

The Power Of Godly Example

leadership-hiking-group_pan_18564

Nothing stinks like hypocrisy.

Hypocrisy disillusions those who have listened to us and trusted us. Hypocrisy renders our words useless and empty. It makes our children cynical and undermines all we try to teach them. There’s nothing more empty than “Do what I say, not what I do.”

On the other hand, words backed by actions are powerful. Our actions can prove we really believe what we say and that others can believe us too. When we can say, “Do what I say AND what I do,” our words will have power and influence.

Paul unashamedly encouraged others to imitate his life.

1 CO 4.16 I urge you, then, be imitators of me.

In fact, he told the Philippians they should model their lives after him, and observe and imitate the lives of others who lived like him.

Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. PHP 3:17

Paul knew that example is a powerful teacher. A picture is worth a thousand words.

What examples are you leaving for others? What stories will others have to tell about you? What will they recall about how you react to pressure, or how you respond to someone’s anger? About your faith in the fire or your endurance and joy in tough times? About your generosity or your mercy to others?

What stories will your children have to tell about you? They’ll probably have funny stories about your quirks and botched projects. My kids have lots of stories they relish telling like about time time I made 20 pizzas hoping to freeze them for future meals, then having to throw them all away because of how bad they tasted. Our kids will most likely have plenty of funny stories to tell about our blunders and mess-ups. But hopefully they will be able to tell others about our joy in Christ, our patience with them, our treatment of those who were unkind to us, our commitment to Christ’s people, our mercy to the poor.

All this means that we need to be with other believers. We can’t just read about the Christian life or watch videos. We need to live our lives with others. Both so we can observe the lives of others for our own imitation, but also for them to see and imitate us. Paul commended Timothy for following his example:

You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness (2 TI 3:10)

Paul encouraged Timothy for following his teaching – for doing what he said. But he also commended him for doing what he did. For imitating “my aim in life” – Timothy had picked up Paul’s passion. He’d picked up Paul’s goal, Paul’s aim. He imitated the example of Paul’s faith – not simply the truth Paul believed, but the application of that truth. He’d watched Paul live out his faith. And because he had observed Paul in many situations with other believers, he was able to imitate Paul’s patience and love. Because he’d seen Paul joyfully persevere through affliction he could imitate Paul’s steadfastness.

People are watching us. Our children are watching us. Our fellow believers are watching us.  Let’s show them something worth imitating, even as we imitate others.

Shelve Your Shock

Rebecca Conry

You know what the hardest response to see and hear is when I tell someone something personal or sensitive is? It’s not anger. I can see that coming a mile away and change course. It’s not judgment; those people are easy to ignore. It’s not even apathy, though that can sting, because apathy leads to nothing.

The most painful response is shock.

I tell someone a story of some really bad decisions I made in the past and they gasp and say “are you serious?” I explain a sin I’m struggling with and they stare at me, mouth agape. I’m honest about how hard marriage is and the bumpy road my wife and I are going down and they lean back and blow hard through pursed lips in that overwhelmed way. These are the responses I fear most. They are the ones that make me feel like and idiot, a six-inch tall moron.

Shock feels like judgment even if it’s not intended to. It seems to express a lack of empathy; the listener simply can’t understand me otherwise he wouldn’t respond like I said I had a third arm under my shirt.

In church circles this is especially true. Many church people grew up sheltered from real ugliness. For many, the moralistic and legalistic upbringing made many sins seems both distant and unthinkable (not all bad). They are out of touch with the difficulties so many people face. Many Christians have the prevailing attitude toward a lengthy list of sins of “I could never do that.” Well, that attitude splatters all over someone who shares their story of sin, mistakes, pain, crime, sex, substance abuse, divorce, infidelity, or whatever. The Christian’s subtle surprise or overt shock speaks volumes of judgment.

The remedy to “I could never do that” is twofold. First, we need to remember that one sin is not more damning than another. The hierarchy of sins we have in our minds has more to do with perceived societal damage caused than anything else. Your self-righteousness needs a savior just as much as someone else’s fornication. Second, we need to be honest about our own propensity for sin. It’s not that we would never do certain sins; it’s often that we’ve never been given the chance. We use the phrase “but for the grace of God there go I”, and much of that grace is the circumstances God gave us as protected church folk.

I could have had that affair. I could have cheated or stolen my way out of a job. I could have become an alcoholic or drug abuser. I could have been such a rotten husband that I drove my wife to divorce me. I am more than capable. So is everyone. If you deny it you need to repent for lying to yourself and everyone else.

If we recognize our own sin and our potential for sin the playing field is leveled. More importantly, we stop being shocked when someone admits to something horrible. Of course they did it. They are human, in the line of Adam, the moron who ate the fruit and started this mess. And you and I would have or could have done the same in their place or his. So shelve your shock and realize you are just like the person sharing.

photo credit: Erik K Veland via photopin cc

God Is “I Am.” You Are Not.

directory-235079_1280

In the movie Hitch there is a scene where Will Smith’s character is making suggestions to another character of how he should dress for a date. The other character says “I’m just not sure these shoes are me.” Smith looks at him and says “Right now, you is a very fluid concept.” It’s a trite moment in a light-hearted movie, but that phrase “you is a very fluid concept,” is actually profound and profoundly counter-cultural.

Too often we think of ourselves as “me”, a static person, unchanging and unpliable. This is to limit ourselves to our own detriment.

“That’s just who I am.” We’ve all heard people say it and very likely said it ourselves. It’s that ubiquitous explanation (read: excuse) for an action or attitude that strikes someone else oddly or even offends them. Sometimes it’s innocent, like when we’re explaining our accent, clothing choices, or cultural peculiarities (hugging, being loud, talking fast, hurrying, running late, etc.). More often, though, we say it to justify ourselves when we are offensive or hurtful. We brush away our missteps by blaming them on our own identity. “I can’t help it if you’re hurt by that; it’s just the way I am.”

“That’s just the way I am.” “That’s not me.” Well, that’s just arrogant.

Thinking this way smacks of faithless fatalism. It assumes a certain achievement and superiority in the status of “me” and “I am”. We are created from dust; we are clay. Only God can rightfully be described as “I AM”. The rest of us are becoming.

We ought never to be satisfied or limited with who we are. It should never remain the same for long. Yes, God did give us tendencies and personalities through our genetic code and our familial and cultural upbringing. But God also gives us grace to grow those in positive directions or overcome them. “Who I am” is much less relevant and meaningful than who I am becoming.

If you are a person who hides behind the mantle of “me” you are choosing conflict, disappointment, and frustration. You are risking alienation from those around you as you plant your flag in one place and they move on. You will be a stationary obstacle in their way as they travel on the path to who they are becoming.

Let “you” be a fluid concept in the hands of God. Have the humility to recognize needed changes and to appreciate outside input. Yes, God gave you tendencies and a personality. But God is I AM. You should become.

Facing off with Bullying

origin_4686704193

Bullying is real. It’s also really exaggerated. Somehow collective “wisdom” has decided that any time one person is mean to another it’s bullying. That’s not bullying; that’s being a jerk. People have been jerks since Adam and Eve got a hankering for fresh fruit.

Bullying is more than simply an insult or a fistfight. It is the consistent or systematic targeted abuse of someone vulnerable by someone (or someones) stronger. A bully is the guy who always steals lunch money from the same kid or the group of girls who decide to start an online smear campaign of a classmate by spreading rumors and posting embarrassing photos.

What we call bullying is a monster of our own making. We call all every mean person a “bully.” My kids would be horrified by my casual use of the word bully; to them it’s like a curse word (three cheers for public schools). We make bogeymen and misfits out of so-called bullies. They wear the scarlet letter and are marked by the black spot. It is horrifying and shameful; they must be dealt with!

Sometime back we forgot that conflicts are to be resolved, matters settled. Instead, the bullying mantra creates a division by labeling one person as evil and the other as victim. No longer can the “victim” stand up for him or herself with voice or fists. One child can’t pop a bully to defend another. Just as bullying is the bogeyman, confrontation is the Black Death. And so there isn’t any resolution.

The best way to eliminate bullying is to stop emphasizing it. The same wisdom that decided all meanness was bullying decided that the more we point bullying the less it will happen. That’s garbage. Bullying isn’t just a bad action like selling drugs or stealing cars. It is psychological warfare and thrives on fear. The fear in the bully drives him to make others even more afraid. And the more we “see” bullies hiding behind every insult and under every conflict the more we feed the fear. We must be aware but not paranoid.

What would happen if we raised kids who won’t stand for injustice? We don’t want vigilantes and bullies who bully the bullies, but neither do we want tiptoeing tattle-tales who won’t look a bully in the eyes and tell her to knock that crap off. We need to teach our kids to stand up for those who are vulnerable. We need to give them the support they need so when they face the attacks they can be strong then come home for comfort and encouragement then go do it again the next day. Our kids don’t need to be fighters (although that’s not so bad); they need to have conviction that picking on the weak is unacceptable. Some will be strong and silent and others will hit back. Either way, it is this conviction and action that will put bullying on its heels.

photo credit: Profound Whatever via photopin cc