photo: Vic, Creative Commons

photo: Vic, Creative Commons

It’s no secret Christians don’t exactly have the best reputation outside (or even inside) the church. Jesus says we should be known by our love, but today it seems we’re known for traits and behaviors that are much less flattering.

I’ve heard Christians referred to as judgmental, hypocritical, pushy, and just plain mean. Unfortunately, the people who call us those things are often correct.

But that needs to change. The world needs the Gospel more than ever and we’re supposed to be the messengers of that Gospel. Turn on the news and you will come face to face with the prevailing darkness in our world. The world needs bringers of light, love, and joy—people to bring life into places that know nothing but death.

People don’t listen to people they don’t like—and our reputations are getting in the way of our ability to share Christ with the people who need him most.

No, being a Christian wont always be popular. The decisions we make and the ways we live our lives are counter-cultural in almost every way. But unpopular and unlikeable are not the same thing.

Here are a few things Christians do that make us unlikable, and how we can curb those bad habits.

1. We insist on being right.

We are people of conviction, people who believe something strongly and fight for that belief no matter what. But all too often, those convictions make us bad listeners.

Have you ever had a conversation with someone who was convinced they were right before you even opened your mouth?

That conversation starts to look a lot more like a monologue.

I’m not suggesting we weaken our convictions, but rather we practice the art of listening and work on understanding. Hearing new ideas doesn’t weaken our own and listening to someone who lives their life differently won’t compromise our integrity.

Instead it will help us connect to someone new and give that person a new frame of reference for the kind of friend Christians can be.

2. We use Jesus as an excuse to be angry or rude.

Rejection is a fear deeply ingrained in each of us, and I think as Christians, we’re just waiting for the moment we’re going to be rejected. So you know what we do? We work to make that happen sooner. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. We feel like we have to fight for our beliefs, that we’re going to be challenged or rejected, and so we become headstrong, mean, even rude before anyone else gets the chance.

We site scripture saying, “Jesus was hated so I’m going to be hated too.”

But we forget just who Jesus was hated by: Religious people.

Jesus being hated isn’t an excuse to be rude. Jesus was hated because of his love. And if there’s any reason we’re hated or rejected, I vote it’s love too.

3. We let our agenda be “conversion” over love.

I want to be careful in how I say this, because I am not at all undermining Jesus’ command in the Great Commission. But sometimes we focus on converting people instead of loving them, and that’s where I think we are disliked the most.

I’ve heard people on the receiving end of evangelism compare it to your experience at a used car lot. Someone who doesn’t know you is trying to sell you something—something you’re not sure you want in the first place.

While evangelism is part of our job, and the Great Commission is something we should be working to fulfill, we should be doing it a whole lot more like Jesus did it—through love.

The people Jesus was harshest with were the people who claimed to know him—religious people who were missing the point altogether. Love was always the point, and love is what Jesus showed to the people who didn’t know him, the people whose lives were changed most radically.

We’d find our audience much more receptive, and ourselves much more likable, if we focused on making disciples through love instead of through apologetics.

Being a Christian is a hard balance to walk. 

We want to be true to our beliefs no matter what—even if that comes at the price of not being liked for them. But often I think the opinions of those outside the church can be used as a spotlight, highlighting places in us where we’re missing the mark, or off from where Jesus wanted us to be.

Let’s not compromise ourselves for the sake of popularity, but rather let’s respect the feedback we’re being given, and use it to take a good hard look at ourselves and the way we’re coming across. We’ll be better for it.

photo: takomabibelot, Creative Commons

photo: takomabibelot, Creative Commons

Leadership makes all the difference. Have you noticed that?

A ship may be well-built with a great crew, but with the wrong captain, it’s going to be hard for the ship to stay on course.

A lot of my friends are looking for the next leader of their church, their business, or their non-profit. As someone who has helped hire many people, here are 10 traits your next leader should not have:

1. He should not have to be a man.

Women are often overlooked for leadership positions, but they’re often just as qualified—if not more—for the position. If you are only looking at men for your leadership position, you’re going to miss out on some seriously qualified candidates.

2. They should not be narrow-minded.

Top leadership positions are not the place for narrow-minded agendas. Great leaders need to be able to see the big picture, accepting lots of different ideas and filtering out the best ones.

3. They should not have different values than your organization.

Having a leader with different core values is a nightmare waiting to happen. Before you get into serious talks about hiring, make sure this person’s values line up with those of your organization.

4. They should not be too independent.

Leadership is not a solo-venture. Leadership implies, and rightly so, someone who is able to mobilize a group of individuals, teaching them to work as one. While independence often seems like an admirable trait, a great leader shouldn’t be a one-person show. They should model interdependence and teamwork.

5. They should never be done learning.

The mark of a really good leader is a life-long dedication to learning. It takes humility for people to admit and understand that they don’t know everything—and those are the kinds of people we want to follow: the people who are humble enough to know they don’t know everything but are dedicated enough to continue to learn.

6. They should not be the same as the rest of the leadership team.

Just like in our government, a good leadership team reflects the diversity of interests in the community they’re leading. When hiring someone new, you want to hire someone who represents a new perspective or one that’s under-represented.

That way this person will round out your team, helping you be better as a whole, rather than just continuing to reinforce what you’re already doing.

7. They should not just be a manager.

When hiring someone for your senior leadership team, you need someone who’s going to be able to see beyond the daily details.

We need great managers. Nothing would get done without them. But your senior leadership is a place for people who think beyond the day to day, who can see where you are today and where you want to go tomorrow, and help figure out a way of getting there.

8. They should not lack that intangible leadership quality.

This sounds like an obvious one, but it isn’t.

There’s an intangible leadership quality gifted to some people that makes others want to follow them. Putting someone into leadership who lacks this is a recipe for disaster. If you want someone to be able to lead, people have to want to follow them. If this is not the case with this person, it’s time to find someone new.

9. They should not be easily flustered.

There are going to be days in your ministry where things just aren’t going well. The mark of a great leader is the ability to remain calm and confident, even when it seems like the ship might be going over. And this is something you want to look for in someone you’re considering hiring.

Do you trust this person to be calm and confident when things aren’t going well? Or are they going to get flustered, causing worry and panic in everyone following them?

10. They should not be a pushover.

You’re inviting this person to the table because you want their input, because you think your organization will be better with them captaining the ship. You don’t want someone who is going to roll over. You want someone who’s going to speak up.

photo: charity shopper, Creative Commons

photo: charity shopper, Creative Commons

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, church planter, or dreamer, chances are you find yourself with more ideas than resources to make them a reality.

Many successful people find themselves in the same position.

When you lack resources, it’s tempting to want to wait until you’ve accrued enough before you begin. The difference between the ideas that never take flight and these successful ideas is this: The successful ones start with what they have.

Here are a few ideas of what you can do when you don’t have “enough.”

1. Create strategic partnerships.

Network; make friends; get to know people.

Whatever you call it, it’s going to be the best resource you have when starting something new.

You want to know people who know people; you want to have relationships with people who know things you may not know yet or who have influence in areas you’re unable to access on your own. People will be your best resource.

2. Trim the bottom line. 

I bet if you really tried, you could come up with five ways to cut the cost of what you’re working on right now.

Take a look at where you’re spending money—there is usually a cheaper way to get things done. And when our resources are limited, especially our finances, we’re forced to get creative.

Some of our best ideas come when our resources are restricted. So cut back and get creative.

3. Ask for help. 

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it’s a great way to get more people involved. If you have a great idea, people will be eager to be a part of it—again, people are your most valuable resource.

4. Think like a minimalist. 

When we have a new idea, we often get distracted by all of the things we could add on. When starting a church, we get sidetracked by the high school ministry we want to start, not to mention the satellite campus and the bumper stickers.

But when we allow ourselves to get distracted, we forget why we were there in the first place: we wanted to start a church.

We need to put the horse before the cart and do the most important thing first.

The features and the additions can come later, but they’ll only be successful when the first thing comes first. If you want to plant a church, plant a church. Make it really great, and you can add new things later.

5. Start small.

Along a similar line, when we’re starting something new, we often act too big too fast.

For example, instead of starting a church by having a few people over to our house on Sunday mornings, we jump straight to buying and renovating a large space, thinking we should create a space large enough for what the church will be in 10 years before we can begin.

This is a great way for us to get ourselves into debt.

We need to remember to start with one.

If you want to plant a church, invite one person. Then hopefully that person will invite a few too, and the church will grow from there. If you want to start a business selling t-shirts, sell one t-shirt, and then two, and then four.

Don’t make thousands and buy a storefront before you get started. Start small; grow bigger.

6. Make the most of what you have in bulk.

When you’re starting something new, it’s easy to notice all the things you don’t have enough of.

Don’t have enough money?
Don’t have enough time?
Don’t have enough help?
Don’t have enough space?

If we continue down that path, discouragement is inevitable.

But instead of looking at what you don’t have, take an inventory of what you do have.

What do you have in bulk? Is it time? Volunteers? Money? Skills? Take that resource and capitalize on it. You may not have an abundance of everything, but you have an abundance of something, and that’s the makings of a solid foundation.

7. Make a trade.

If you have the ability to print t-shirts, but don’t have a designer, connect to a designer that needs things printed. Trades are not only a great way to make connections, they’re a great way to create a mutually beneficial strategic partnership—a way for everyone to get what they need.

If you’re starting something new and you don’t have all the resources you need, you’re in good company. But if you stay in that place, or wait for all the resources to show up, your creation will never see the light of day.

Make the most of what you have—whatever it is—and you’ll be amazed at what you can make. Boundaries and deficiencies create opportunities for creativity.

What will you create?

photo: Marvin Lee, Creative Commons

photo: Marvin Lee, Creative Commons

Advice is everywhere: how to find your dream job; how to succeed in the career you’ve always wanted; how to have the best marriage; how to have a million dollar company at the age of 25… the list goes on.

There are piles of how-to lists for making your work life exactly what you’ve always wanted it to be.

This article is not one of them.

Here’s the truth: No matter how hard you try, or how many articles you read, not all of your work experiences are going to be positive ones.

Not every boss will be a good leader, not every task will be fulfilling, and there will likely be seasons of your professional life that will stretch you far beyond what’s comfortable or pleasant.

But there are benefits to bad work situations that are often overlooked or missed completely with a bad attitude or a lack of perspective.

What can you learn from bad work experiences? Here are a few of my thoughts.

1. Learn what not to do

It’s frustrating to sit back and watch your company do business in a way you disagree with or ignore practices and decisions you know to be best.

But with the right perspective, this can be an invaluable education.

Take notes, pay attention, and learn from their decisions—both good and bad. Then, one day, when the decisions are in your hands, you’ll have their lessons under your belt as well as your own.

2. Develop perseverance

Little is developed in our character through easy circumstances. When you’re in a difficult situation at work, or working under a hard-to-please boss, your character and your perseverance are not only tested, but also developed.

The ability to stick it out, to work through something, and to keep going even when it’s hard is an ability that will carry you far in life.

It’s not a fun lesson to learn, but it’s an important one.

3. How to be a positive influence

If you’re unhappy at your job, you’re probably not the only one.

In your team, in the break room, or in your email threads, you might find yourself in a sea of complainers. It’s a temping bandwagon to jump on. When people are unhappy or dissatisfied, they love to talk about it.

But instead of just adding your negative two cents, try a more positive approach.

Be a mood changer. Bring some positivity to the situation. Regardless of how unfair life is, or how hard the boss is to please, insist on being grateful for what you do have. You can be the one that leads your team into a better collective attitude.

4. How to work with a variety of people

In life, it’s likely you’ll work with a variety of different personalities—some you get along with, and some you don’t. It’s not only unrealistic to think you can work with only people you like, or enjoy being around, it will also stunt your growth.

Practice the vital skill of being able to work well with people, despite your differences. It’s one of the most valuable skills you can cultivate.

5. When to quit

While there is something to be said for perseverance, when you’re in a bad situation sometimes it’s best for you to just get out. It’s a decision that takes discernment and patience, but sometimes it’s better to leave a bad work environment than to stick it out just for the sake of loyalty.

 

A bad work environment is never a pleasant situation to find yourself in.

But it’s an important one.

Just like most tough things in life, these circumstances will grow something intangible and vital in you, and will give you the tools and the legs that will carry you into far greater success than a series of perfect work experiences ever could.

It takes perspective and a willingness to learn, but if you have those, you’ll take this bad experience and use it to build a great one.

photo: James, Creative Commons

photo: James, Creative Commons

It’s no secret that millennials aren’t exactly flocking to churches these days. There are theories and statistics, but the fact remains the same: Our churches aren’t a place millennials tend to call home.

Instead of tackling the problem on a grand scale—instead of diving into theories and ideas as to the cause and the solution—I want to move in closer, to what millennials need from us in our churches today. While I’m not a millennial, and while this is not a comprehensive list, these thoughts are derived from some of the conversations I’ve had with millennials about this very topic.

1. A realism about the state of the world

I once heard someone say that churches have a tendency to put bandaids over bullet wounds, treating serious problems, hurts, and issues like they can be solved with a parable and a pat on the back.

Millennials aren’t so easily pacified.

Millennials, as a rule, tend to be activists—aware of the hurt in the world and passionate about solving it. One of the chief complaints I hear millennials give about churches is that they’re out of touch with the realities of the world and that they’re not finding realistic solutions.

Millennials want honesty about the problem so they can help find honest, helpful solutions.

2. A safe place to work through issues

Millennials don’t get a social badge for going to church anymore. Even in the Bible Belt, you don’t get a gold star from anyone but your mom for being a good church kid.

Millennials need more than this from their church.

They need a place to honestly work out the questions in their lives, a place to be open and honest about the issues they face, and a place to find out what God actually has to say about them. They’re unlikely to invest deeply or get a lot out of a church that stays on the surface about the hard issues, and they’re likely to be frustrated by people who are putting on a front of perfection.

Millennials don’t need a gold star for being a good person. They need a safe place to work out their stuff.

3. The Truth

A lot of churches tiptoe around the hard truths of the Bible for fear of offending people. Millennials especially have the reputation for being church-averse, which makes seeker-friendly churches steer towards topics that are less likely to offend their fence-riding visitors.

But contrary to popular belief, this is not what millennials are looking for.

As a whole, millennials are not afraid of being passionately sold out for something. While they may be offended by some of Jesus’ teachings, they wouldn’t be the first ones, and they prefer a church who is passionate and authentic about what they believe.

Millennials are more likely to be zealous for something that they believe matters than drawn in by something that feels lukewarm and non-threatening.

4. Social activism

A point of contention for many millennials is the amount of good they see happening outside of the church in contrast to the bad things they see happening within the church.

Often, millennials see more good coming out of secular philanthropic organizations than they do churches.

Millennials are a passionate, socially-active generation and they want to be a part of a solution to the needs and hurts of the world. A great way to get millennials involved is to work on solving those problems. They’ll be able to see the heart of God through your actions and will want to join in.

 

All in all, millennials want to be part of a church. They just want to be a part of a church that helps them rather than hinders them. They want to feel like their church understands the value they bring, allows them to live out their gifts, and doesn’t stop them from stepping into the empowered life in the Spirit.