Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Early Church Was Complex, Not Simple

Without noting it specifically, Schnabel (2004) described the spread of the early church throughout the mediterranean world in the first century under the direction of the Apostles along the lines of complex adaptive systems (CAS) theory. The new emergent churches self-organized in what might be termed regional networks with each church functioning along the lines of what CAS theory would describe as independent agents.

(Now that I have begun a PhD program in organizational leadership, I will use my monthly blog to discuss leadership theories and offer practical application in ways that will help the Church accomplish the Mission.)

In contrast to traditional mechanistic and even more current organic and open systems organizations, leadership in CAS finds expression within a network structure of “non-hierarchical relationships comprised of human points of contact” (Hatch & Cunliffe, 2013, p. 281). Hatch and Cunliffe delineated how networks form in light of “fragmented, specialized markets” (p. 281) and end up developing unique “lateral relationships and partnerships” (p. 281).

From a CAS theory perspective, then, the early missional churches lived and thrived in states of disequilibrium. They co-evolved as a system and network along with their environment they were seeking to impact. The new logic of leadership in CAS theory is really old logic: “leadership is an emergent event, an outcome of relational interactions among agents” (Lichtenstein et al., 2006, p. 2).

From my work in assisting church planting movements in east and south Asia, and even central Europe, the CAS approach fits naturally; those doing successful church planting actually approach leadership and change from a CAS perspective without knowing the theory. Leaders build shared vision within the larger complex system, take a facilitative and empowering approach toward other agents (leaders and churches), and enable change rather than direct change.

Interestingly, church planting in the USA happens slowly compared to many places in the world. Might this be at least partially explained by the commitment to traditions and mechanistic models of formal education, church buildings, full funding, and using processes and employing leadership in ways that are non-adaptive?

Hatch, M. J., & Cunliffe, A. L. (2013). Organization theory: Modern, symbolic, and postmodern perspectives (3rd ed.). Oxford, England: Oxford University.

Lichtenstein, B. B., Uhl-Bien, M., Marion, R., Seers, A., Orton, J. D., & Schreiber, C. (2006). Complexity leadership theory: An interactive perspective on leading in complex adaptive systems" Emergence: Complexity and Organization, 8(4), 2-12.

Schnabel, E. J. (2004). Early Christian mission. Downers Grove, IL: IVP.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Suffering Stops Sinning

At the time of Apostle Peter’s writing the Roman society was filled with certain joys that needed to be stopped.

We might recall some of them from our history lessons.  There were the famous entertainments of risqué theatre productions, chariot racing culture, and gory gladiatorial combat.  There were the infamous immoralities from giving free reign to passions of all sorts:  temper, sex, drink, slander, lying, and theft to get ahead.  

Christians were seen as killjoys, antisocial non-participants, and cultural traitors who spoke out against such things. When one becomes a Christian many things change with internal desires, outward behavior, and purposeful living.  It is a life lived with much higher joys and meaning and satisfaction. 

In 1 Peter 4:1-5, our Apostle Peter describes how suffering stops sinning.

The New Resolve for the Present and the Future

1 Peter 4:1–2 ESV “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.”

Jesus Christ “suffered in the flesh,” meaning in this temporary earthly life and realm of sinfulness.  Of course, Jesus Christ suffered once to deal with sin by His Cross on behalf of His People.  He did this with Holy Spirit empowered resolve to obey God the Father and accomplish His will.

We then are to have, and being His own can have, the same attitude inspired by the Holy Spirit living our lives.  We are called to a new way of life, new devotion to Christ, new resolve against the sinfulness of the world.  When suffering in this world, we should consider how this works to bring an end to sin in our lives.

How is it that unjust suffering works to eliminate sin in a Christian’s life?  Does it inherently work purification?  Maybe, but some would say it just as easily pushes us in the opposite direction.  Does it lessen opportunities for sin?  Maybe, but some would say it provides more.  Above all it works to focus our mind—is this what you have found?

Suffering is not something that works automatically, but only insofar as our mind is set to face it head on and gain something from it, and then it morally strengthens us.  We are to be like Jesus in this commitment upfront to obey God and embrace suffering because of this commitment.  Even though he was the perfect Son of God, God become Man, He in His humanity grew in this strength and resolve.

This mindset going into suffering shows that we are willing to be done with sin; and then it works ever deepening resolve in us, increasing freedom from sin, and establishing a whole new outlook on life.  Suffering then works as a reinforcement; and as a help to us; and as a fence of security.

And so one of the greatest results is that we can live out the rest of our life on earth under the control of new motivations for growth.  We don’t have to follow common human passions, but seek out doing the will of God in this life.

A Sarcastic View of the Past Can be Helpful Too

1 Peter 4:3–5 ESV “For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.”

We were just like all the rest of the “Gentiles,” that is unbelievers without God and without hope, and enslaved to our passions and the ways of the world around us.  We praise God for His rescue of us and making us now part of the People of God.  

How helpful it can be at times to be sarcastic with ourselves about our past life without God in this world!  This is the Apostle’s approach in verse 3.  There was more than enough time to “enjoy” the sins of the morally corrupt and rebellious world.  Of course, this is not how we really see it, rather we are glad to have escaped what we are now ashamed of.

Certainly, not all people live such unrestrained lives in this extreme picture; however we also know that people do not live as clean as they claim either.  The natural inclination to such things is like a seed ready to germinate within each one of us naturally.  We are all infected with the corruption of sin and no one is free from the contagion, nor pure.

As one scholar pointed out, perhaps the activities being described were directly related to cultural celebrations most everyone participated in to some degree, such as, family religious festivals, trade guild celebrations, and civic holiday celebrations.  If so, then the matter of having Christ’s resolve to resist cultural and social expectations makes a lot of sense.

Prepared to Honor God

Christians just don’t do certain things and that is the way it is.  What changes have you noticed in your life and desires?  What parts of you are becoming ever more refined in your pursuit of holiness?  What breaks from sin have proven good and propelled you forward in your walk with Christ?

Where now, today, do you need to put forth the resolve of Christ in the same power of the Holy Spirit?  Remember that suffering is appointed as a help for you in this.  Maybe it is in some of the same areas as Roman society:  entertainment, lifestyle, friendships, or personal control?  What about the passions and impulses that are given free range in our society?

By living resolved to suffer in order to avoid sinning we are further strengthened to live for the will of God.  Be confident and content, for you will succeed and eventually be perfected in the image of Christ.  What might change for you?  What good things might you be hoping for in your life?

So, “arm yourself” with this mindset of Christ for your life from this point forward.  Pray that your resolve will be empowered by the Holy Spirit, and so made successful before God the Father.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

10 Missing Christian Themes

Reflecting on my conversations with Christians, my observations from social media, and my impressions from sermons this past year, I have complied a list of 10 missing Christian themes that need more attention in our churches and Christian living these days.

Certainly, there are other themes to be identified and more verses to be studied. However, from my perspective, Christians in America need to honestly and privately assess their faithfulness on these ten missing themes that scripture presents as vitally important for our Christian discipleship.

I have simply listed the theme and supplied one passage. This way it is simple, and it allows for reflection. Again, many other biblical passages could be provided. May God bless His Word to our souls.

1. Obedience to Civil Authorities

Romans 13:1–7 ESV “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.”

2. Unrighteousness of Anger
James 1:19–20 ESV “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”

3. Slander is Evil

James 3:5–18 ESV “So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water. Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

4. Sexual Ethics Matter

1 Corinthians 6:18–20 ESV “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

5. Rage is False Spirituality

2 Timothy 3:1–5 ESV “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.”

6. Christ Truly is the Only Way

1 John 2:22–23 ESV “Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.”

7. Submission to Authority of Scripture

2 Peter 3:16–18 ESV “. . . the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”

8. Courage to be Clear (not Vague) about Commitment to Christ

Matthew 10:32–33 ESV “So everyone who acknowledges me [Jesus Christ] before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”

9. Righteousness is Required

Matthew 5:17–20 ESV ““Do not think that I [Jesus Christ] have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

10. Focus, Focus on the Gospel

Ephesians 2:1–10 ESV “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Destructive Leadership

Transformational leaders appeal to the moral values of their followers, seek to elevate their ethical awareness, and motivate and involve them in the mission of the organization. Followers will trust, admire, give loyalty to, and respect these types of  leaders. The opposite of this visionary and ethics-based leadership is a self-serving unethical leadership that leads to the destruction of organizations and the people associated with them. Have you ever witnessed this type of destructive leadership?

(Now that I have begun a PhD program in organizational leadership, I will use my monthly blog to discuss leadership theories and offer practical application in ways that will help the Church accomplish the Mission.)

In his classic article “The Dark Side of Leadership,” Conger (1990) identified a number of reasons why some visionary leaders fail and fail miserably, highlighting negative leaders who place their personal needs as paramount, chase their visions while miscalculating circumstantial realities, and use their communication skills to deny flaws in their vision and manage their image. 

In their book, The Allure of Toxic Leaders, Lipman-Blumen (2005) described destructive and toxic leaders as those who exhibit highly dysfunctional personality characteristics. But they also placed blame upon followers who seek out such leaders in the midst of challenging and often fearful circumstances. Often, both destructive leaders and those who follow them rationalize their views and mutually support one another and end up advancing a system of destructive leadership.

Recently, Padilla, Hogan, and Kaiser (2007) provided a useful description of destructive leadership theory in terms of a toxic triangle made up of threes dimensions, the “confluence of destructive leaders, susceptible followers, and conducive environments” (p. 176). 
  • Destructive Leaders exhibit the characteristics of “charisma, personalized need for power, narcissism, negative life history, and an ideology of hate” (p. 182). 
  • Susceptible Followers come in two groups, conformers and colluders, “conformers comply with destructive leaders out of fear, whereas colluders actively participate in a destructive leader’s agenda” (p. 183). Conformers make themselves vulnerable because of their “unmet basic needs, negative core self-evaluations, and immaturity” (p. 180). Colluders actively support destructive leaders because of the opportunity to enact their “similar ambitions, worldview, and values” (p. 180). 
  • Conducive Environments for destructive leadership include four factors: “instability, perceived threat, cultural values, and absence of checks and balances and institutionalization” (p. 185).
Have you ever observed destructive leadership theory at work in an organization? What could be done to help those involved dismantle the toxic triangle of destructive leadership, susceptible followership, and conducive environmental factors? What might be the role of prayer, repentance, forgiveness, and the use of wisdom for instituting change?

Conger, J. (1990). The dark side of leadership. Organizational Dynamics, 19(2), 44-55.

Lipman-Blumen, J. (2005). The allure of toxic leaders: Why we follow destructive bosses and corrupt politicians—and how we can survive them. New York: Oxford University. 

Padilla, A., Hogan, R., & Kaiser, R. B. (2007). The toxic triangle: Destructive leaders, susceptible followers, and conducive environments. The Leadership Quarterly, 18(3), 176-194.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Organizational Citizenship Behavior

In simple terms, organizational citizenship behavior basically refers to “being civil or polite with regard to others in an organization” (Konopaske et al., 2017, p. 200). Does this describe the culture of the organizations to which you belong? Does it characterize you? Are you a good organizational citizen? Do you help others become better organizational citizens?

(Now that I have begun a PhD program in organizational leadership, I will use my monthly blog to discuss leadership theories and offer practical application in ways that will help the Church accomplish the Mission.)

Good Citizenship

The Apostle Paul opened and closed his letter to the Philippian church talking about good citizenship (1:27; 3:20). He emphasized their heavenly citizenship as Christians; yet, he played off of their pride (in a positive sense) of being good citizens of their city and the Roman empire.

Philippians 1:27 ESV (modified) “Just one thing: behave as citizens [Gk., politeuesthe] worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in the One Spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.” 

The Philippians prided themselves on being Roman citizens. But as Christians, they were to be proud of their heavenly citizenship even moreso. The Apostle Paul was playing off of, and playing against, their Roman citizenship, just like we do in the American church, and churches around the world do, as well. As Christians, we posses dual citizenship (as Martin Luther taught); we are members of two kingdoms at the same time—Christ’s heavenly kingdom and some earthly kingdom (political entity).

Future Citizenship

We are already citizens of heaven, because of Christ’s righteousness, and will live there eventually (cf. Ephesians 2:19). For now, we are governed by Christ as a “colony of heavenly citizens” (as one biblical dictionary put it) here on earth as “aliens” (1 Peter). And He is ruling from heaven with all power all things on behalf of His Church. Our future should be strongly guiding our present lives.

Philippians 3:17, 20 ESV “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. . . . For our citizenship [Gk., politeuma] is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,”

We are eagerly waiting a Savior from heaven, the Lord, Jesus Christ. This is a direct reference to Caesar Augustus and his imperial titles of “Lord” and “Savior.” He was called the “Savior of the world” because of bringing order and peace throughout the civilized Roman world. But, Jesus Christ, the True Lord and Savior, will return to this earth from heaven as the True Emperor of All. He will deliver us from our suffering and fears and trials in this world—He is our hope!

Daily Life Citizenship 

Let’s return now to Konopaske’s et al. (2017) definition of organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) as referring to “being civil or polite with regard to others in an organization.” After reviewing the Apostle Paul’s correspondence with the Philippian church, this seems so basic, and truly a simple reality for Christians to live out at their places of employment, in their churches, and within their mission organizations.

Podsakoff et al. (1990) described OCB as discretionary behavior by an employee that goes beyond the role requirements of one’s job. Think about your job—your secular job, your job at church, your job in the mission, and your job in whatever other organizations you belong to. Podsakoff et al. identified five key dimensions of OCB: 
  1. Altruism, which refers to helping others; 
  2. Conscientiousness, which refers to exceeding minimum role requirements;
  3. Sportsmanship, which refers to toleration without complaining; 
  4. Courtesy, which refers to prevention of problems; and 
  5. Civic Virtue, which refers to taking an active part in the life of the organization.
What if we as citizens of the kingdom of God lived out, and encouraged others to live out, such recognized concepts of OCB in our workplaces, churches, and missions as part of the worthy behavior of Philippians 1:27? What difference do you think this would this make?

Konopaske, R., Ivancevich, J. M., & Matteson, M. T. (2017). Organizational behavior and management (11th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill Education.

Podsakoff, P. M., MacKenzie, S. B., Moorman, R. H., & Fetter, R. (1990). Transformational leader behaviors and their effects on followers’ trust in leader, satisfaction, and organizational citizenship behaviors. Leadership Quarterly, 1(2), 107-142.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Authentic Leadership

Contemporary society desires authenticity from its leaders, whether the leaders are high profile or simply the leaders people encounter and work with every day in their jobs or volunteer organizations. Positive, healthy, and trustworthy leaders build confidence in their followers and contribute to their satisfaction and productivity. However, repeated public scandals in business, government, and non-profit sectors continue to raise suspicion about leader authenticity and fuel the demand for greater accountability to achieve it. 

(Now that I have begun a PhD program in organizational leadership, I will use my monthly blog to discuss leadership theories and offer practical application in ways that will help the Church accomplish the Mission.)

As a recent working theory of leadership, authentic leadership has attempted to bring together effective leadership and ethical leadership. Authentic leaders possess a high degree of self-awareness and self-acceptance, and are guided by strong personal positive core values. Because of their integrity and transparency, followers readily identify with them and perceive them to be optimistic, confident, and worthy of trust. Authenticity also involves consistency between the followers’ values and the leader’s values and behaviors. 

Researchers have proposed various definitions of authentic leadership and ways of measuring it. Most commonly accepted, Walumbwa et al. (2008) have defined authentic leadership as “a pattern of leader behavior that draws upon and promotes both positive psychological capacities and a positive ethical climate, to foster greater self-awareness, an internalized moral perspective, balanced processing of information, and relational transparency [emphasis added] on the part of leaders working with followers, fostering positive self-development” (p. 94).

Four Dimensions of Authentic Leadership with Applications for Church and Mission

Self-awareness refers to an awareness of how one “makes meaning of the world” (p. 95) and how this process impacts one’s view of self. Furthermore, self-aware individuals grow in their understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses through exposure to, and experience with, others and observing their impact upon them. What about leaders in the church and mission, how might such leaders seek to grow in awareness of their strengths and weaknesses?

A leader with internalized moral perspective will consistently make decisions based upon internal moral standards and values. Those possessing deep personal self-regulation will guide themselves based upon moral convictions even in the face of “group, organizational, and societal pressures” (p. 95). What about leaders in the church and mission, how might such leaders develop deeper moral integrity and exhibit this more consistently?

Balanced processing of information refers to the ability to “objectively analyze all relevant data before coming to a decision” (p. 95), which includes intentionally seeking out alternate viewpoints from one’s own. What about leaders in the church and mission, how might such leaders learn to seek out and appreciate input from others with differing viewpoints?

Relational transparency refers to the presentation of one’s true self to others, building trust through open disclosure. Those who exhibit relational transparency can also control their emotions, “minimizing displays of inappropriate emotions” (p. 95). What about leaders in the church and mission, how might such leaders build greater trust by sharing more of themselves?

Authentic leadership theory offers much direction and content for reflection on leadership in the church and mission worlds. We also want and need authentic leaders and followers who demonstrate relational openness and exhibit congruency in their values and behaviors.

Walumbwa, F. O., Avolio, B. J., Gardner, W. L., Wernsing, T. S., & Peterson, S. J. (2008). Authentic leadership: Development and validation of a theory-based measure. Journal of Management, 34(1), 89-126.